Review by Callum Wallace

Once upon a time there was an Irish busker willing to give up on everything. Then along came a girl with a broken vacuum and with them, his passion for music came back.

The seemingly simple story that Once the Musical is telling is just that; simple. But that is where it finds it beauty. There aren’t flashy sets, there aren’t big choreographed dance numbers. Just an Irish pub, a wonderful ensemble and enough instruments to fill a small shop.

We are welcomed into the theatre by the ensemble, having the time of their lives on stage, singing traditional Irish folk songs. The atmosphere created by this is one like no other musical I have seen. It’s truly a joy to watch and clap along with the cast. Led by Assistant MD James William-Pattison. It is from this group that that Daniel Healy emerges as “Guy” (the character remains unnamed throughout the show). He sings hauntingly beautiful song ‘Leave’ as the lights dim and the show begins.

Daniel Healy is the perfect casting for Guy. He brings a wonderfully awkward energy to the character. It is easy to sympathise with him on his journey; every artist would have been in a similar place we see that he is. He sings from his soul, and it is more than evident in the emotion he puts into every song he sings. Especially in songs like “Say It To Me Now” and “Leave”. He is also wonderful alongside Emma Lucia as “Girl” (Also unnamed). She remains in character throughout the show, also bringing loving and awkward energy to perfectly act alongside Healy. Her accent is also something to behold. Czech but with twangs of Irish as well. To maintain this is excellent. Her singing voice is also beautiful to listen to. Guy and Girl almost never leave the stage to guide us through the story. The characters are easy for us to connect thanks to Lucia and Healy respectively.

But the cast around them are as much a part of this show as they are, also rarely leaving the stage. They create the ensemble of characters in the story. From Billy (Dan Bottomley) the, at first, strange owner of the music shop who wins the audience over though his attitude. At our performance, character Reza was played by Hanna Khogali (making her debut). Her voice, when used, was beautiful.

Another worthy mention is Susannah Van Den Berg as Baruska. She was hilarious, just as you would expect her character to act.

As mentioned earlier the show takes place in an Irish pub, with small pieces of scenery wheeled on to take us where we are needed. This was well designed by Libby Watson. A perfect example of not needing larger set pieces to tell an amazing show.

Once the musical is beautiful. One of, if not the best shows I have ever had the privilege of seeing. For this reason I cannot wait to see it again.