There is so much good to be found in the musical “Once” currently onstage at that Pantages in Hollywood that it can be a bit daunting to get down to what is ultimately a simple if severely sweet and romantic story. The story unfolds in Dublin where an aspiring singer, guitar player, song writer is down and almost out when he by chance meets a lovely young woman from Czechoslovakia. Their mutual attraction is instant and obvious but it takes two or maybe three days for their relationship to grow from chance meeting to a record album producing and at least locally beloved musical team. It is a touching bitter sweet love story steeped in the world of music.
“Once” came to life as a feature film from writer/director John Carney in 2006. It won one Oscar and seventeen other awards as well as twenty two nominations. The show started off Broadway in 2011 and quickly moved to the Broadway stage along the way capturing numerous awards including an impressive eight Tony Awards. Now it is on tour and currently at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.
The music is compelling and the entire cast is very impressive. The story is not a new concept but it is well presented in a very touching and believable way. The Irish culture gets a pleasant nod and adds its own special flavor to the show.
“Once” is also unlike most other musicals in several intriguing ways. For one thing it is not operatic meaning that it is not continuous stream of music but rather a play with abundant dialogue and almost constant humor accented and illuminated by song and dance. For another, at the Pantages at least the audience is actually invited up on stage prior to the start of the show and again at intermission. They actually have a bar on stage where those of the audience who choose to do so may purchase a drink and hobnob with the cast. So if you are someone who has long wondered what the theatre looks like from the stage here is your chance. Plus what could be more exciting for a theatre aficionado than to meet and knock back a pint with several cast members. It certainly adds a new dimension to the overall theatre experience.
But for all of its well deserved critical acclaim, there was one aspect of the show that I found difficult to deal with. There are many dramatic pauses within the show. At first they made sense and added perspective to the overall performance. But as the show went on and especially in the second act the frequency and length of these dramatic pauses where there is no movement or sound coming from the stage got stronger and longer. Now I readily admit that I can be a rather impatient guy, however, I heard others make similar comments so I was not the only one to find that particular aspect a bit unpleasant.
Taken as a whole however it is a show that just cannot be ignored. It is a sweet story, it has won one Oscar and eight Tony’s and a whole bunch more critical acclaim and now for the very first time in my experience the audience gets to join the cast on stage for drink or two.
“Once” is at the Pantages Theatre now through August 10th 2014. Show times are Tuesday through Friday at 8 pm, Saturdays at 2 pm and 8 pm and Sundays at 1 pm and 6:30 pm. The minimum recommended age for audience participation is 12 years. Ticket prices start at just $25.00. Reservations and information is available online at HollywoodPantages.com or by calling 1-800-982-2787.