Review by Olivia Ruggiero
Once is a love story with a raw heart and luscious score that fills your soul and leaves you wanting more. Darlinghurst Theatre Co. present a brilliant rendition of the musical by Enda Walsh and Markéta Irglová. It’s a display of theatre can be (and should be) when you cast excellent performers who give and give and give.
Richard Carroll has directed this production with an expert hand, shaping the story with honesty. The Act 1 finale with the entire cast (except Stefanie Caccamo as “Girl”) standing on chairs gives the illusion, somehow, that these immensely talented musicians are floating, high on the epic music they are creating, completely engrossed in the magic of the moment. All the while Caccamo as “Girl” stays grounded – a witness to the spectacle that surrounds her. The lighting design by Peter Rubie works beautifully in conjunction with Carroll’s direction, heightening an already exceptional experience. Victoria Falconer has a done a brilliant job at coaching these performers and musicians. Their ability to play so cohesively without a conductor is a display of brilliant musicianship from each of them and a credit to Falconer. The colours and dynamics of the instrumentation is authentic to the nature of the score. Hugh O’Connor’s production design screams of Irish pub, with detailed wooden panels, complete with a bar filled to the brim with liquor and a slightly worn corner booth. It suits the story completely.
Toby Francis delivers a heart-stopping performance as “Guy”. From his very first entrance he holds you captive with his spellbinding voice, presence, and interpretation of the role. He is rough, unpolished, and unapologetically brilliant. His chemistry with Stefanie Caccamo is so easy and playful. Their rendition of “Falling Slowly” will surely leave you with goosebumps. Caccamo’s voice is refined, and she uses all of the colours of her voice to share the emotion behind each song. She is beautiful contrast to Francis, and yet somehow so complimentary. Ruby Clark gives a stellar performance as “Réza”. She is sexy, sultry, flirty, and fun. Her skills on the violin are maddeningly good and we occasionally get to hear some very impressive vocals as well. Drew Livingston gives a memorable performance as “Bank Manager”. His song and scene are probably the most prominent in my mind leaving the show. His rendition of “Abandoned in Bandon” was hilarious and unforgettable (in a very good way).
Jay Laga’aia gives a truthful performance as “Da” and Emma Price portrays a humorous and yet stoic “Baruška”.
Alec Steedman, Rupert Reid, Abe Mitchell, Drew Livingston and Pavan Kumar Hari deliver the most hauntingly beautiful rendition of “Gold” acapella. It leaves you on the edge of your seat, as you stop breathing, hanging onto every gorgeous note.
There’s a lot to love about Once at Darlinghurst Theatre Co. It’s a smash. A show that should sell out night after night. A gorgeous story, brilliantly told by talented and unique performers who deserve to be recognised for the authenticity of their work. This is a show not to be missed.