"a touching musical love story"
by Michael Gray for remotegoat on 05/10/18

We feel the Irish craic from the off: Guinness in the bar and prominently promoted in the auditorium, and on stage, Libby Watson's lovingly recreated Dublin bar.
The company stroll on, treating us to a warm-up set before the action. Great music, and an infectious enjoyment, though the intimacy of the old-fashioned pub isn't reflected in the arena-gig sound design.
As the lights go down, we're left with Guy, a busker, singing “Leave”. His only audience The Girl – even more anonymous than the Guy – a bright, inquisitive Czech.
Like the 2007 John Carney movie which inspired it, this easy-to-love musical, with a witty, whimsical book by Enda Walsh, tells the story of their five-day slow-burn affair. She's married with a young child, he has a girlfriend in New York.
The show is a joint production with the New Wolsey Ipswich, where it was seen last month.
Director Peter Rowe and a superb company of actor-musicians bring the Dublin scene and the private anguish very successfully to the stage. The shop, the studio, the North Strand and the hill very simply suggested, the music the glue which holds it all together. The actors sit like wall-flowers around the edges of the action. They lean in expectantly as Guy and Girl first make music together, then join in with Falling Slowly, the show's big number, reprised for the bitter-sweet ending.
Amongst the ensemble, some superb character work. Sean Kingsley's hot-headed Billy, memorably seduced by the vampish Reza [Kate Robson-Stuart]. Peter Peverley is Guy's dad, a quietly touching performance, and Susannah van den Berg the Girl's mum, living with a colourful colony of Czech ex-pats. A cherishable comedy turn from Samuel Martin as the Bank Manager with hidden depths if not hidden talents, and Lloyd Gorman as Svec, the Heavy Metal drummer in a Thin Lizzy t-shirt.
The lovers are Daniel Healy as the insecure street musician, and Emma Lucia as the frank, funny Girl whose hoover he repairs and whose heart he breaks. Both give excellent, nuanced performances. Each has a big solo: “Sleeping” for him, “The Hill” for her. As she says, it's “me, and you, and all this beautiful music”.
While the music is not especially memorable, there are many wonderful moments – the a cappella “Gold”, and the same song at the close of Act One, the closest we get to a full-on production number, in which love's dart first finds its target. And let's not forget the instrumental work – keyboard, drums, triangle, and most affecting perhaps, the strings behind “Sleeping” and “The Hill”.
The hill, looking down on Dublin town and the ocean, is achieved by raising the ceiling of the bar to reveal the night sky, the crescent moon, and the Girl's declaration of love, spoken in Czech, revealed to us in sky-writing surtitle, and never, ever to Guy ...

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