THE BOOK SHELF: Scripts of Once, The Lyons and The Anarchist

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27 Jan 2013

Cover art
Cover art

This month's column looks at the scripts of three recent Broadway attractions, Enda Walsh's Once, Nicky Silver's The Lyons and David Mamet's The Anarchist.


TCG, also known as Theatre Communications Group, continues its invaluable parade of published plays with three recent Broadway titles. Most important among of the trio is last season's Best Musical winner, Once. This is a unique and very special piece, one that seems to blithely set aside traditional theatre-musical rules and methods yet thrives and blossoms. It is based on the 2006 motion picture of the same title, retaining most of the score written at the time by the pair who also played the leading roles. Atmospheric — if highly emotional — songs that are effective both on screen and stage, but don't exactly tell the story or propel the action. Yet, Once (the musical) works splendidly — and is even stronger on the stage.

Which is to say that the book, by Enda Walsh, is deceptively good. Walsh has retained the songs, more or less, but filled in the story. Mr. Walsh is no librettist; the prolific Irish playwright has more than twenty works to his credit, including Disco Pigs and Misterman. In Once, he adds drama, poetry, and laughter. Mix in the songs by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the sensitive staging by John Tiffany, the striking movement by choreographer Steven Hoggett, and impeccable design work and you wind up with a warmly romantic and heartily exuberant piece of musical theatre.

But that's the musical, on-stage. Here we talk of Walsh's published script, which seems to be the magical key to the artful transformation from screen to stage.

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