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ONCE THE MUSICAL @ Regal Theatre gets 9/10


Once: The Musical
@ Regal Theatre
Wednesday, June 1, 2022

9/10

Once, a refreshing modern musical, is now showing at the Regal Theatre and will be loved by musicians. Whether you are a fan of guitars, harmonicas, strings, or even Ed Sheeran, this moody Dublin story is for you.

Musical almost seems like a misnomer…perhaps we could call it a music-play? Unlike most musicals, Once has very little action or plot. There are no flashy tap routines and not a sequin in sight. What is does have is heart, character development, warmth, hope, connection, honesty and a sense of belonging.


Based on a movie, the very simple storyline follows a girl (called Girl, by Stefanie Caccamo) who encourages a depressed guy (called Guy, by Toby Francis) to live his life and follow his music. So much of the show rides on their character arc. With a perfect Irish accent (Guy: “We all have accents”) opened with an aching melody, and the audience was immediately entranced by his performance. His portrayal of emotion on the smoky dim stage was so captivating that not a shuffle could be heard in the audience.

In comparison, Stefanie as Girl was simply adorable. You could easily believe that anyone would follow her anywhere, swept up in her passion for life and serious yet loveable energy (Girl: “I’m always serious. I’m Czech.”)


While most musicals performed today are all about the intricate choreography, Once is all about the music. Noticeably, the band is onstage, in character, and moving as they play. They are both musicians and actors, popping up from behind the bar with a mandolin, strolling harmonicas, or even a violin on roller skates. In most cases the musicians play more than one instrument, as beautifully demonstrated in one song which builds with one guitar at a time to an incredible depth of sound with eight guitars at once!

The emphasis on the music is further enhanced with pinpoint spotlights lighting the instrument so the audience watches the musicians talented hands, with their face in shadow. Atypical instruments are also employed, including a single string with a bow producing an eerie warble. In the second act, tears formed with an a cappella men’s ensemble singing their farewells.


While quite a melancholy show, there are still moments of comedic relief, noticeably from Abe Mitchell as Andrei (“Love, in the hands of people, turns to soup”). At a run time of 2.5 hours we were given ample opportunities to appreciate the skill and talents onstage.

Once would have been a challenge to cast, requiring such specific musical skill sets, and this ensemble is outstanding. Not one stood out, nor any let the team down. Connected by their passion for music, you really felt like you were watching a family onstage.


Outstanding performances by Stefanie Caccamo, Toby Francis, and the whole ensemble received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Once is presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company and Darlinghurst Theatre, is showing at the Regal Theatre until Sunday, June 12, with tickets from bsstc.com.au

MELISSA MANN

Photos by Daniel James Grant

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