Theatre Review: Once

I recently won £50 of theatre tokens (thank you!), which for someone like me, who loves a good musical but often doesn't get to go due to prices, was an amazing price. However, choosing which one to go for was a serious struggle as there have been so many good musicals coming into the West End! I narrowed it down to The Book of Mormon and Once - both of which are hot tickets for 2013 - but eventually plumped for the latter. The deciding factor? David Hunter, he of the last four in ITV's 'Superstar' and by far and away my favourite contestant on the show, is understudying Guy and this weekend was one of his definite dates to go on.

If you haven't heard of Once - which is based on a film that won the Oscar for Best Original Song a couple of years ago - it's the story of a Dublin musician-turned-vacuum-cleaner-repairman who meets a young Czech woman when performing in a bar. Gradually, as his career takes off, the two of them begin to fall for each other. But, as Shakespeare wrote, the course of true love never did run smooth...

It was.. I can't even begin to describe how it was, other than amazing. The music is gorgeous, switching from heartbreaking and passionate to filled with Irish fire in a heartbeat, and the performances are brilliant - David Hunter is absolutely fantastic, with a brilliantly raw voice and able to balance both Guy's initial prickliness with his sweetness and impulsivity later in the show. But I loved Christina Tedders as Girl as well, particularly her solo 'The Hill' and in 'If You Want Me'; both are pivotal moments for the show, and she pulls off the conflict between her love for Guy, her relationship with her absent husband and her wish to let Guy chase his dream perfectly. The supporting cast were also fantastic, particuarly Aidan Kelly's comedic turn as Billy and Michael O'Connor's beautifully touching portrayal of Guy's Da.

Overall, I utterly adored Once - it's beautifully simple and benefits from its minimalist set, allowing the focus to centre on the people, the story and the songs. In fact the music is such a huge part of it that not only does the on-stage bar open before the performance, the actors warm up on stage whilst you're drinking and it's lik being right there in the bar with them. The show is sweet, sad, utterly gorgeous, and one of the first shows I've ever walked out of thinking 'I want to see that again tomorrow' and franticaly trying to think of ways to pay for it, which I think says everything. The one tip I'd give is pay the extra for the stalls if you can - it's crippingly expensive but with a show like this, where it's so understated and everything is in facial expressions, you have to get as close as you can.

And yes, I did get to meet David after, and I can confirm that in real life he is an absolutely lovely bloke and a complete sweetheart :) Really hoping he gets to do more shows in the West End as he's extremely talented and deserves to get a leading role in something huge soon!

Have you seen Once? What did you think? Are there any musicals you've seen recently and loved, or really want to see? Let me know in the comments and have a great day!

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