Once at the Liverpool Empire Review

20-25 January 2020

Reviewed by Jan Mellor

Entering the packed, buzzing theatre we were met by a stage set up as an old record shop with an array of musicians playing guitars, violins, accordions, fiddles, a cello (played by a woman who swung it around as if it weighed nothing!), banjos, drums and  flutes. The music that could be described as indie folk or indie rock or even folk rock was invigorating had us transported effortlessly to the backstreets of old Dublin town and each member danced and frolicked in a Celtic stupor, reminiscent of any Irish wedding scene you may have watched on TV or in real life. Within the first 5 minutes the audience were clapping, cheering and in the party mood. A brilliant start – this huge Broadway and UK hit musical was here at last!

One singer emerged from the party – the ‘guy’ played by the talented Daniel Healy (a Ronan Keaton lookalike) singing what was going to be the first of an array of beautiful soulful songs (music and lyrics by Glen Hansard  and Marketa  Irglova) and there we all were – hooked! He then meets the Czech girl – ‘the girl’ – played by the sublime Emma Lucia who sang with the voice of an angel. Her quirky humour had us addicted to her boorish but lovable persona and we could easily see why this show was such a phenomenal hit.

And so, the story unfolds. A depressed unfocused lovelorn young man trying to make a living, working in his father’s hoover repair shop and a Czech girl with a vice for life, a love of music and her wonderful rented piano. She persuades the listless man to record his songs, lends money so they can rent a recording studio and encourages the guy he needs to be reunited with his love in New York. It’s a wonderful tale of anguish, selflessness gallantry and deep and unrequited love, that warmed the cockles of our hearts without being overly sentimental or sweet.

Each and every cast member had a unique talent of their own: from the eccentric bachelor Billy, played hysterically by Dan Bottomley, to the frustrated bank manager desperately wanting to ‘come-out’ and to share his passion of music (although he is a completely tone-deaf singer!), played superbly by Samuel Martin, to the lovable and dry humoured ‘da’, played affectionately by Peter Peverley. The cast were a joy and we felt we all knew them, or they reminded us of a friend or family member that we had real affection for. I adored how the musicians ‘melted’ into the cast and how they embraced the leads with their humour, talent and passion, their  ‘joy de vie’ and their enthusiasm was wholesome and enchanting – well done to Francesca Jaynes for such imaginative choreography and to Peter Rowe for directing this show and Adam Spiegel for producing it both with such insight.

The songs of this show “Gold”, “Leave”, “If you want me”, “When your minds made up”, will haunt you and I especially loved Falling Slowly which the show ended with.

This was a wonderful show and it uplifted us all. A joy to watch, listen to and be part of. Go and see this masterpiece. Bring some Dublin talent into your life and enjoy.

A joy to listen to and to see – go be part of this wonderful story!

Rating: 4.5/5

Tickets cost from £13 (plus £3.65 transaction fee).

Once is at the Liverpool Empire from 20-25 January 2020, for more information or to book tickets visit or call the box office on 0844 8713017.

Liverpool Empire, Lime Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 1JE | 0844 8713017

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