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Critic's Pick Critics' Pick

Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
242 W. 45th St., New York, NY 10036 40.758591 -73.98703
nr. Eighth Ave.  See Map | Subway Directions Hopstop Popup
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Advance Tickets Recommended

Running Time



John Tiffany


Arthur Darvill, Joanna Christie, Adam Wesley Brown, Laurel Griggs

Nearby Subway Stops

1, 2, 3, 7, N, Q, R, S at Times Sq.-42nd St.

Official Website

Ongoing Every Tue, 7pm; Wed-Sat, 8pm; Wed, Sat, 2pm; Sun, 3pm


We defenders of Once have a lot to answer for. After all, any thinking grown-up can mount a frontal assault on this show, a brazenly twee stage adaptation of the 2006 crypto-movie-musical — itself hardly immune to a critique of half-concealed too-cuteness. Shot guerrilla-style and starring real-life rockmates Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova as down-at-the-heel musicians who meet cute on the street-busker scene in Dublin, Once: The Movie is basically The Blair Witch Project for Youtroubadours — all the old familiar cheese, served in the artfully crumpled newspaper of vérité. Imagine if this same story had been set and shot in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, without the accents and the international flavor. It would’ve been deemed insufferable. (And barfed immediately out of American theaters by the very hipsters it was designed to hook, no matter how earwormy its soundtrack.) But that’s exactly why I prefer the clumsier, more explicit puppydog charms of Once: The Stage Musical. Yes, the show retains the film’s relentlessly self-congratulatory backbeat, its faintly desperate overpraise of any and all autumnal folk-rock emitted by The Guy — to whose diamond-in-the-rough genius every character must systematically genuflect — and its insistence on the faerie magic of The Girl, chief facilitator of The Guy’s delayed artistic apotheosis and the manic pixie dream girl to end all manic pixie dream girls. (Finally, this much-abused character has come home to her natural environment: a stage musical about quirky, earnest young musicians. Welcome ... to Gig-adoon!) And yes, the supporting ensemble — with their matted, superfluous subplots grown out to extend the running time to a probably unnecessary two acts and two-hours-plus — is a gang of adorable misfits so strenuously Muppetlike, you can practically see the felt stitching. (The entire second act could be retitled The Electric Mayhem Goes Emo.) Once is three chords and endless manipulations.

But oh, to be young and manipulable! Even bloated to Broadway proportions (an unnatural fit with the show’s pubby intimacy and, occasionally, with its shakily scaled-up acoustics), Once returned me — nearly against my will — to my youthful fields of blarney. (If ever a show needed younger audiences, perhaps even at the expense of its bottom line, it’s this one.) Perhaps that’s no surprise, given the creative talents assembled here. I’m already on the record as a sucker for the dreamy choreography of Steven Hoggett (who is again partnered with Black Watch director John Tiffany), and I have bottomless admiration for Enda Walsh’s book, which expands (even overexpands) a minimalist screenplay into a richly textured stage environment, polka-dotted with humor and meditations on Irish pride.

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