Based on the 2006 film written and directed by John Carney, Once is a musical with a book by Enda Walsh and music and lyrics by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová (who both starred in the original film). The musical was originally developed at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in April 2011; it was first performed at New York Theatre Workshop on 15 November 2011.
The musical is performed with an onstage group of musicians and singers who are already mid-session as the audience enters. The narrative action follows that of the film: when an Irish busker, 'Guy', and a young Czech mother, 'Girl', meet through a shared love of music, their songwriting sparks a deep connection and a tender, longing romance that neither of them could have expected.
The New York Theatre Workshop production was directed by John Tiffany with movement by Steven Hoggett. It was designed by Bob Crowley. The cast included Steve Kazee as Guy and Cristin Milioti as Girl.
The production subsequently transferred to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, New York, on 18 March 2012, where it won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Book.
Once received its European premiere at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, on 22 February 2013, before transferring to the Phoenix Theatre, London, on 9 April 2013 (previews from 16 March). The cast included Declan Bennett as Guy and Zrinka Cvitešić as Girl.
In his Author's Note to the published edition (Nick Hern Books, 2013), Walsh writes 'The story of Once existed in movie form but needed its own stage style, and also its own specific stage language and pace. Really the key to that was the 'Girl' character, who, on page one, became the driving force, the idiosyncratic swagger of the piece, the person who would change everything'.