Once– this poetic movie turned into a musical, makes its return to stage. This show is without a doubt a quietly stunning love story, that intertwines soulful folk music with a yearning love anecdote. The full band coupled with the powerful music by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová create a compelling narrative. However in this version at the Fairfield’s Hall- Croydon, I can’t help but feel disappointed by the humour and silliness they make of it. This de-tracks from the peaceful authenticity of the love story and brings too much slapstick comedy.
The story follows ‘Guy’ (played by Daniel Healy) who is at a low point in his life. While he plays his songs with vigorous passion, he encounters ‘Girl’ (played by Emma Lucia). Guy’s is a typical Irishman and his hopeless persona is a big contrast to Girl’s pushy Czech Slovakian nature. Their clash works somehow and the story watches them create music together in the space of five days. There are sparks of romance, but it’s subtle and sweet. It’s honest enough to say that not everything has that fairytale ending.
The show itself is a masterpiece and when done well can send chills all over your body. For this to work, the chemistry between Guy and Girl has to create a push and pull that’s captivating. Unfortunately Healy and Lucia didn’t quite evoke this complex relationship and they lack a connection on stage.
Healy is stunning however and his lyrical singing is deeply emotive and dynamic. He grasps the modesty of Guy well and emulates a heart-broken singer excellently.
Lucia’s Czech Slovakian portrayal of Girl is excite-able and slightly manic. Her effortless vocals have lovely control and a gorgeous tone. But it lacks a careless unplanned sound that Dealy creates so well. The mournful songs allow a pained or even ugly sound to come out, but this doesn’t come across in Lucia’s singing.
A key part of the show is the strong ensemble that begin by turning the theatre into a raucous Irish pub. Their endless energy and unceasing singing is exciting to watch. The ensemble/ musicians are continuously on stage and join in with moments of the show. This sudden synchronisation is invigorating and the understated choreography works well.
Without a doubt, this is a remarkable musical and it creates uplifting energy. However in this production of it, the humour of the Czech culture is jarring. These farce-like moments feel out of keeping with the style of the show and I yearn for them to stay truer to the original film. Regardless of this, the show is compelling and the second half is as chilling as ever.