Once the Musical

Previewed 16 March 2013, Opened 9 April 2013, Closed 21 March 2015 at the Phoenix Theatre in London

The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Once in London starring Ronan Keating

When an Irish busker and a young Czech mother meet through a shared love of music, their song writing sparks a deep connection and a tender, longing romance that neither of them could have expected. Based on the much-loved Oscar-winning film, Once is an celebration of love, friendship and music.

Musical adapted for the stage by Enda Walsh, from the motion picture written and directed by John Carney, and featuring Academy Award winning music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová.

Enda Walsh, who has adapted the film for the stage says: "What attracted me to Once is the humility of the piece... it is one of those things that is going to work as a musical. It is a sweet story. There is extraordinarily strong music in it. [The task] is unlocking the stage language... The film is massive in America. The music is huge there. Anyone who looks at the film knows the writing is incredibly pared down. So it's not about the writing - it's about the songs."

The original cast from Saturday 16 March 2013 to Saturday 15 March 2014 featured Declan Bennett as 'Guy' and Zrinka Cvitesic as 'Girl', with Aidan Kelly as 'Billy', Flora Spencer-Longhurst as 'Reza', Gabriel Vick as 'Emcee', Gareth O'Connor as 'Eamon', Jez Unwin as 'Bank Manager', Jos Slovick as 'Andre', Michael O'Connor as 'Da', Miria Parvin as 'Ex Girlfriend', Ryan Fletcher as 'Svec', and Valda Aviks as 'Baruska'. Poppy-Lily Baker, Mia-Jai Bryan, Pacha Anna Green, and Nancy Ann Jeans shared the role of 'Ivanka'.

The second cast from Monday 17 March 2014 to Saturday 21 March 2015 featured Arthur Darvill as 'Guy' (up to Saturday 10 May 2014), David Hunter as 'Guy' (from Monday 12 May 2014 to Saturday 15 November 2014), Ronan Keating as 'Guy' (from Monday 17 November 2014 to Saturday 21 March 2015), Zrinka Cvitesic as 'Girl' (up to Saturday 10 May 2014), and Jill Winternitz as 'Girl' (from Monday 12 May 2014 to Saturday 21 March 2015), with Daniel Healy as 'Eamon', Fiona Bruce as 'Baruska', Jamie Cameron as 'Emcee', Jez Unwin as 'Bank Manager', Loren O'Dair as 'Reza', Mark Carlisle as 'Da', Mathew Hamper as 'Andre', Matthew Ganley as 'Svec', Miria Parvin as 'Ex-girlfriend', and Tim Prottey-Jones as 'Billy'. Juliana Cotton, Demi Lee, Gemma Loader, and Ruby Payne shared the role of 'Ivanka'.

Directed by John Tiffany, with movement by Steven Hoggett, designs by Bob Crowley, lighting by Natasha Katz, and sound by Clive Goodwin.

Once the Musical opened on Broadway on 18 March 2012 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre where it continued to play up to 4 January 2015. The production won eight Tony Awards including for Best Musical. In addition the production was also named Best Musical by the New York Drama Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critic Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards. The 2007 Academy Award winning film Once was written and directed by John Carney and starred Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová who also composed the original music and lyrics. The director John Tiffany won the Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle Awards for his work on Once.

When this production opened here at London's Phoenix Theatre in April 2013 Libby Purves in the Times hailed: "It's funny, its truthful, it sings. If London audiences don't love it to bits I disown them." Julie Carpenter in the Daily Express highlighted that on stage "it certainly possesses the melting (and not completely happy) heart of the movie as well as the rawness of the music which proves a seductive combination... there is a winning charm to having the entire cast both singing and playing instruments that include guitar, violin, banjo, mandolin, piano and accordion... Once ultimately proves a gentle, touching kind of musical and it is easy to be won over." Michael Billington in the Guardian noted that while "musicals these days tend to batter you into submission. This one, winner of eight Tony awards and based on a 2006 low-budget movie by John Carney... wins you over with its simplicity, charm and air of sweet melancholy... in fact it owes its success not just to its versatile performers but to the quiet brilliance of John Tiffany's direction and Bob Crowley's design." Charles Spencer in the Daily Telegraph commented that "in John Tiffany's production the action is set in an Irish pub, beautifully realised in Bob Crowley's design... The dialogue is often cheesy and it is hard to warm to the wet hero, so obtuse that he fails to recognise that the Czech girl loves him and offers a better chance of happiness than if he went back to his old girlfriend." Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times described how "John Tiffany's staging segues seamlessly from the prelude into the action, in which the story seems to grow out of the music, rather than the other way round... it exerts a delicate, slow-burning charm... this is very much an ensemble show, with the versatile actor-musicians slipping in and out of roles and songs. And it is this that makes it. Tiffany's direction, Steven Hoggett's choreography and the tremendous cast create an uplifting world in which music becomes all important and joyously communal: a refuge and a tonic for life's casualties." Paul Taylor in the Independent thought that "this company's wonderful instrumental playing, comic characterisations and supple stylised movement offset the shortcomings in the over-protracted love story and make it well worth giving Once the once-over." Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail said that the "playwright Enda Walsh has transformed the movie into a charming, yearning musical which arrives in the West End from Broadway trailing eight Tony Awards in its wake." Robert Shore in the London Metro wrote: "Rarely has a show been so utterly generic and as spontaneously unconventional as this multiple-Tony-winning musical, based upon the Oscar-winning film of the same name... there's real charm and unforced intensity in the hyper-musical telling... writer Enda Walsh deploys his well-attested verbal gifts with well-judged economy to provide the otherwise formulaic storyline with regular dashes of vivid, mildly absurdist colour." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard described how "Enda Walsh's book expands the film's script yet is still concise, and John Tiffany directs with fluent skill... although some of the numbers are unremarkable, several are gorgeous. The supporting cast doubles up as the band and is excellent, with even the smallest roles well defined... it has a delicate soulfulness and a truthful charm."

When Ronan Keating took over the role of 'Guy' opposite Jill Winternitz as 'Girl' in November 2014 Patrick Marmion in the Daily Mail highlighted that "nearing 40, Ronan is arguably a bit old for moping vulnerability. It is, after all, 20 years since he first blew the pop socks off teenage girls. Yet he holds his now mumsy fans rapt in warm remembrance of first love. Even more importantly, he can act." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph explained that "when he's strumming away on his guitar and singing some of the show's instantly stirring folk–rock numbers, he achieves a rasping intensity that lifts the hairs on the back of your neck... With superb work across the board there's never a dud moment, even if the storyline's resolution is bound to leave some scratching their heads." Neil Norman in the Daily Express noted that "the Boyzone singer has all the musical accomplishments required and is more than an adequate actor... And he has an affecting vulnerability that brings an authenticity to the tentative music-based romance." David Lister in the Independent wrote that "it feels patronising to say he is surprisingly good, so let's rather say that he is highly effective in exuding a careworn melancholy that captures the hearts of the audience... in an evening that mixes comedy, music, sadness and romance with two heartwarming central performances." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard said that Keating "gives an extremely creditable account of himself on his West End debut," adding that "what becomes clearer on each viewing is the delicate filigree of the relationship between Guy (Keating) and Girl (Jill Winternitz)... it's a fragile equilibrium that needs to be maintained and with this particular pair John Tiffany’s thoughtful production achieves it exquisitely... overall this remains a refreshing new spin on the traditional West End musical."

"The conceit of John Tiffany's production is that all the characters double up as musicians and, when they are not acting, they sit in a semicircle around the bar, strumming along empathetically. I would say that, in most cases, it was their strumming, rather than their acting, that got them up on to the stage... The trump card of this slow burn production is its big musical numbers, and the best of them are, naturally, kept for the second act. I wouldn't say any of them are great to the extent I woke up humming them the next morning - in retrospect they all sound like variations of Eleanor Rigby - but they are delivered with style and panache... It is not a show I shall be in any great hurry to see again - you could say Once is quite enough - but it is an efficient, workmanlike piece that won't displease the fans of the film and suffices as a stand-alone musical in its own right." The Sunday Telegraph

"[Ronan Keating] billows into the show like a cloud of soft Irish mist, intense and dreamy. Keating belongs here. He is never going to play Hamlet, but his singing is superbly expressive, soulful, sometimes a bit savage, and this is a tale about the power of music, told through music. Set in an atmospheric Irish pub where the audience can buy a pint and join in the impromptu ceilidh-cum-hoedown, John Tiffany’s unaffected, deeply affecting staging of playwright Enda Walsh’s take on the acclaimed film has considerable art as well as heart... Typically a scene begins quietly between Guy and Girl, builds into a duet, and then, almost imperceptibly, the cast of accomplished actor-musicians, with guitars, fiddles and drums, join in, strumming, singing and stomping. Like one of its most beguiling ballads, Once has you Falling Slowly - but surely... Once bitten, forever smitten." The Mail on Sunday

The musical Once in London at the Phoenix Theatre previewed from 16 March 2013, opened on 9 April 2013, and closed on 21 March 2015.