Once stage musical premieres in Sydney

Stefanie Caccamo and Toby Francis star as Girl and Guy. Picture: Robert Catto.

Stefanie Caccamo and Toby Francis star as Girl and Guy. Picture: Robert Catto.

Minimalist musical Once has finally premiered in Sydney at the Darlinghurst Theatre Company five years after Melbourne audiences were treated to its love story and swelling score.

Production director Richard Carroll told the Irish Echo that music was the heart of the musical, despite the fiddle and accordion-filled numbers straying from the norm of extravagant Broadway show tunes. 

“There’s no great musical without great music, and these songs are among the best that’ve been written this century.

“We have people in the show who are primarily professional musicians, we have actors who also happen to be very accomplished musicians...there’s no one in the cast who’s fudging it.” 

Once’s poetic ballad Falling Slowly was written by famed Irish musician and actor Glen Hansard, who starred in the film, and received an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2008.

Director Richard Carroll runs Once rehearsals. Picture: Robert Catto.

Director Richard Carroll runs Once rehearsals. Picture: Robert Catto.

Carroll, an accomplished director, producer, writer and Hayes Theatre Company board member, has been drawn to the chaotic in his past creative work, having directed the tale of a radical and crude frontierswoman in the aptly named Calamity Jane.

There are moments of frenzy in Once - just swap Calamity’s saloon set for Once’s weathered bar - but mostly it is filled with sweet melancholy, leaving audiences with a lingering need to reflect on situations in their lives when they were left wondering what might have been. 

“Guy and Girl are so representative of us, their story is simple but...the feelings between them and their situation make their relationship incredibly complex.

“It gives the sense that we are not alone...when we have feelings of heartbreak.” 

Based on the 2007 film of the same name, Once premiered at the New York Theatre Workshop in 2011 before making its Broadway debut the next year.

It was a resounding success, receiving eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. 

Mr Carroll aimed to retain the original spirit of the show with traces of local sentiment running throughout. 

“There is a deeply Irish sense to the whole production...that’s a beautiful thing because the history of Irish music is so deep.

“This is the first professional production outside of the original Broadway production in Australia, so in intangible ways there will be an Australian sensibility to it, it’s been created by people in our community.”

Once will run from July 3 to July 21.