Musical Theatre is often loud, brash, and very big. I like it that way; those big tap numbers in shows like “42nd Street” and “Anything Goes” or sweeping anthems in “Evita” and “Les Miserables” are what most people think of. Perhaps that’s why there was such a strong reaction on my Facebook feed Tuesday night as people either loved or hated ONCE at the Aronoff Center.
This musical has been adapted from a movie, which I’ve never seen. It’s the story of a musician who meets a girl and the very complicated and very authentic types of things that come with adult relationships. The story, though, for me was window dressing for the exquisite music.
All of the players play an instrument in addition to singing and having some fine comedic acting chops, as well. There did seem to be some sound issues, with the show starting just a little too quietly making it hard for many in the audience to hear the dialogue. Add on some Irish and Czech accents along with unsophisticated Cincinnati ears and that also may have led to the disparity in opinions.
I am in the middle. I have so much respect for the talent that these musicians demonstrate. The vocals are impeccable, the instruments are fun, and the choreography (while a little silly in places) was mostly great. But for some reason the story of the show didn’t affect me. It was nice and I appreciate it but I wasn’t overly moved.
However, if you want to see some of the finest musicianship you’ll ever witness in a musical, then ONCE is the show for you. The leads, Stuart Ward and Dani De Waal, have good chemistry and I especially like her charm and strength. There’s not a weak performance here; and I really have nothing bad to say about it. I liked it and enjoyed my evening a lot! Maybe I’d have loved it had I seen it in a more intimate space?
ONCE runs at the Aronoff Center through November 23rd. Tickets and more information can be found here. It really is beautiful.