Irish Ayes: Playbill Lifts a Pint at the Opening Night of Once the Broadway-Bound Musical

By Harry Haun
07 Dec 2011

John Tiffany
photo by Monica Simoes

Hansard was similarly overwhelmed. "I've seen it a few times because I've been helping out with it, and it's been just amazing," he admitted, "but every time I've seen it, it's been different — like little changes here and there that make it alive."

He credited this life-giving force to the piece's unexpected director, John Tiffany. "When this first came up as an idea," Hansard recalled, "everybody was very careful in the beginning that the director was someone with the kind of sensibility who'd 'get it.' It was almost like, 'Find someone who can do Beckett. If he can direct Beckett, he can direct this.' Not that this is anything in any way remotely like Beckett — but that quietness, that confidence — whatever that is, John has it."

Hansard also praised the documentary-makers who recorded the end of the affair. "It was very good of the lads. They were very gentle with us because there were scenes they could have used that they didn't. Generally speaking, myself and Markéta's relationship is very gentle. Even when it's rocky, it's kinda gentle.

"Our friendship has gotten stronger and stronger. Any relationship, whether it's friendship or a romantic relationship, requires honesty — and continued honesty — and, if you can be continually honest with your lover even when it's no longer, then you have a chance at something even greater, which is friendship. I'm not just saying this as a cop-out, but myself and Markéta always made better friends."

It photographed much like love in the original film. "All we knew when we were filming was: Does this feel authentic? Every time I filmed a scene, it was: Is this being authentic? Is this being believable? Because, if it doesn't, we shouldn't do it.

"That's why they never kissed. We found ourselves getting to a point where it was, like, 'You know what? If there are a couple of kisses now and this is a happy ending, it kinda undoes the whole thing.' So there was a sense in the end that we shouldn't kiss. Thank God, John is such a great director, but he's also a great listener and he's a great man for having the conversation. Eventually, we decided they shouldn't kiss.

Cristin Milioti, Steve Kazee and Markéta Irglová
photo by Monica Simoes

"For me, the female is the star of the show. It's all about her. The guy has some talent, but, as the play suggests, he's a bit stuck. It's all about the girl who inspires him and picks him up. If she were to ever kiss him, it'd be a letdown for everyone."

Both confessed it was kinda "surreal" seeing facsimiles of themselves (the aforementioned Guy and Girl) on stage, played by Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, both relatively new to the New York theatre scene.

Mike Nichols tapped Kazee to read with actors auditioning for Spamalot and thought he read well enough to be in the show; Starbuck, opposite Audra McDonald's Lizzie in 110 in the Shade, followed that.

Milioti hails from an unbroken line of heavy-duty dramas (Stunning, The Little Foxes), but has no trouble with the musical demands placed on her — or with the Czech accent. "I do mostly accents so it was fine, and I was in very good hands. I was with [dialect coach] Stephen Gabis, and he is really excellent."

Kazee sees Broadway as a breezy transition when Once's run is done downtown Jan. 15. "I think it's easy. You just do the same show we're doing. We're going to be different. We're going to be the one show on Broadway that's very different from all the other shows, and I think that's a good selling point for us.

"Our audiences have been really loving it. I don't really pay too much attention to how they react. As long as we're doing our job and being honest and telling the story, we're going to get the reaction we need to get, which has been universal in the sense that people really enjoy it. People find something about it that touches them, much like the original film. It goes right to the heart. It's very surgical."