A lot of you will know that Once has a special place in my heart and is one of the shows in the West End I keep going back to again and again. I won’t deny that the Original London Cast are the reason I fell in love with the show – those guys and girls were truly special and I still miss them dearly.
However, in March 2014 a brand new cast took over (with a few familiar faces remaining in the show). After watching the show for the first time post cast change I was happy with the knowledge that Once was in save hands. And by now the new guys and girls have truly made the parts their own. Jill Winternitz took over as Girl in mid May and I loved her portrayal of the role from the start. Her Girl is cute but feisty and all around lovable. I have followed Jill’s career since I first saw her as Baby in Dirty Dancing and it’s great to see her in a show that gives her the chance to shine as an actress and singer (not to forget the piano playing which she handles effortlessly).
I wasn’t going to write another Once review mainly because everyone is probably tired of me going on about how wonderful this show is. However, on Saturday I was lucky enough to catch Jack Beale as Guy and I just had to share my thoughts on his performance. First of all, for me Declan Bennett will always be Guy. He was the first person I saw in the role and even though I haven’t seen a bad Guy yet Declan’s portrayal was the one that truly touched me. He was the one that made me cry as soon as he started singing simply because he put so many emotions into the songs. In short: I connected with Declan’s Guy like I did with no other Guy during my Once journey so far.
I had heard good things about Jack’s Guy. There was talk about him being a bit like Declan – which both excited and worried me (I definitely didn’t want to see a wannabe Declan on stage). I soon discovered that there was no need to worry at all. The moment Jack stepped on stage I was gripped. Yes, his Guy has that certain scruffy vibe that Declan’s Guy had. But that’s were the similarities end. Jack is in no way a copy of any other Guy I’ve seen.
Jack’s portrayal of Guy is subtle and moving. He seems almost shy yet his Guy has a cheeky charm that makes you fall for him straight away. He blends in with the rest of the cast without ending up in the background. It’s a perfect mix of leading the cast without outshining your fellow cast members. His rendition of “Leave” and “Say it to me now” is hauntingly beautiful and if his “Falling slowly reprise” doesn’t make you cry I don’t know what else will.
Jack’s Guy truly develops throughout the show. He starts off as an insecure man who doesn’t know how to go on in life. With the help of Jill’s Girl he learns to believe in himself again. In my months of watching Once I have never seen anyone portray this journey so well-defined and believable. It is a true joy to watch Jack on stage. He is funny without playing the part for the laughs. He is emotional without being soppy. And he gives the songs his own stamp with his raw and mesmerising voice which for me is one of the most important things in the show.
If you get the chance then please go and watch Jack’s performance in Once. You won’t be disappointed. And just in case you are wondering: Declan is still “my Guy” but he definitely has some strong competition from now on.
To find out about Jack’s upcoming Guy dates follow him on Twitter @JackjBeale .