December 05, 2013
The Magical Musical

Here's a simple love story with a heart, without all the grandiose of a big Broadway production. And it could happen to you too!

by Elisa Sutanudjaja
Culture
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I don’t know you
But I want you
All the more for that
 
The first three lines of “Falling Slowly”, the Academy Awards winner for Best Original Song in 2007, always get me every time. The song is breathtakingly beautiful and sad, and often brought me to tears.
 
On a breezy afternoon in September 2013, I had a chance to watch Once the Musical, which has won eight Tony Awards out of 11 nominations in 2012, including Best Musical.
 
I watched Once the movie before and was not really impressed by it. Singer/actor Glen Hansard reminds me a bit of self-centered (read: megalomaniac) musician Ahmad Dhani, especially during the 2007 Academy Award’s acceptance speech, in which co-writer Marketa Irglova was neither credited nor given a chance to speak, until Jon Stewart allowed her to return to the stage to give her speech.
 


But I fell in love with Once the Musical when I watched the cast performed “Gold” in the 2012 Tony Awards. So, without thinking twice, I picked Once on Broadway, instead of the overpriced Wicked and The Book of Mormon, or the classics Phantom of the Opera and MammaMia!. And I made the right decision.
 
The musical is playing at Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, a medium sized theater at the center of Broadway. We were greeted with an ensemble set in a typical Irish bar, which also serves as a real working bar for the audience before the play started and during intermission. Some said that this is the first Broadway show that ever uses stage as a ‘real’ bar.
 
The story is a typical boy-meets-girl, girl-hates-boy-at first and so on, but its beauty lies in the simplicity. This Guy is heartbroken; his girlfriend leaves him to New York City. He is a talented musician who has to earn a living helping his father’s vacuum cleaner repair shop. 
 
And here comes the Girl, with her wit and chattiness that annoys him so much with all the questions about his music and his girlfriend. The story goes from local bar to Guy’s house/shop when the Girl forces him to repair her vacuum cleaner as a payment, after she also forcefully plays one of Guy’s music: “Falling Slowly”. Long story short, they fall in love as the show and the Guy’s music career progress, but cannot be together for various reasons. But this is love that they may remember forever, a short one, though, it was.
 
The show was magical. Arthur Darvill is a perfect and handsome Guy, and Joanna Christie plays a kooky, chatty yet irresistible Girl. The original casts included Steve Kazee and Christin Miliotti, who performed in the 2012 Tony Awards. The casts serve as orchestra members, who sing and dance, and play instrument (sometimes more than one) at the same time. The instruments include piano, violin, harmonica, guitar, drum, electrical guitar, mandolin, accordion, ukulele, cello and… I lost count.
 
Once is not a typical Broadway musical. It’s not extravagant or overproduced. It’s a minimalistic and efficient show. Neither a tragedy nor an over-the-top romance, it’s a love story that could happen to anyone.
 
Orchestrated beautifully, the music deserved its Tony for Best Orchestration. All these, plus amazing acts and fresh choreography made for a simple but touching story—a love story that could happen to anyone.
 
And for the umpteenth time, I was moved to tears during both performances of “Falling Slowly”.
 
About Elisa Sutanudjaja
A (moderate) mother who also happens to be an Eisenhower Fellow 2013.