Once review - November 2014

Once has never, ever been enough.

Is this goodbye?

After seeing Once for a FOURTH time I was struck with a sudden feeling of loss. This could be the last time I see this beautiful show, I once claimed to be my favourite in the West End, before it closes in March. Gutting!

For those of you who haven’t seen Once, let me make it very clear to you: YOU HAVE TO GO. TIME IS RUNNING OUT. GO BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE! I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but you really could be missing out.

I have to say that the perils of having seen a show four times are that I have seen it ALL before. I have watched four different “Guys” fall in love with two different “Girls” peppered with fabulous instrumentation and acting from a whole host of extremely talented performers.

The show is currently boasting two new leads; Ronan Keating plays Guy and Jill Winternitz Girl. Keating brings a true Irish charm to the role of Guy, as well as his extremely well oiled vocals. The audience went wild for him following his slick vocal renditions of “Falling Slowly,” “Say It To Me Now,” and “Gold.” Similarly the audience seemed very excited to glimpse him in his undies!

Keating’s vocals are clearly his strongest asset but he was also a pretty convincing “Guy,” although did lack in the raw (and at times brutal) emotion that that Arthur Darvill brought to the role. Similarly Keating didn’t quite have the same connection with his guitar that Darvill, Declan Bennett and David Hunter had. Nonetheless, he delivers a solid performance and some soaring sounds.

Winternitz is tasked with following in the footsteps of the Oliver Award winning Zrinka Civitesic who was a rare find and truly dazzling as “Girl.” Winternitz certainly brings her own stamp to the role, which she performs with energy, delivering at times both a comic and heartfelt performance, wowing the audience with her lovely voice.

I was happy to see some old favourites still in the cast. Jez Unwin is a hoot and a howl as the Bank manager, Mathew Hamper continues to be a joy as Andre and Loren O’Dair is fierce as Reza.

As always, the times when Once exposes itself as the golden piece of musical theatre that it is are during full cast performances such as the “North Strand” instrumental and both versions of “Gold” (I am pretty sure the acapella version is sent straight down from heaven.)

I once again revelled in Bob Crowley’s design and Natasha Katz’s lighting, which brings a beautiful simplicity to the piece as well as offering the audience fractured perspectives on the action via the clever use of a large onstage mirror.

Like every true fan of anything, be it sport, theatre or anything else will always have their “dream team.” Whilst mine would probably involve Civitesic and Darvill or Bennett, the show is still the show and it is the show I really love.

Once The Musical review
26 November 2014, Phoenix Theatre