My friend, Alli, has raved about the musical Once for the past year or so, when I found out it was coming to Pittsburgh, I was incredibly excited. I was even more excited when the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust offered me two tickets. I couldn’t say yes fast enough.
Mother Nature fully cooperated on the weather front by giving my mom and I a beautiful 70 degree day as we sped up the Parkway into the city. Well, sped may be a bit of a misnomer, as always there was a lots of traffic but when the windows are rolled down and the sun is shining, I don’t think anyone cared. We were in downtown early enough to enjoy some time people watching in a little park, walking around a bit enjoying the sunshine and listening to the man playing Old Crow Medicine Show on his guitar. It was much needed and refreshing.
I knew very little about this show going into the theater. I wanted to fully immerse myself in the experience, characters and music. Before the show, audience members were invited up on stage to buy drinks from the set bar while cast members played some upbeat Irish music on their violins, accordions, guitars and a piano. Once is completely different from every other show I’ve seen, the cast (only 14 members) all play instruments and double as the orchestra. The set is comprised of various sized mirrors, ambient lighting.
Tables and chairs are brought out resulting in a shift from a music store, bar, bedroom, and shared flat. You don’t realize its happened until its over. There are no flashy costume changes, fancy lighting sequences, showy dance numbers or overly done set desigsn. Its simple and beautiful, allowing theater goers to fully focus on the story that develops over a week. The main characters are simply billed as Guy and Girl. The supporting cast is always nearby, off the sides of the stage providing instrumentation and background vocals as needed.
I loved the story and the actors. But the music? The music was absolutely amazing. The actors playing and singing ballads about love and life left me breathless. Seeing the show, its no wonder the musical has scored multiple Tony’s and a Grammy Award. The actors voices meshed so perfectly, enough to register goose bumps on my arms."Falling Slowly" has been on my playlist for quite a while, without me realizing it comes from the musical. I have been obsessively listening to it since seeing the show. YouTube it, you won't be sorry.
Over all, the story is minimalist and beautiful and it totally works. A story about loves, past and present, finding our way with people we might not imagine, but ultimately showing how a few days and new people have the power to completely change lives.
Once the Musical is running at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh until March 16th. The US Tour will also be running in several other cities over the next few months, full schedule located here.
If you have the opportunity to see this amazing show, do it. You won’t be disappointed and you will leave feeling transformed by the simplistic beauty of this play.
Disclosure: I was provided with two tickets to see Once from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions contained in this post are my own.