REVIEW | Once | A dynamic, whimsical musical meditation on love and passion

Review | Laura Money

I don’t know you, but I want you all the more for that

So begins the signature song from Once – a stunning duet called ‘Falling Slowly’ that features poignantly throughout, perfectly placed for maximum effect. It is the feature piece of a strong musical score, written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova with book by Enda Walsh. This multi-Tony Award winning show is beautifully realised by Black Swan State Theatre Company in collaboration with Darlinghurst Theatre Company and is a whirlwind of music and passion that shines from a vibrant cast. Once is deftly directed by Richard Carroll – the whole stage bursts with the dynamic energy of Carroll’s direction and musical direction by Victoria Falconer who leads from the stage. It’s full of energy and vibrancy as movement director Amy Campbell captures the lively energy of the Celtic score and literally brings each note to life – fizzing and bursting in the air.

On the surface, Once is a love story with a stunning score but its deep connection to music with a fully collaborative ensemble, the relatively short time we spend with the characters reveals it to be about passions lifting and weaving patterns along with the music that doesn’t merely serve as accompaniment but is embedded throughout every element of the show. Bursting onto the stage and leaping on tables, rollerskating, and dancing exuberantly the entire cast play instruments and their movement is like watching a musical score’s notes leap from the page to create a dynamism that makes it difficult to know where to look. The set is the only part of the show that is static, designed by Hugh O’Connor it consists of a pub, music store, dingy bedroom, crowded share house, bank office, recording studio, and vacuum repair shop among other things! O’Connor creates the perfect base of wood panels and furniture that are moved about as needed – not just shuffled by a stage hand but thrown and slid and passed in time to the music by the talented cast who make every scene-change an exciting guessing game of how innovatively the objects can be used.

Guy (Toby Francis), Dublin born and bred is suffering in the throes of heartache. He sings a tortured number at a small pub and then rejects his guitar wholesale before being confronted by Girl (Stefanie Caccomo) – a bold and forthright woman who bluntly saves him by focusing on the music that is so integral to both their beings. Francis plays the confused figure perfectly – he begins stand-offishly and confused by the attention he’s suddenly receiving but it is obvious that his passion for music is part of his soul. Encouraged by a blunt Caccomo, he softens throughout the show and a thread of purity shines through whenever he sings. Caccomo’s character is unique and she plays her well. The fiery passion she has for helping others hints at a vulnerability when internalising, something Caccomo does with her incredible facial expressions. The entire cast is phenomenal, it’s an ensemble that fit perfectly with one another and their love and chemistry glows through the entire show.

If anything, music is the final character in Once, it’s ever present and adds nuance to every single scene. From the Czech folktunes that serve as a greeting to Guy as he enters the world of vibrant dancing and table-top stamping, to a literal guitar army adding their strings to bolster Guy as he applies for a bank loan, to the exciting studio session full of nerves and raw energy, and the beautifully reflective a capella reprise of ‘Gold’ by the men of the show every single music choice is perfectly performed and stunningly realised in this beautiful production. Special mention must be made of Gus Noakes who hilariously sings ‘Abandoned in Bandon’ – his bank manager persona’s foray into singer-songwriting. It’s terrible, and that’s a huge compliment, as you have to be a really accomplished singer to perform deliberately badly. Once is about passion and love, and missed opportunities, and so much goes unsaid. ‘Falling Slowly’ is a gorgeous song – with Francis’ strong, unwavering voice combined with Caccomo’s powerful and resolutely passionate sound the two form a memorable and heartbreaking duet that is impactful enough at the beginning but is truly devastating when reprised.

Black Swan State Theatre Company have a great reputation for musicals, but Once elevates the company to new heights as it is such a beautiful celebration of music and love it’s going to be hard to top. This is a five-star, 100%, phenomenal musical that will stay with you forever, and maybe even encourage you to jump up on the tabletops and let its music course through your veins!

Once played at the Regal Theatre in Subiaco from 28th May – 12th June and we already can’t wait for the revival! For more information about the production click HERE.

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to in 2022

In Brief, Interview

IN CONVERSATION | Rupert Reid | Once

Interview | Laura Money

Rupert Reid is a stage and screen actor with an impressive resume including The Matrix trilogy. Reid is performing in Black Swan State Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Once an eight time Tony winning musical set in Dublin that tackles love and everything in between. We asked Reid five questions ahead of the show to get an insight.

What is Once about?

Once is about a lot of things. It’s about the power of music to connect us, the healing effect it has on us and the leaps of faith we all have to take in our lives to let love in or to let it go when we need to.

Favourite part of the show, no spoilers!

There are too many favourite parts of this show to mention! The most rewarding part is seeing how audiences react night after night to this beautiful production. I get to watch the audience from onstage in some quieter moments. My character happens to be the kind of guy who’d imagine a crowd of people watching him play guitar every night so it’s all above board! Also, the curtain call is pretty special. We have a really fun finale. No spoilers!

How does the show relate to today’s society?

Outside the world is a mess, inside we’re all a mess too, more or less. That’s being human. Themes of love, loss, missed opportunities but essentially an optimistic view of the world make Once a story of hope and connection. The music is played by and for each character in the show and is a vital part of who they are. It speaks to our instinctive need for meaningful relationships and the ability to heal ourselves once we’ve learned to open up a little and let human connection work on us.

Apart from Once what is your favourite musical and why?

My favourite musical is The Lovers, by Laura Murphy. It’s a pop infused reimagining of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The word ‘pop’ seems tame. Sounds too cute. Nah. It’s insanely good and it will blow your mind. (opens in October at the Sydney Opera House presented by Bell Shakespeare Co.) 🙂

Describe your show in 3 words:

Irish. Musical. Mayhem.

You can catch all the mayhem at The Regal Theatre from 28th May – 12th June 2022. TICKETS

The Fourth Wall acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land we engage in storytelling on – the Wadjhuk people of the Noongar nation. We pay respects to their elders past, present, and emerging.

Keep up with The Fourth Wall on Facebook and @fourth_wall_media on Instagram to see what we’re up to in 2022

In Brief

Natalie Bassingthwaighte, Paulini, Rob Mills, Alexander Lewis & Mark Furze are set to star in CHESS THE MUSICAL this June at Perth Concert Hall

That’s right, you heard it here folks! A star-studded cast is headed to Perth (with two extra shows added!) in Chess The Musical – a cold-war allegory following two grand chessmasters from America and Russia in the 1980s. Featuring the iconic music of Benny Andersson & Björn Ulvaeus (ABBA) with book & lyrics by Tim Rice, the worldwide stage hit Chess The Musical will be presented as a semi-staged concert style production at Perth Concert Hall from the 3rd – 5th June 2021. Tickets go on sale tomorrow (Tuesday 9th February) so get in quick!

This production is part of a tour around Australia and stars Logie-nominated and recent star of Chicago Natalie Bassingthwaighte; Aria chart-topping vocalist Paulini; New York Metropolitan Opera singer Alexander Lewis; semi-finalist in The Voice 2020 Mark Furze; musical theatre favourite Rob Mills; opera singer Eddie Muliaumaseali’i, and musical theatre all-rounder Brittanie Shipway with backing by twenty-five professional musicians from Perth Symphony Orchestra.

Inspired by extraordinary real-life events (although thinly veilled) Chess The Musical tells the story of a complex love triangle combined with dramatic political intrigue, set against the background of the Cold War in the early 1980s, where Soviet and American forces attempt to manipulate an international chess championship for political gains. You’ll recognise some of the classic songs, too such as I Know Him So Well – recognised in the Guinness Book of Records as the biggest selling UK chart single ever by a female duo – and the upbeat pop favourite One Night in Bangkok, music from Chess The Musical is known the world over, with the original concept album described by Rolling Stone as having a “dazzling score (which) covers nearly all the pop bases”.

Chess The Musical is going to be an absolute hit here in Perth, so don’t miss out on your chance to get tickets NOW