“Once is a modern-day urban love story of a disheartened Irish musician on the verge of giving up, and a piano-playing Czech immigrant who remind each other how to dream.”
Making its highly anticipated comeback, Once, is set to open at Subiaco’s Regal Theatre this May accompanied by a host of WAAPA graduates. The show made its Australian debut at Darlinghurst Theatre Company in 2019, before returning in 2021 to a season which was tragically cut short due to COVID lockdowns.
Resuming the role of Ex- Girl Friend, Deirdre Khoo thinks Perth audiences will love the show, “Bringing it to Perth is really exciting. Perth has never seen it and I think they will lap it up!”.
Deirdre says the first day of rehearsals brought up many emotions for the original cast members who were upset when the show prematurely closed during the 2021 Sydney lockdown.
“When Toby [who plays Guy] started playing the chord to ‘Falling Slowly’ and Steph [who plays Girl] did as well, I just remember a whole gush of emotions. I full on ugly cried.”
“It was so emotional in the sense that this was a story that everyone loved, everyone on stage and everyone in the audience watching us. We loved it so much and were so emotionally connected to it. When the lockdown hit in Sydney, everyone was really upset that we couldn’t put the show on.”
The Cast and Creatives of Once. Photography by Danica Zuks.
Joining the cast as Bank Manager, Gus Noakes returns to Perth after featuring in Yirra Yaakin’s Panawathi Girl during the 2022 Perth Festival. He says Once is all about taking chances, “It revolves around taking the chance you were afraid to take and meeting people that encourage you to confront your greatest fear but also your greatest goal. You see that through the two main characters [Guy and Girl].”
Gus says Bank Manager is influenced by Guy and Girl to pursue his dreams of being a musician despite his lack of ability. “When it comes to the Bank Manager, he is a character who is performing but shouldn’t be. There’s a reason why he hasn’t particularly succeeded in his goals of being a musician. In my song it become apparent that he’s got big dreams but that doesn’t mean they’re meant to come true.”
On the other hand, Deirdre says Ex- Girl Friend is primarily conveyed on stage through Guy’s story. “You only really hear her [Ex- Girl Friend] on a tape at the start of the show and then you see her for like two seconds at the end of the show. It really revolves around the story of Guy reconnecting with his love and getting to the stage where he can reconnect with her again.”
Rupert Reid and Gus Noakes. Photography by Danica Zuks.
Once has been described by critics as an unconventional musical, partly due to its hefty requirements on its performers. Each performer on stage does not only sing, dance and act but also plays an instrument (or several!).
Gus says this is the most musically demanding show he’s been in but it’s all crucial to the piece, “I don’t think the show would particularly work if the cast wasn’t playing instruments, because it is so Irish in the style of the show, music and humour. The Irish have this culture of being very musical, I think that is what gives the show its particular flair.”
Deirdre adds that what’s seen on stage mirrors the streets of Dublin, “There are a lot of acoustic instruments that you’d see on a Dublin Street, like acoustic guitar and accordions. The soundscape on stage is very much a replica of what you would see with people busking on the streets.”
Presented by Black Swan State Theatre Company of WA and Darlinghurst Theatre Company Once, directed by Richard Carroll with musical direction by Victoria Falconer and movement direction by Amy Campbell, will open at the Regal Theatre May 28, playing through to June 12.