The all-conquering musical returns to Dublin for a new run, complete with its first ever all-Irish cast

HAVING BEEN A hit movie and a startlingly successful Broadway show, Once’s return to what seems its spiritual home – the Olympia Theatre in Dublin – is a big one, especially with much of the cast renewed, and what’s become a big, global name to live up to.

Once is both unique, and uniquely Irish. With the lead characters played by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova in the hit movie version, the play riffs off a similar theme, taking music from the city’s streets and capturing its textures and nuance on stage. There are some subtle touches: an on-stage bar; the ‘non-acting’ role of the characters in providing musical entertainment before the main performance gets underway, and a relatively unscripted style that makes no two performances quite the same.

Phelim Drew – who’s featured in movies including The Commitments, Angela’s Ashes and King Arthur – has a lifelong connection with Irish music through his father, Dubliners star Ronnie Drew. He’s long since established as a name in his own right, however, and the return of Once this summer also marks his return to the role of Billy.

“It’s a different cast – an all Irish one – and the chemistry has changed considerably,” Drew told the Gazette as rehearsals for the latest run got underway. “Six new people means a very fresh start, and they’re all amazing musicians and actors, so we’re flying through it. Brian Gilligan who’s playing Guy has a lovely quality in that role, which is great. It’s a difficult play to cast, because a lot of the cast – as well  as being really stand out actors – have to be great singers and guitar players, and it’s difficult to tick all those boxes. That makes Once special in its own way; this time around we have a really great cast.”

“Glen [Hansard] is the embodiment of someone who has worked so hard to get from the streets of Dublin to being idolised abroad,” Drew says of The Frames man’s role in the production, with Hansard having starred in the hit movie. “I went to see him play in Vicar Street recently and it was just stunning. It’s hard to produce something of that quality, but we’re doing everything we can to emulate it.”

One of Ireland’s most popular indie-pop acts return from London, hit up Dingle and dive back into the Irish scene…

LONG SEEN as Ireland’s ultimate student band, The Coronas evolution has been an odd one. Rarely given the media credit that their sizeable sell-out shows might suggest they warrant, the lively four-piece are firmly established on our shores, having played the country’s largest indoor gig venue (the 3Arena) and headlined numerous festivals.

For much of the last few years, however, their Irish successes have been conducted from abroad, with The Coronas living together on London as they tried to break into a larger market, with mixed success. Having now returned home – a move that, bizarrely, precedes their largest ever London show latest this year, in the Kentish Town Forum – life is moving on fast.

New album ‘Trust The Wire’ – a reference to taking chances – represents probably the band’s most substantive change in style since they started out 14 years ago, taking in a broad range of genres and instrumentation. It’ll be released on a newly-established band-run label, too.

“We didn’t sit down and decide to do things differently,” frontman Danny O’Reilly told the Gazette. “It just evolved. We wrote the album in Dingle, instead of London like the last album, and I think there was a subconscious impact of that in the sound. It’s very electronic, chilled and mature, written from a place of calm. I think you can sense the change lyrically, too.”

“It’ll be our first record on the new label, and we’re excited about that,” he adds. “It makes sense for us financially now that we’re in a place where we can promote ourselves, and really take control of what we’re doing. We’ve actually done more promotion on this album than other ones, even though we didn’t have that major label backing, so it seems to be going well.”

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