BWW JR: Can I Take My Kids to See ONCE?
I first saw ONCE at the New York Theatre Workshop on opening night of the Off-Broadway run. By the time the curtain was up, producers had already formally announced the show's transfer to Broadway...something that has hardly ever been done before seeing a review. Expectations were high and the show met every one of them, at least for me. I was blown away by this simple love story with transcendent music and mind-blowingly plain choreography that changed locations for the characters without changing sets. I knew then I was seeing something special.
That night, at the opening night party, I asked director John Tiffany how he could possibly move this show that sat so effortlessly in The Warehouse space of the NYTW to the grand environment of the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. He looked at me with full confidence and said, "Not to worry, Love. That's my job."
Almost a year later, after Once had been awarded eight Tony awards including Best Musical, I had the chance to catch the show on Broadway. I'll be honest, it took me a couple of scenes to get past the cast replacements. Steve Kazee as 'Guy' and Cristin Milioti as 'Girl' had been replaced by Arthur Darvill and Joanna Christie, and to their (and Mr. Tiffany's) credit, they turned out quite different but nonetheless completely genuine and riveting performances. By the third scene, I was again hooked.
My daughter is now ten years old. She's seen a lot of theatre over the years, thanks to her mom being the editor of BroadwayWorld Jr. And we live in New York, so try as I might to keep her ears virginal, there are few words she hasn't heard on the street. Thankfully, she understands the difference between a word she can repeat and a word she's too young to repeat and (so far) she respects those rules. When I was offered the chance to take her to see Once, I pondered her age and the show's suitability for a ten-year-old girl.
Clearly, Once is a perfect show for a family with teenage children. It doesn't pander in any way, yet it's message is so pure and beautiful, it becomes holistically wholesome by the end of the show. It's a love story. There is no violence. Women are not exploited. Children are not harmed. But there is pain and heartbreak and loss and when those things are filtered through the hearts and mouths of working class Irish folk, the F word shows up. A lot.
I actually didn't' realize how much cursing was in the show until I found myself sitting next to my daughter and her ten year old friend. It made me uncomfortable for about a minute, until I saw their faces. They were absolutely enthralled with the music and the story. They had to concentrate for the first few scenes until they became accustomed to the Irish accents, but eventually they were able to understand everything and even laugh at the jokes. What they took away from the experience was something quite rewarding and perhaps an important theatrical milestone.
"Mommy, that was my first real adult show, wasn't it?" asked my daughter.
Yes, it was. We've seen plenty of shows that are great for the whole family, but this was the first show that is intended for adults, and I was quite proud of my daughter (and her friend) for having the maturity to process and appreciate this very unique production.
But while our experience was overwhelmingly positive, I'm not going to recommend this show for ten year olds. The language and the non-traditional presentation make this show best for kids 13 and up. If you have a younger kid who is a true theatre fan, who has seen enough theatre to understand subtext and representational storytelling mixed with realistic, emotional scene work then yes, bring them to this extraordinary show for an unforgettable experience. And it would be best if they could hear the F bomb casually dropped a few times in advance to minimize the shock value.
GET TO THE POINT, MOM!
- A uniquely poignant love story with a simple and positive message for theatre-goers of any age.
- Some of the most compelling music you can share with your kids.
- Best for kids 13 and up, unless you have a mature theatre fan who has the attention span for an earthy, emotional piece and the maturity for a few curse words.
- For more info or to purchase tickets, visit the show's website.
- Yup, I said F-Bomb.