'Once' more with feeling . . . play gets hometown welcome

Glen Hansard and John Harte at the opening night of Once in the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. photograph: aidan crawley

Glen Hansard and John Harte at the opening night of Once in the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. photograph: aidan crawley

Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 00:00

It’s called Once but quite a few people at the official opening of the award-winning musical at the Gaiety on Tuesday night have already seen it twice.

President Michael D Higgins was one of them. He saw it in New York where it has wowed critics and audiences in equal measure, but despite having seen both the film and stage version of the acclaimed musical he still made a point of coming to the European premiere in Dublin shortly after arriving home from a State visit to France.

“It’s a brilliant, wonderful story,” the President said. “People will work out the transition from the film to the theatre and they are both excellent in each of the art forms.”

He described it as “a poignant movie story” which deals with “the contradiction in all of our lives” and added that it was “particularly wonderful to see a fundamental story of love and relationships, disappointment and joy put into the heart of the migrant experience”.

The on-screen romance between Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová – which was at one point mirrored in real life – won the pair an Oscar for the song Falling Slowly. The stage version has already won eight Tony awards on Broadway and a Grammy for best musical theatrical album.

Hansard was nowhere to be seen when the music started on Tuesday but he was in the frame for his curtain call at the end. “I know nothing about this cast,” he said. “It is slightly different from the American version. I am in town. I didn’t even think I was going to be here so I’m delighted.”

Irglová was not in Dublin this week but she will be at the London premiere.

Galway Arts Festival director Paul Fahy had already seen Once twice. He co-produced writer Enda Walsh’s other big international theatre success Misterman when it premiered at the Galway festival two years ago and saw Once on its opening night off-broadway and again when it made it to Broadway proper. “I had to come and support it in its home town,” he said.

The musical’s director, John Tiffany, also had to come to Dublin. “We can’t go to London or Europe and not go to Dublin,” he said.

Kate Hogan of the Gaiety Theatre said yesterday that the play has been going down “extremely well” since it opened here.