Once the Musical - SYNOPSIS
- Synopsis of Act I Once the Musical -
A thirty-something Dublin busker (identified only as "Guy") sings a heartfelt ballad of unrequited love in a local bar, accompanying himself on guitar ("Leave"). He then puts his guitar in its case and turns to leave without it; but a young Czech woman ("Girl"), who has been listening to him sing, approaches. She asks numerous personal questions about his songs; he replies that he wrote most of them for a girlfriend who broke up with him and moved to New York City. He is giving up on his music because the memories of his defunct relationship are too painful; he now works as a vacuum cleaner repairman in his father's shop. Girl responds that she has a vacuum that "does not suck", and asks him to fix it. She offers to pay for the repair by playing piano for him. Over his protests, she snatches the sheet music for a new song from his jacket. Reluctantly, Guy picks up his guitar and they play the song together ("Falling Slowly"). Girl suggests that he could win his old girlfriend back by singing her that song. Guy brushes this off; but Girl reminds him that he now owes her a vacuum repair, so they head to his father's shop ("The North Strand").
As Guy fixes the vacuum, Girl becomes acquainted with his father, who seems to like her. Once the vacuum is repaired, Guy impulsively invites Girl to his bedroom, above the shop. They are clearly attracted to each other, but when he attempts to kiss her she stops him and leaves ("The Moon"). The next day he apologises, and they write, rehearse and record songs together. Girl introduces Guy to her family, including her young daughter, Ivanka ("Ej, Pada, Pada, Rosicka"). After Guy leaves, Girl plays one of his songs on the piano, substituting her own lyrics as she thinks of him ("If You Want Me").
The next morning Girl tells Guy that she has arranged a meeting with a banker ("Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy"). To persuade the bank manager to approve a loan — which would enable Guy to take his music to New York — Guy plays him a song ("Say It to Me Now"). The banker is impressed with his talent, approves the loan, and adds that he can play guitar as well. He plays a song for them ("Abandoned in Bandon"), and though he is not a very good singer, they invite him to play in the band. The following night at a night club, Guy tells Girl that she has convinced him that his musical career is worth pursuing. Good, she replies, because it is open mic night at the club, and she has signed him up to perform as "The Hoover Man". He is reluctant, but eventually takes the stage. As he sings, it seems that he is now singing to Girl, not his ex-girlfriend ("Gold").
- Synopsis of Act II Once the Musical -
During band practice, one of the musicians gets into an argument with the bank manager; he opposes capitalism, he says, despite the fact that he owns the shop where they are rehearsing. Guy and Girl retreat to a hill overlooking the city where the two share a brief, tender moment. Girl tells Guy, in Czech, that she loves him — but when he asks her to translate, she replies, "It looks like rain". Guy realizes that he has fallen in love with Girl, and wonders how he will live without her when he moves to New York ("Sleeping").
The next day the band records a demo for a major record label ("When Your Mind's Made Up"). After receiving praise for their performance, the band members take a break. Girl remains at the piano, and thinking she is alone, plays one of her own compositions that reveals the depth of her feelings for Guy ("The Hill"). Guy, who has been listening, compliments her on her song. He suggests that she and Ivanka move to New York with him, because they clearly have feelings for each other that they cannot ignore. Girl answers angrily that he cannot feel that way. Incredulous, Guy asks why; Girl replies that her husband — Ivanka's father — is trying to reconcile with her, and for the sake of their daughter she must consider it ("It Cannot Be About That"). The following morning the band gathers at the hill to voice their hopes for success with the impending album ("Gold (Acapella)"). Guy asks Girl to spend his last night in Dublin with him; she demurs, because it would only result in "hanky-panky", which is a "bad idea"; but ultimately she agrees to come to the vacuum shop.
Back at the shop, Guy plays the demo for his father. Impressed and moved, he gives Guy money to help him get settled in New York. Then Guy, encouraged by Girl, calls his ex-girlfriend in New York, who is happy about his imminent arrival, and seems willing to give their relationship another try. A few days later Girl comes home to find a piano with a bright red bow on it — a gift from Guy. She sheds a few tears, then sits at the piano and sings; as Guy, in his New York apartment, sings the same song ("Falling Slowly (Reprise)").