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Review: ONCE at ASB Waterfront Theatre

Review: ONCE at ASB Waterfront Theatre

I have never found myself on my feet at the end of a show without controlling that decision. However, that is exactly what happened to me at the end of last night's performance of 'Once' at ASB Waterfront Theatre.

Produced by Peach Theatre Company 'Once' is the smash-hit Tony award-winning Broadway show featuring the glorious music by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglóva.

The production team and cast have come together to create something uniquely beautiful. Accolades to all involved.

The story, music and delivery takes one by surprise settling right into the middle of the heart and morphing raw emotion through the veins; simply 'taking over'.

It took Director Jesse Peach 6 years years of negotiating with the rights holders to get this show to New Zealand and New Zealand should be grateful for his perseverance. Collaborating with Producer Mark Kelliher it took a year to cast which is understandable considering all performers need to be accomplished musicians as well as stellar performers capable of delivering this touching tale.

Review: ONCE at ASB Waterfront Theatre

Musical Director Josh Clark shared that he was not familiar with the Irish music environment but he has connected with the emotional fibre of the songs and drawn out the humility and virtuosity from within the performers.

The audience walked right into an Irish pub scenario with performers entertaining well before the lights went down. Mingling off stage creating frivolity with well known Irish singalongs such as 'Cockles and Mussels' we were drawn into the comfort of good old Irish hospitality and then...

The state of my universe changed as unexpectedly as a 'natural event' when Adam Ogle's 'Leave' penetrated the theatre.

The daily norms of behaviour evaporated and I was 'in' the show, transported to a place earthed in the rawness of connection and love.

Jesse Peach's vision of simplicity and allowing the emotion to be 'enough' had to be cleverly crafted and it certainly was. Illumination of humanity within simplicity is hard to acheive and he's done just that.

The tale is of 'Guy' (Adam Ogle) an Irish singer and songwriter who spends his days fixing vacuums in the Dublin shop he runs with his father, and his nights playing his music in local pubs. He is on the verge of giving up music altogether when a Czech immigrant, "Girl," (Lisa Crawley), hears him play and refuses to let him abandon his guitar. As it turns out, she has a broken vacuum cleaner, Guy repairs it, and she pays him in music on a piano she plays in a record shop. Over the course of a week, Girl convinces Guy to believe in the power of his music and his love for the woman who inspired his songs. They scrape together money to record a demo album with a crew of bar friends, and their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful-but very complicated-love story.

Review: ONCE at ASB Waterfront Theatre Adam Ogle and Lisa Crawley are sensational together. He's playing a warm hearted Irish boy who wears his heart on his sleeve and she a matter-of-factly Czech who admits to having no sense of humour by definition of her culture.

They are great together on stage, she's suitably stoic in her Eastern-Europe 'I control' manner and appropriately awkward in expressing her love while he is more 'Irishly willing' to invest in that love, albeit going about it the wrong way.

And then they sing and play instruments. They are hauntingly beautiful both solo and together. Just. Beautiful.

The remaining cast of 9 are all standouts both individually and collectively. It continues to astound me where these incredible super talents come from within a country of only 4 million. Each one brings a 'wow' factor of unique essence to the story, characterising perfect flaws and delivering a dimension of human nature that is both identifiable and beautiful.

Review: ONCE at ASB Waterfront Theatre All honour to you and your craft Jackie Clarke, Peter Tait, Emily Campbell, Arthur Ranford, Alistair Sewell, Jesse J O'Brien, Priya Sami, Jared Hill and Lucia and Michelle (sharing the role of Ivanka)

Oh and then there's the humour and pathos dolloped in all the right places and magnificently delivered. "Those who live in fear die miserably in their graves" "You won't disappoint I can do that for myself."

Designer Matt Munford's decision to drop the traditional design concept was a smart one. The neutral setting they came up with honours the music as well as being a warm and welcoming place allowing for clever transitions where both cast and set meld to transport the audience in time and place. The clever use of the revolve particularly for evoking emotion was notable.

The lighting (Jo Kilgour) is exposed and present supporting the emotion; suitably hazy and wispy.

There's a lot of time to grab a ticket so do not hesitate and honour yourself with a delicious feast of roller-coastering raw emotion delivering a heart-uplifting simplicity of human connection through a collaboration of cleverness.

Peach Theatre Company
ASB Waterfront Theatre
Until July 14

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