The first time I attempted to watch the 2007 indie Irish film Once, I fell asleep. The DVD was later mailed back to Netflix, unseen in its entirety. Last year, when a musical version of the film was mounted Off Broadway at New York Theater Workshop to pretty good reviews, I attempted to watch the understated film (which was on countless Top 10 lists) again late one night. This time I did not fall asleep but was instead drawn into the world of an Irish guy and a Czech girl who connect while creating music in Dublin. I finally understood what all the fuss was about and could not wait to see the musical when it transferred to Broadway.
Had I not seen the film, I would think that Once: A New Musical is a pleasant production. And it is. It is funny (it has more humor than the touching film). The polished Steve Kazee (Guy) has a wonderful voice and a rock star physique (I could listen to him all night). And hearing the Academy Award winning song Falling Slowly performed twice in one evening is a complete treat. Those however who connect deeply with indie film, which was shot with a budget of roughly $130K, may find the Broadway production just a bit too theatrical...just a bit too polished. The working class and immigrant experience in Dublin is lost. Some of the passion of composing is lost. And Girl - more like a driven business manager on the stage - is missing some of her youthfulness and naivete.
Now, don't get me wrong - Once: A New Musical is fresh (no big sappy ending here) and worth seeing. The thirteen actor-musicians do a wonderful job. However, when I hold up the film and adapted stage versions under a spotlight, the film wins over the current production on the New York City stage.