Don’t lump the upcoming adaptation of Irish indie Once together with this season’s other Broadway film-to-stage musicals, Ghost, Newsies, and Leap of Faith. The story is simple: A Dublin street busker and a Czech pianist make beautiful musical together over the course of five days. The score is unusual: The film’s original songwriters’ Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová blended tracks from the film (including the Oscar-winning “Falling Slowly,” see our exclusive clip below) with some of their subsequent recordings as the duo the Swell Season, and then added Irish and Czech folk tunes. All the instruments — piano, mandolin, melodica, banjo, ukulele, harmonica, accordion, bass, drums, violin, and more — are played on stage by the 14-actor company.
When he was drafted to write the show’s book, playwright Enda Walsh (Hunger) re-watched the film and remembers thinking, “We got some great songs. We got a really sweet little love story. But what can we do so that it doesn’t just disappear as a two-hander? It needed to be something else.” Then after only an hour of discussing Once with director John Tiffany (Black Watch), he had it. “We just go, ‘Actually, let’s go back to a really sort of naïve, honest way of actors telling a show,'” says Walsh. “A bunch of actors who create a show is sort of inherent in every piece, but we thought, ‘If we concentrate on that, if we make that sort of our ethos, our idea, our philosophy, then I think what an audience is looking at is a raggle-taggle bunch of actor-musicians telling this quiet, sort of sweet little love story, but actually creating the music on stage.’”
And, if that doesn’t get you excited, then the fact that Once features The Warrior’s David Patrick Kelly playing the mandolin in a show produced by James Bond guru Barbara Broccoli should. You can check Kelly out in the second of our exclusive clips below. But first, watch stars Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti sing “Falling Slowly” — it is truly beautiful.
Once starts previews at Broadway’s Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Feb. 28 and opens on March 18.