Magazine article The New Yorker

Once Again

Magazine article The New Yorker

Once Again

Article excerpt

In 2006, the singer-songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova put out a tiny movie called "Once," which went on to earn twenty million dollars and an Academy Award, for the tear-jerking ballad "Falling Slowly." Its plot was as small as its budget: Guy meets Girl while busking on the streets of Dublin. Girl, a Czech emigree, persuades him to fix her vacuum cleaner. Guy and Girl (who are never named) spend the week writing music, then go to the bank and get a loan, which they use to fund a recording session--their one chance at artistic, if not romantic, consummation.

For the stage adaptation, which has just transferred to Broadway after a run in the East Village, the story goes something like: Guy and Girl are recast with telegenic musical-theatre actors, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, neither of whom has ever been to Ireland. Milioti is from New Jersey, raised on Dylan and Billie Holiday and Joni Mitchell; Kazee is from Ashland, Kentucky, where the playlist leaned more toward Merle Haggard and George Jones and Patsy Cline ("I've got the hill-people music in me").

A few weeks before previews, Girl and Guy and Band gathered in a midtown recording studio that resembled a ski lodge. Like the fictional demo in "Once," the cast album was to be recorded in less than a day. In real life, though, the session was hyper-organized, with Sony executives and catered bagels on hand. Since the actors in "Once" double as the orchestra--the set is a kind of Irish-pub limbo--the vocal and instrumental tracks were recorded together: an unorthodox arrangement. "Nothing's isolated," Lynn Lendway, a Sony employee, explained. "If somebody screws up, it has to be done again."

At one o'clock, it came time to record "Falling Slowly," which, as both actors were keenly aware, is the show's biggest draw. "People are waiting to hear that song, so you can't muck it up," Kazee said. After warming up with a vocal coach, Kazee grabbed his guitar, while Milioti, who wore a tiny harmonica on a chain around her neck, sat at the piano, with the rest of the cast in a circle. From the control booth, the producer, Steve Epstein, announced that this would be the ninety-third take of the day. …

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