A friend of mine turned me on to an independent film called Once, and I found it to be an interesting tale of music and mettle. When I heard that the Broadway production of the story was coming to Denver I wondered how it would translate from the screen to the stage.
The answer is: Brilliantly.
If you’re a fan of the film, it probably won’t surprise you to know that there are differences; it’s almost impossible to clone everything and make any sense in a different medium.
But those changes are insignificant, and they actually provide a charming intimacy to a story where you never really know the lead characters’ names.
“Guy” is a street musician in Dublin, Ireland. He’s beyond down on his luck: his girlfriend has run off to America, his music hasn’t attracted attention, and he lives with - and works for - his father, repairing vacuum cleaners.
Then he meets “GIrl.” She’s going through her own turmoil; her husband has moved out, leaving her to raise a young daughter while living with her mother and brothers. Together, Guy and Girl discover a common interest in music and in figuring out their lives.
There were two things about the Tony-Award-winning Once that stand out. For one thing, you don’t have to be a musician to benefit from the lesson of this story. We all go through periods of doubt and despair, and although the “hang in there and do what you believe in” message is not unique, there’s a definite charm in the way these characters deliver the goods.
And secondly, the performances are inspiring. Everyone on stage - every character in the tale with the exception of Girl’s daughter - plays an instrument, often several, including guitars, violins, cellos, drums, and even banjos. And they’re good. I mean damned good. In an age of digital/artificial recording, the performers in Once are talented musicians who showcase the heart of true musicianship.
It shows. Before the performance even begins, patrons are allowed onstage to visit the “bar” on the set, and about fifteen minutes before showtime several of the cast members stroll out and begin to play, right there among audience members. It’s the opening signal that this show excels at the one thing that all productions strive for: connecting with the audience.
A bittersweet story of love and personal triumph, Once is playing at the Buell Theater in Denver through May 18th. I strongly encourage you to see it. Tickets can be found online at DenverCenter.org
, or by calling 303-893-4100.