The musical version of the popular 2006 romantic film, “Once,” is enjoying positive reviews on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. 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.
Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti continue in the characters of Guy and Girl that they created in in workshop at Boston’s American Repertory Theatre and then reprised in a sold-out off-Broadway stint in December and January at the New York Theatre Workshop. The show has seen both financial and critical success in its first weeks, with Ben Brantley of The New York Times noting the show “uses song and dance in a way I’ve never experienced in an American musical…to convey a beautiful shimmer of might-have-been regret.”
According to Playbill.com, the musical has seen solid box office receipts as well, filling between 88 and 95 percent of capacity since opening and earning over $600,000 weekly.
Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová starred in the original film and penned its Academy Award winning song, “Falling Slowly”. The pair, who had a real-life romance blossom on set but have since separated, have continued to write and perform together as folk rock duo The Swell Season. Most recently, the two came together to create the music and lyrics for this new production of “Once.”
But it turns out that the musical is not all that Hansard, a longtime member of popular Irish band The Frames, was working on over the past year and a half. He also contributed two songs to the soundtrack of the blockbuster hit movie “The Hunger Games” and, just in time to coincide with the debut of “Once” on Broadway, he releases his first solo effort, “Rhythm and Repose,” on June 19.
According to Hansard’s Anti-Records website, “Rhythm and Repose” was “a result of Hansard’s last year and a half of living in New York City,” much of which the songwriter spent working on the new musical. Featured performers on the album include Milioti, Irglová and her touring band, and “half of Bruce Springsteen’s current horn section.”
The release follows a year in which Hansard
opened for Pearl Jam at their PJ20 festival last September and, most recently, for Eddie Vedder. Following the release, Hansard will make a brief tour of the U.S., with dates including Los Angeles’ Wiltern Theatre and New York’s Beacon Theatre.
Sources close to the musician were unavailable for comment for this story.
This is not the first time that an artist has made use of Broadway exposure to enhance or restart a career. In recent years, Daniel Radcliffe of “Harry Potter” fame attempted to shake off the specter of typecasting by starring in 2008’s “Equus” and last year’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”. Though his course has been a bit uneven, he seems to have been ultimately successful in recreating himself as a stage actor.
Julia Roberts proved that the translation from film to stage does not always work, however, when her star turn in the 2006 production of “Three Days of Rain” was met with scathing reviews. While this failed to make her the next big Broadway star, it certainly did not hurt her Hollywood career. Nor did it stop her from starring last year in a west coast revival that met with positive reviews from the Los Angeles Times.
Australian star Hugh Jackman, already a stage veteran from such shows as “The Boy from Oz,” tried to re-enter the Broadway world in 2009 alongside Daniel Craig in “A Steady Rain.” The show received mixed reviews, though Jackman personally was well liked. But when he returned to his showman roots in last year’s song-and-dance extravaganza, “Hugh Jackman Back on Broadway,” the performer once again found enormous success.
Hansard is smart to use the buzz around “Once” to try to add some juice to his own musical career efforts. The question remains, however, as to whether or not enthusiastic “Once” fans will result in enthusiastic music sales.