The story of a guy who gave up on love and music, and the girl who inspired him to dream again.
Show Essentials

Full Synopsis

Act One

On a street in Dublin, Guy, a musician, sings a song he wrote ("Leave"). As he puts his guitar on the ground and is about to leave it, Girl, a Czech woman, approaches and asks him if he wrote that song and why he is leaving his guitar behind. Guy explains he doesn't want it anymore and that he works for his dad's vacuum cleaner repair shop. Girl excitedly tells him that her vacuum needs repairing and that she can repay him in music. She takes Guy to a shop owned by Billy, who lets Girl play the piano there. She implores Guy to play another song of his. Guy refuses and begins leaves, but sheet music falls from his bag. Guy tells her to keep the sheet music and again turns to leave, just she begins to play his music on the piano. He stops. He gets out his guitar and they sing his song together ("Falling Slowly"). Girl asks Guy who the song is about, but Guy evades her questions.

At the vacuum repair shop, Girl talks to Da, Guy's father. After Guy fixes her vacuum, he offers to show her his room. In his room, guy plays her a recording of one of his songs ("The Moon"). In the recording, Guy and his Ex-Girlfriend are talking about the song. Guy explains to Girl that she left six months ago for New York and has met someone there. Girl tells him that he should go to New York to win her back and asks him to make a CD of his songs. Guy tries to kiss her, and she stops him.

The next day, Guy comes by Billy's shop and apologizes to Girl for his behavior. He walks her home and hands her a CD. Girl invites him to her apartment, where he meets her roommates Andrej, Svec, and Reza and mother Baruska. A little girl enters, and Girl introduces her, Ivonka, as her daughter ("Ej Padá, Padá Rosička").

Later, Girl listens to Guy's CD and asks him why there are no lyrics. Guy invites her to add her own. When he asks about Ivonka's father, Girl elusively replies that they are having difficulties and he is not around. They thank each other and agree to meet again. After he leaves, Baruska implies that there is something between Girl and Guy, but Girl insists they are just friends. Alone, she plays Guy's CD and sings her own words along with his music ("If You Want Me").

Another day, Guy plays a song he's made up about the sad state of his life ("Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy") when Girl enters. She proposes that they record his songs to submit to a record company and hopefully win his Ex-Girlfriend back. Somewhat reluctant and skeptical, Guy agrees.

First, they must go to the bank for a loan to pay for recording in a studio. Before they head to the bank, Baruska tells Girl and Guy (and the audience) a cautionary tale of a man who almost chased his dreams but never did out of fear. Because he does not understand Czech, Guy does not know what she is saying. At the bank, the Bank Manager is sympathetic to Girl's impassioned case for their loan but tells them he needs assurance that they will be able to pay back the loan. Guy sings one of his songs ("Say It to Me Now"), profoundly moving the Bank Manager. It turns out he has a guitar of his own. He performs a song of his own for Guy and Girl ("Abandoned in Bandon"). When he asks for their honest feedback, they tell he can play well but can't sing or write songs. Nevertheless, the Bank Manager grants them a loan.

At a pub's open mic, Guy and Girl are watching her friends perform. When the host announces the next performer as "The Hooverman", Girl tells Guy that it's him. Nervous, Guy performs a love song ("Gold"). Guy and Girl look at each other during the song, in love with each other.

Act Two

At a rehearsal in Billy's shop, tensions are running high - especially between Billy and the Bank Manager, who are both in Guy and Girl's band. Rehearsal becomes complete chaos, and Billy kicks them out of his shop. At a pub, Guy begs Billy to give the band another chance. Girl asks Reza to seduce and charm Billy as a favor. In return, Reza tells Girl to be honest about her feelings for Guy and to tell him how she feels. Reza and Billy hit it off and dance.

Guy and Girl take a small trip to Howth Head to be by the sea. Guy reminisces about his childhood memories of this place. A romantic moment almost happens, but Girl clarifies that she is still married to Ivonka's father. Guy asks her in Czech if she still loves him. Girl replies in Czech that she loves Guy, but he doesn't know what she's saying. As she leaves and the scene changes, Guy sings ("Sleeping").

At the studio, Guy, Girl and the band record their first song ("When Your Mind's Made Up"). While everyone else takes a break after that song, Girl plays a song alone ("The Hill") that reveals her feelings about Guy, who walks in on her singing. After she finishes, she tells Guy that her husband is coming to Dublin to try to work things out. Guy accuses her of pushing him away, and Girl retorts that he still has something with his ex in New York. He reveals that he no longer sings his songs for his former love - his sings for them. Girl stops him and tells him "It Cannot Be About That". Guy leaves ("Gold (A Cappella)").

Another day, Bank Manager and Billy have made amends and found common ground with each other. Girl approaches Guy and asks him if he will call Ex-Girlfriend that night. Guy says he will and asks her to come by later. Girl hesitantly agrees. At his father's shop, Guy plays his record for Da, who is very proud of his son. Guy finally calls Ex-Girlfriend. She confesses she misses him. When he tells her that he's coming to New York, she is overjoyed - and so is he. Girl does not show up.

At her apartment, Billy, Andrej, Svec, and Reza surprise Girl with a piano. She sits at the piano. Although they are in separate places, Guy and Girl play together ("Falling Slowly (Reprise)").



Cast Size: Medium (11 to 20 performers)
Cast Type: Star Vehicle Female
Dance Requirements: Standard

Character Breakdown


A determined and witty dreamer. Girl has come from the Czech Republic to Dublin for a new life. She is passionate about playing the piano and making music.

Gender: female
Age: 20 to 35
Vocal range top: B4
Vocal range bottom: F#3

A down-on-his-luck musician in Dublin. He is lovesick and lost. I loves making songs and playing guitar but is ready to give up.

Falsetto up to C#5

Gender: male
Age: 20 to 35
Vocal range top: G#4
Vocal range bottom: F#2

A music store owner who allows Girl to play piano in his shop. Opinionated and loyal to those he cares about. Plays guitar.

Gender: male
Age: 30 to 50

Girl's vivacious and flirtatious roommate. Plays violin.

Gender: female
Age: 25 to 30
Vocal range top: A5
Vocal range bottom: D4

Girl's mother. Loving, generous, and idealistic. 

Gender: female
Age: 45 to 60
Bank Manager

Corporate on the outside, but artistic on the inside. Plays guitar and cello.

Gender: male
Age: 30 to 50
Vocal range top: B4
Vocal range bottom: G3

Guy's father. A caring man who loves his son. 

Gender: male
Age: 50 to 70
Vocal range top: E4
Vocal range bottom: G3

Girl's quirky roommate. Plays drums and guitar.

Gender: male
Age: 20 to 40

Girl's roommate. A big dreamer. Plays guitar and bass.

Gender: male
Age: 20 to 30
Vocal range top: F#4
Vocal range bottom: A3

A Dublin music studio manager. Plays guitar and piano.

Gender: male
Age: 20 to 50

Host of an open mic at a Dublin pub. Plays guitar.

Gender: male
Age: 20 to 50
Vocal range top: D4
Vocal range bottom: C3

Guy's ex-girlfriend. Wanting a better life, she's moved from Dublin to New York. Plays violin.

Gender: female
Age: 20 to 40

Girl's daughter.

Gender: female
Age: 6 to 10
Full Song List
Once: The North Strand
Once: Leave
Once: Falling Slowly
Once: The Moon
Once: Ej Padá Padá Rosička
Once: If You Want Me
Once: Broken-Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy
Once: Say It To Me Now
Once: Abandoned in Bandon
Once: Gold
Once: Sleeping
Once: When Your Mind's Made Up
Once: The Hill
Once: It Cannot Be About That
Once: Gold (A Cappella)
Once: Falling Slowly (Reprise)

Show History


Once, a musical with a book by Irish playwright Enda Walsh and a score by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, is a stage adaptation of the 2007 musical film of the same name. The film is a naturalistic drama that stars Hansard and Irglov (for which they wrote all the music, as well) and tells the story of an Irish man who falls for a young Czech woman. The song, "Falling Slowly," won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Going along with the resounding theme of music that exists throughout, the actors in Once doubly functions as the orchestra, picking up a variety of instruments to play throughout the show.


Once premiered at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA. It then moved to the New York Theatre Workshop in New York City, where it opened on December 6, 2011. The production only ran until January 15, 2012, but its success in its limited run prompted a Broadway transfer. It opened on Broadway at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on March 18, 2012. A North American national tour launched in Providence, Rhode Island, on October 1, 2013. 

Once has also made an impact internationally. The musical made its West End debut at the Phoenix Theatre on April 9, 2013, after a limited engagement at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. The Melbourne Theatre Company put up the Australia premiere on September 26, 2014. On February 10, 2015, a "sit down" production of Once opened at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto, featuring an entirely Canadian cast.


  • The Off-Broadway production of Once was nominated for seven Lucille Lortel Awards, including Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Director and Outstanding Choreographer. It also won the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical.
  • The Broadway production of Once was nominated for eleven Tony Awards in 2012, including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, Best Choreography and Best Direction of a Musical. It was also nominated for six Drama Desk Awards (including Outstanding Musical, Music, Lyrics and Director of a Musical), as well as Drama League and New York Drama Critics' Circle Awards for Best Musical.  The album for the Broadway production also won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album in 2013.
  • The West End production of Once was nominated for six Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical, Outstanding Achievement in Music and Best Theatre Choreographer. It was also nominated for five Whatsonstage.com Awards, including Best New Musical, Best Original Music and Best Director.
  • Celebrities who have appeared in Once include: Cristin Milioti (Girl), Arthur Darvill (Guy), Steve Kazee (Guy), Elizabeth A. David (Reza), David Patrick Kelly (Da), Paul Whitty (Billy) and Joanna Christie (Girl).

Critical Reaction

"Once uses song and dance in a way I've never experienced in an American musical (even if its sound will be familiar to alternative radio listeners): to convey a beautiful shimmer of might-have-been regret.  ...What lends a special, tickling poignancy to Mr. Hansard and Ms. Irglova's songs is their acceptance of loneliness as an existential given."
– The New York Times

"Pure, moving and inventive... a study in how to beautifully adapt a movie to the stage. In many ways, in fact, this Once is better than the original Once."
– The Huffington Post

"It is a rare feat... to express such unabashed romantic feeling, such yearning emotion, without stooping to sentiment or wallowing in cliche."
– The Chicago Tribune

"Wins you over with its simplicity, charm and air of sweet melancholy."
– The Guardian

"The sweetest and most romantic show on Broadway.... Book writer Enda Walsh found smart ways to expand the narrative."
– New York Daily News

"A gem of a show. ...Once wins its standing ovations the old-fashioned way: with a love story, great songs, compelling characters and inventive stagecraft.... downright revolutionary."
– The New York Post

"Unusually fun and heartfelt musical theatre."
– The New Yorker

"A love story played with fierce sincerity and unexpected honesty."
– The Wall Street Journal

"Wonderful music! ...Raw and real and better than anything you're likely to hear in the theater all season."
– TIME Magazine

"Pure, moving, invention and irresistible. ...Once makes a lasting connection."
– The Associated Press

"Gorgeous. ...Once charms us with a rare combination of intelligence, warmth and musicality."
– Bloomberg News

"An exquisite reminder of theater's singular capacity to transport us."
– The Hollywood Reporter

Tony® Award

2012 - Best Featured Actress in a Musical, Nominee (Natasha Katz)
2012 - Orchestrations, Winner (Martin Lowe)
2012 - Scenic Design of a Musical, Winner (Bob Crowley)
2012 - Sound Design of a Musical, Winner (Clive Goodwin)
2012 - Best Musical, Winner (Once)
2012 - Book Of A Musical, Winner (Enda Walsh)
2012 - Direction Of A Musical, Winner (John Tiffany)
2012 - Best Actor in a Muscial, Winner (Steve Kazee)
2012 - Best Actress in a Muscial, Nominee (Cristin Milioti)
2012 - Choreography, Nominee (Steven Hoggett)

Drama Desk Award

2012 - Outstanding Musical, Winner (Once)
2012 - Outstanding Music, Nominee (Markéta Irglová, Glen Hansard)
2012 - Outstanding Lyrics, Winner (Markéta Irglová, Glen Hansard)
2012 - Outstanding Direction of a Musical, Winner (John Tiffany)
2012 - Outstanding Orchestrations, Winner (Martin Lowe)
2012 - Outstanding Sound Design of a Musical, Nominee (Clive Goodwin)



Based on the motion picture written and directed by John Carney


You must give the authors/creators billing credits, as specified in the Production Contract, in a conspicuous manner on the first page of credits in all programs and on houseboards, displays and in all other advertising announcements of any kind.
Percentages listed indicate required type size in relation to title size.


Book by
Music & Lyrics by
Based on the Motion Picture Written and Directed by
Licensees shall include the following credits on the title page of all programs for the Play:
Orchestrations by Martin Lowe
Originally Produced on Broadway by
Barbara Broccoli John N. Hart Jr. Patrick Milling Smith Frederick Zollo
Brian Carmody Michael G. Wilson Orin Wolf The Shubert Organization
Robert Cole, Executive Producer
in association with
New York Theatre Workshop
Once was originally produced Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop in December 2011, Jim Nicola, Artistic Director, William Russo, Managing Director
Once was originally developed at the American Repertory Theater, Cambridge, Massachusetts, in April 2011
Diane Paulus, Artistic Director, Diane Borger, Producer
Shortened Billing:
In advertisements of 1/4 page size or less, and online and mobile ads where in each case only the title of the play, performance dates and venue are provided and in outdoor advertising, transit and taxi ads and marquees where no other person is billed, the following "shortened billing" is permissible:
In addition to the foregoing credits, you agree to include the Authors’ and John Carney’s approved biographies in all programs of the Play that include biographies of any other creative team members. The author biographies can be found on the MTI website at www.mtishows.com/authorbios.
The videotaping or other video or audio recording of this production is strictly prohibited

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