Review: Once

Comedy Theatre
6 May to 4 June

From the moment I stepped into the theatre, I was transported into an immersive other-worldly musical experience. Musicians roamed about the stage with their instruments while the bartender polished the counter. People entered and exited the stage, chatting and performing without much attention from the audience.

Photographer Robert Catto

After an Acknowledgement to Country, a buzz of excitement filled the auditorium. The lights were still on, audience members were looking around as people started to fill the stage in a fairly noisy room. It soon became clear that we were listening to the sound design, not each others murmurs. After a while the house lights dimmed, a guy took centre stage and the audience fell silent.

Once is an enchanting story about a Dublin musician playing his guitar in a bar while on the brink of giving up on his dreams, only to find unexpected inspiration in woman who takes an interest in his soulful love songs.

The lead characters, simply named Guy (Toby Francis) and Girl (Stefanie Caccamo) are captivating from the first moment they appear on stage.

It’s easy to get lost in Tony Francis’ (Kinky Boots, Jesus Christ Superstar) soulful vocals. He plays guitar throughout the show as if it’s simply an extension of his body. His powerhouse vocals in “Falling Slowly” establishes him early in the show as a serious musician.

Stefanie Caccamo’s (Oklahoma, Into The Woods) comedic timing is masterful, as she successfully lands one liners and fast whitty comebacks in an almost caricatured Checz accent. And then there’s her singing. Her duets with Francis are beautiful and her solo of “The Hill” is something truely special.

The pair’s connection is not your typical romantic story, as their complex and profound relationship drives the musician’s music to new heights, enthralling audiences with a captivating tale.

Peter Rubie’s lighting design is incredibly clever and effective, gently guiding the audiences attention around the stage, complimenting Hugh O’Connor’s simple set design, which believably transforms from busy bar to small apartment with minimal furniture and prop movement.

This Guy meets Girl romantic comedy is full of heart, beautiful music and stunning performances.

Once from Darlinghurst Theatre Company is playing at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre until 4 June.

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Andrew G is a theatre promoter (@andrewgshowtime), a theatre producer (Green Day's American Idiot, The Wizard of Oz, Dogfight) and Editor of (formerly Melbourne Theatre Info).
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