Broadway’s trend of turning movies into musicals continues in early 2012 with a new adaptation of the popular 2006 romantic film, “Once“.
The production, previously in workshop at Boston’s American Repertory Theatre, opened off-Broadway in December at the New York Theatre Workshop for a limited run ending on January 15. In a rare occurrence, producers announced the show’s Broadway debut hours before its opening night performance at the Workshop.
As familiar and likely marketable as the subject and songs may prove to the general public, this move prompted some to suggest that slim pickings for spring musicals may have been the reason behind the rapid move to the Main Stem. Executives have countered that the announcement was made early on because of the intensification of rumors surrounding the show’s transfer.
The original film, which attracted a loyal following, starred two musician-songwriters who had never before starred on screen. Audiences fell in love with the story of an Irish street musician, played by Glen Hansard, and a Czech flower seller, played by Markéta Irglová, who fall for each other during a week of writing songs together.
Part of the movie’s allure was the couple’s real life romance which blossomed on set, as well as the haunting Academy Award winning song, “Falling Slowly”, which the duo penned for the project. The independent film was made on a shoestring budget of €130,000 ($160,000) and ended up earning $20 million.
Hansard and Irglová, who are no longer a couple but as recently as last year performed as folk rock duo The Swell Season, wrote the music and lyrics for this new production. Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, who performed the roles of the Guy and the Girl in Boston, have reprised their characters for both the off-Broadway and Broadway versions.
Described by its creators as a “play with music” rather than a musical, the show begins previews at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre tomorrow night, Feb. 28, and will open on March 18. The unusual production is set entirely in a Dublin pub, where at each performance audience members are greeted by a live pub band (the ensemble cast) and are invited to order real drinks at the tavern bar.
Historically, attempts to turn movie magic into gold on the Great White Way have been risky at best, yielding mixed results. While “The Producers,” “The Full Monty,” and “Hairspray” are promising examples of the turn done right, others, such as 2006’s “High Fidelity,” which lasted just 14 performances, present cautionary tales to those hoping to make good at the box office.
As TicketNews recently reported, the creators of the 1988 critical and box office failure “Carrie” are once again testing the waters, with a new, revamped version currently in previews and set to open off-Broadway on March 1. Early reviews are sparse, but at least one has mentioned a surprising blandness to the production and a failure to develop and explore the story’s inherent darkness.
The jury is still out on what reception “Once” will get when it meets audiences for the first time later this week. Although the movie enjoyed near-cult status a few years ago, there is no guarantee that Broadway fans will feel the love in the same way.