Hi, friends. It’s me again, at my nerdiest theater self. Feeling super emotional about Once today because I saw it twice in the past seven days and when I tell you it was an absolute personal attack, I mean, it hit me hard enough to get me to open up this blog post and write about it.
In a super small, cozy, loving, and warm theatre-in-the-round at my local performing arts center, my family and I had the chance to see the musical and everyone came out in love with it. Once is the musical nobody ever talks about despite the fact it has eight Tony awards under its name including Best Musical because it certainly does not get the attention and love that it deserves. So, as always, here I am.
“To live, you have to love.”
Based on the 2007 film by John Carney, Once is a story based on the unlikely happenings and connections between two music lovers that just happen to cross paths. Moviemakers are some of the greatest storytellers out there, but I will continue to thank the musical theatre gods every day that they decided to turn this movie into a musical because with music as powerful and moving as the ones made for this movie, there is a magic that it creates with a live audience.
With music & lyrics by the unparalleled Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová – who are singer-songwriters themselves, who, along with John Carney, have taken their journeys with music and brought them to both stage and screen, who have written some of the prettiest poems and soulful Irish inspired melodies I have ever heard – Once, like any great musical – is a lesson in life. Here are the lyrics that prove exactly how.
and free yourself at the same time
Opening the musical with a guy begging his girl to leave, it’s a profound thing. The way Steve Kazee performs it on the record comes out of desperation, a cry for help almost. The way he wants her to leave him so that she’d be free also simultaneously represents a freedom for himself – free of her and free of the past they shared and the past version of himself. “Leave and free yourself at the same time.” What a loaded line. It makes me cry. Every time
And as these shadows fall on me now,
I will somehow
When I saw this live for the first time, the actor, Tom Frank, performed this song with such soul that I almost cried in my seat. The character he plays might come off as this cold, broken-down, shattered by life kind of guy, but his real self – his honesty and his vulnerability – shines through in the music that he sings. I was sat in my chair and all I kept thinking was, “This is my music. This is a musical made for me.” I almost walked out of the theatre fed up because of how good he was.
Here’s Glen Hansard doing the song. Watch him be a legend and bust a string.
Tear your curtains down,
for sunlight is like gold
and you better be you
Do what you can do
when you’re walking on moon beams
and staring out to sea
This is my favorite song from the whole show. “Tear your curtains down for sunlight is like gold.” Are you kidding me? Just press play on the video and thank me later.
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself.
It’s time that you’ve won.
Take this sinking boat and point it home.
We’ve still got time.
Raise your hopeful voice. You have a choice.
You’ve made it now.
Thanks to Carney, Hansard, and Irglová, I really believe that Once was done right both on screen and on stage. In 2008, the film and its writers won the Oscar for Best Original Song. Melodically it quite literally feels like falling slowly, and that is brilliance in storytelling. Lyrically, the second you hear the words, you’ll know that it’s the hope you’ve been in search of for a long time now.
“Here’s a song I wrote.”
To keep a musician as talented as Guy from giving up on his music, Girl shouts at him, “Your music has heart and soul. You must sing!” He rejects her. He lays his guitar down on the floor. He refuses to play his music. She fights back. She picks up his sheet music. She says she wants to listen. By the end of the night, it felt like the entire cast was just shouting at me.
“Free yourself / You will somehow / Tear your curtains down / You better be you / Raise your hopeful voice / You must sing!”
Okay. I got it. Thank you.