Review by Michelle Fisher
Theatre in Sydney is definitely back in a great way and the opening night of Once at the Eternity theatre was testament to just how much we have missed this genre of entertainment in one of Sydney’s wonderful smaller theatres. Packed with excited theatre goers, opening night was alive from the moment you walked in to the live musical strains of the Irish folk band and the mulled wine offering from a small cart in the foyer.
This night was all about the music! And so, it continued with roving musicians playing you to your seats and entertaining until it was time for the main event. And here the theme continues – a funny, quirky heartfelt musical about broken relationships and the bond that unites two strangers which is of course as you may have guessed – Music!
The story is simple but the talent on stage is quite extraordinary. Throughout, the team tells the story, plays the music, sings and dances all with gusto. The actors are the band and the story is told through the music. The stage is forever being reset without missing a beat – the piano almost seems to be another actor – constantly moving yet almost effortlessly being part of the story.
The two protagonists – a girl and a guy meet at a time in their lives when both are suffering failed relationships and are a bit broken. The dialogue between them especially in the opening scene is short and sharp and witty and, in few words, sets the scene for the storyline - the immigrant experience and the two main character’s love life stories. In the five days they have together they change each other’s worlds through music, and you are taken along for the ride.
The ensemble is excellently cast with Stefanie Caccamo and Toby Francis leading the team as Girl and Guy. Not new to this role having performed it in 2019 to rave reviews and nominations for various awards, Caccamo wears “Girl” like an old friend, her comic timing is impeccable, her accent work outstanding and her musical talents abundant. Hers is definitely a name to watch in the Sydney musical theatre scene.
Francis too excels in his role as “Guy”. He brings to the role a certain pathos and the audience instantly feels his pain and like “Girl” want to “save” him. I saw this production two years ago when it was here and believe that his vocals and accent work have got even better in the time between productions. On that note a special mention to Linda Nicholls- Gidley who has done some exceptional work on this show as the voice and dialect coach.
Also a stand out to mention in this production is Victoria Falconer who is both musical director and cast member. Doing both seemingly effortlessly only heightens your understanding of just how talented she really is not to mention how many hours of work, love and pure grit she must have given to this production to pull off such a musical showpiece.
Under the clever direction of Richard Carroll this show is a smooth flowing, heart warming and yet sad piece that demonstrates that not every love story has a happy ending. Caroll has managed to weave the pathos and the humour together creating a very believable real life story that the audience is swept up in.
The many teary eyes and instant standing ovation are a testament to this cast and creatives hard work. I highly recommend you get yourself a ticket and enjoy.
Image Credit: Robert Catto