When it comes to musicals I am not what you’d call a connoisseur. I am on record as saying that Rocky IV is my favorite musical. Did you know that Rocky IV has more musical interludes than it has actual acting/drama scenes? True fact.
Anyway, my Rocky IV joke is just an easy way for me to deflect conversation about musicals in general, which I don’t much care for. Elvis Presley himself did not like his musical films, saying he didn’t understand why two people who were talking would burst into song. I can definitely see where he’s coming from, and I especially don’t like the operetta style employed by composers like Andrew Lloyd Weber. I consider my time spent watching Cats one of the biggest and most unpleasant wastes of my precious lifespan. I guess Evita was okay, but that’s about as far as it goes.
A few years back I happened upon the movie Once. I’d heard this and that about it, but it didn’t exactly cry out to be watched. If my wife hadn’t put it in her Netflix queue I may never have gotten around to it all. I’m glad that I did, though, because it really is an excellent movie. Incorporating music in a natural way — no conversing characters suddenly shifting into song-and-dance mode here — it is a touching love story for people who don’t care for love stories, but who can be suckered in by a well-drawn set of characters and realistic situations.
As much as I enjoyed Once, I was skeptical when the movie made the jump to Broadway. I don’t understand at all this obsession Broadway producers have with repurposing movies and TV shows and what have you into musicals, especially when the end result is often godawful. Was anyone crying out for a musical about Spider-Man? Does anyone even know how a Spider-Man story could be told in a musical style? Apparently even the producers of that musical don’t even know.
Once had great music by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová so there was definitely raw material present for a musical production, but I didn’t understand why it had to be a musical per se and not just a regular play that happened to feature music in it. I guess such a beast does not exist.
I was also unsure if a Once musical would be any good without the singer/songwriters playing the parts they originated. Glen Hansard in particular has a pretty singular-sounding voice that’s instantly recognizable, so how would the production handle losing that? It turns out the answer is, “Very well.” Steve Kazee plays Guy, the Hansard role, and Cristin Milioti plays Girl, the Irglová role. They don’t actually sound like the original performers at all, but that’s fine because they’re individually quite good and make the material their own.
It’s been over 25 years since I actually saw a musical in a theater, but I’m seriously considering ponying up the cash to see Once on Broadway. The original cast is still performing, so I’d get the same sound I get from the soundtrack (now available for purchase). Nothing against touring companies, but the experience often doesn’t stack up to the progenitor production.
Sure, it’ll cost $400 for two seats — I have to take the wife, of course — but I think it might actually be worth it. It’ll be the first time I’ve seen a show on Broadway proper. Could be cool.