For those who’ve missed the posters all over London for the past few months, former Boyzone singer Ronan Keating is currently starring as Guy in Once. I had mixed feelings about this casting announcement; as someone who loves the movie Guy, Glen Hansard, and who’s seen two outstanding performances on stage from Declan Bennett and David Hunter, I just wasn’t sure Ronan would be able to pull it off.
As it turns out, I was wrong.
Ronan’s Guy is different to those who’ve gone before, but not necessarily in a bad way. As the show opens, he seems significantly less depressed than his predecessors - which, in a weird way, actually makes the character’s journey over the next few days more believable. I went in fully prepared to judge, but was pleasantly surprised not only with Ronan’s musical performance (although I did notice a couple of changes to the score, presumably to accommodate his vocal range) but also with his acting and comic delivery. He also has a genuine Irish accent, which is always a bonus. Not that those who’ve gone before haven’t been convincing - far from it.
But let’s not forget ourselves. Once is not just about Ronan, any more than Cats at the London Palladium was all about Nicole Scherzinger. Ronan’s just one member of a talented cast of actor-musicians, among them his co-star, Jill Winternitz, who is full of energy and sparkle as Girl. The show itself is a joyous celebration of music, love, and overcoming our fears. It’s about meeting the right person at exactly the right time, and allowing them into your life. And it’s about finding the courage to take a risk, because you never know where it might take you.
Once is not your typical musical. It’s not big or loud, and you may not necessarily come out sobbing, or singing and dancing. But, like the movie that inspired it, the show’s brilliance lies in its simplicity. Once is all about the music, and the people performing it. The songs, written by Guy for his lost love, are hauntingly beautiful, but at the same time catchy enough that you want to sing along. With both Irish and Czech influences, and some gorgeous harmonies, it’s the kind of music you want to listen to again and again, long after the show's over.
Don’t miss your chance to see Once at the Phoenix Theatre before it closes on March 21st. And remember, sometimes destiny can be as simple as a broken hoover.