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‘Once’: A musical about nothing, on BroadwayBY: Steve Cohen 07.07.2012
Other critics have praised the Broadway musical Once for its love story, its great songs and its compelling characters— all elements that I found lacking.
Once. At the Bernard Jacobs Theatre, 242 W. 45th St., New York. (800) 432-7250 or www.oncemusical.com.
Calling Jerry SeinfeldSTEVE COHEN
Jerry Seinfeld’s late TV show was based on the idea that nothing ever happened. No real action, that is. A group of friends sat around and talked about, well, nothing. But their observations were funny.
In the low-budget 2006 Irish film, Once, nothing happens either. A young woman (called “Girl”) becomes interested in a street musician (“Guy”) and encourages his songwriting. Viewers assume they’ll fall in love, but they don’t. They go their separate ways.
Nor was their dialogue funny. Instead, the film derived its charm from the expressive faces of the musician-actors, photographed in close ups.
Then someone came up with the inexplicable idea that this story could be retold on stage in a two-act musical play.
The story left me feeling cheated. Guy and Girl had previous romances that seemed to have ended long ago. Then both return to their previous lovers, without preparation or motivation. For a theatergoer, what could be more annoying?
What irritates me, however, must appeal to others. Many people apparently feel a deep-seated desire to return to past loves. Presumably they’re the ones fueling the Broadway success of Once.
Friends of mine, whose opinions I normally trust, claim that one of the songs, “Falling Slowly,” is beautiful. I found this ballad a repetitious drone, unexceptional except for an upward leap in its climactic line.
The stage success of Once and its Broadway-cast album is a puzzling cultural phenomenon. Other reviewers wrote about its love story, its great songs and its compelling characters— all elements that I found lacking.
Say this, though, for the original-cast album on Sony Masterworks: It’s well recorded. Faint praise, but that’s the best I can give.♦
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