Thursday, October 23, 2014


If you live in New York and watch CBS Sunday Morning News, you know the worst part of the program -- aside from host Charles Osgood's insistence on singing Christmas songs and reciting his kindergarten-level poetry -- are the commercials for the Broadway musical Once, the treacly story of a young street musician and his unrequited love for a woman.

My wife and I saw the movie version in 2006. A low-key affair, its melancholy vibe was kind of a welcome change from the force-fed happy endings I'm used to. The stars of Once, who also wrote the songs, broke up by the time they won the Oscar for Best Original Song, amping its bittersweet aura.

Once became the hipster's favorite movie of the year, treating it as a musical version of a lost story by Franz Kafka. Its Oscar-winning number was the tearful "Falling," whose lyrics cleverly rhyme "you" with "you," "me" with "me," and "home" with "choice." But what its young fans identified with was the song's heartfelt, heartsick, heartburn-inducing cri de coeur expressing a love that nobody else in history has ever felt or will feel again. You remember that bullshit from your youth, don't you?

"I take that as a personal insult."
Everybody sing along! Falling slowly, eyes that know me/And I can't go back... Oh, how I wish you did go back, way, way back, as far as your one-way ticket will take you. Because since the opening of the stage version of Once, I've spit out my coffee every week upon hearing that song via the bovine lowing of the twee leading man.

Once? If only!

As time passed, new commercials for the show aired, featuring "real" audience members (paid for their services), swooning over what they just experienced. A middle-aged man, responding to his wife's astonishment at how much he enjoyed Once, muttered, "Hey, I have feelings, too!" So do I -- and I feel like throwing up.

The cast checks for dog crap on their shoes.
Another, much younger Once fan commented on the onstage pub's gimmick of serving beer to the audience. "How can you not love a show where you can drink?" she asked rhetorically. Let me tell you, the only way I could love that show is if I drank enough Guinness to land me in a coma. 

But that won't be necessary much longer. The new commercial that aired last Sunday warned that Once is closing in January. 

"Thank God!" I cried aloud. It was the most welcome announcement since V-J Day. This is your final chance, whispered the announcer, to see the musical that transformed Broadway.

Really? Honest? Do you swear?

So all you non-New Yorkers, be on the lookout for Once's road company commercials next year, and don't say you weren't warned. Now if only that damn Wicked musical would shutter its doors so I don't have to deal with those commercials. So if you care to find me/Look to the western sky!... 

I think I'll be heading east, thank you. Like China.


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