What began as an independent Irish movie made with a pretty basic budget has since exploded into the Academy Award winning critical favorite “Once” turned Grammy and eight time Tony Award winning Broadway musical of the same name. Clearly its original stars/soundtrack creators Glen Hansard (also of The Frames fame) and his periodic The Swell Season collaborator Marketa Irglova were onto something in regards to not just the resplendent indie pop/folk-flavored reflections contained therein, but also a heart-wrenchingly complicated love story that soars no matter the format.
There was barely a dry eye in the house throughout this climatic roller coaster that’s riveting right up until the very last note.
During opening night of its second visit to Chicago, “Once” was again coated with a little more luster than the film edition, but upheld its artistic integrity thanks to a top notch cast committed to the essence of the plot’s bittersweet romance. But even before the stars officially took their places at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, the show casually began as performers sang traditional Irish tunes on a bar-themed set right out of Dublin that attendees can actually patronize on stage.
When the lights officially dimmed, everyone was asked to take their seats, but they likely remained on the edge of them thanks to the chance meeting and instant attraction of a nameless Irish singer/songwriter/guitarist with a broken heart (played by more than capable understudy/“American Idiot” alum Alex Nee) and a Czech singer/piano playing girl dealing with a similar dilemma (reprised by the radiant Dani De Waal). As the sublime centerpiece of the show “Falling Slowly” unravels, it’s readily apparent these complete strangers will forge an unusually fast and deep bond that’s often mirrored in the songs the guy and girl write then share with one another.
Across the span of just a few days, the unofficial couple basically become attached at the hip, spilling their guts about one another’s recent break-ups (which in the case of the girl, also includes a separation from her husband and single motherhood). Eschewing blatant sexuality, the pair instead come across as inseparable soulmates, with the girl in particular pushing her virtual one man Mumford & Sons to put his masterful music onto a demo and head to New York to pitch various record labels.
Though no one will ever know just how far his career ascends, it’s evident the guy’s mind is just as consumed with this briskly budding relationship, but by a touching return of “Falling Slowly,” even that strengthening commitment takes a complex and unpredictable turn. Without giving too much away for first time attendees, there was barely a dry eye in the house when the guy and girl were forced to face their futures at the end of this climatic roller coaster that’s riveting right up until the very last note.