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Once the Musical

06:30PM to 09:00PM on Tuesday September 24, 2013 at Phoenix Theatre

Price information: Tickets from £19.50 to £67.50.

Arthur Darvill stars as Guy from March 17 for eight weeks. Ronan Keating takes over the role of Guy from November 17.

As the hapless Rory in ‘Doctor Who’, Arthur Darvill was an unlikely romantic lead: to say he was punching above his weight with Karen Gillan’s siren-like Amy Pond would be an understatement. So he seemed like strange casting as rugged love interest Guy in the West End production of smash Irish musical ‘Once’. But I’m happy to report that he has been transformed.Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová’s intimate boy-meets-girl story – which began as a 2007 film – opens with an Irish musician and Czech single mum meeting in Dublin. Called only Girl and Guy, she cheers him up, they form a band, record sweet music together and Girl tells Guy to run after that other lass he’s been writing songs for. Darvill has played Guy in the Broadway production and it really shows. He’s totally at home in the role as he sings out his lonely heart and soulfully strums a guitar. There’s an endearing awkwardness in the way he plays the part, and his excellent voice is raw and heavy with emotion. There’s electricity, too, between him and the achingly cute Zrinka Cvitesic as Girl – she’s a welcome high energy, witty antidote to his languishing unhappiness. ‘Once’ is an occasionally cloying tear-jerker, make no mistake. But in the hands of writer Enda Walsh and director John Tiffany, it emerges as a little jewel: an entertaining and often disarmingly witty work of subtle storytelling.Walsh fleshes out a mixed bag of endearingly silly characters, from an angry music shop owner to hopeful Czech Andrej who dreams of becoming a burger chain area-manager. Walsh shows us an Ireland of two not-very-different worlds: immigrants and poor Irish people, each struggling with a downward economy but finding solace in their family, friends and music. It’s a pithy and subversively humorous script. Tiffany’s brilliantly simple staging has the action in a faded, warmly lit pub full of mirrors. It imbues the evening with a light, relaxed feel of shared stories in the local boozer. It’s a pity, then, that the songs are so uninteresting. The music is painfully earnest emo-folk-indie guitar strumming, layered with cello, violin, drum boxes and banjos. The songs are designed to make you emote furiously and by the end, it’s exhausting to have had your heart-strings tugged so much. Still, it would be difficult not to enjoy ‘Once’. This is the friendly, low-maintenance face of the West End.

By Daisy Bowie-Sell from Time Out

theatre spoonfed musicals west end timeout london24
Phoenix Theatre
Charing Cross Road 110