Review Round-Ups

Ronan Keating charms in Once debut

The former Boyzone singer has joined the award-winning musical as Guy

The West End cast of Once
Ronan Keating and company
(© © Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)

Ben Hewis


Jill Winternitz continues to impress as 'Girl', the perfect mix of Czech charm and chutzpah… the ensemble as a whole entity are truly a force to be reckoned with… Keating makes a fair stage debut as Guy… however he fails to bring the same depth to the role as his predecessors, each of whom offered something new in their interpretations… Keating's doesn't go much further than face value and one thinks he may have had a more successful stage debut over the road at The Commitments… casting a celebrity in Once is like graffitiing a Banksy over a Monet… Once remains a beautiful show… the songs speak to the heart like no other musical on the West End can do…

Fiona Mountford
Evening Standard

This is the third time I have seen Once – perhaps I should call it Thrice – and what becomes clearer on each viewing is the delicate filigree of the relationship between Guy (Ronan Keating) and Girl (Jill Winternitz)… there is push and pull on both sides, but it’s a fragile equilibrium that needs to be maintained and with this particular pair John Tiffany‘s thoughtful production achieves it exquisitely… Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová‘s music is uniformly lovely… "Falling Slowly" won an Oscar for Best Original Song and is played to plaintive perfection by a top-notch cast of actor-musicians… there is an extremely fine line between soulful and twee and occasionally Once strays the wrong side of it… this remains a refreshing new spin on the traditional West End musical.

Mark Shenton

The Stage

… it smoulders with a slow-burning intensity… composers Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in their alternately sad and scorching songs conjure a world of feeling that’s hauntingly and haltingly revealed to create a surge of quiet emotion… as it enters the home stretch of its London run, the producers have brought in Irish pop troubadour Ronan Keating… the first and most admirable thing to say about him is that he blends in effortlessly… he brings a throbbing theatrical immediacy to his eight major numbers… he is superbly partnered by the wondrous Jill Winternitz, who brings an aching stillness and radiance to the woman… a musical that is a genuine one-off, bringing mood and melody into intricate, intimate harmony…

David Lister



To describe any play as charming risks sounding lukewarm, but this much-garlanded musical has charm in abundance and that makes for a delightful evening… the new interest is the casting of Boyzone singer Ronan Keating as the male lead, making his West End stage debut… it feels patronising to boyband singers-turned-actors everywhere to say he is surprisingly good, so let’s rather say that he is highly effective in exuding a careworn melancholy that disguises loss… he captures the hearts of the audience seemingly effortlessly… in this he is more than matched by Jill Winternitz as the Czech immigrant, whose mischief, flirtatiousness and disarming directness mask her own sadness… an evening that mixes comedy, music, sadness and romance with two heartwarming central performances.

Lyn Gardner


Once may be quite enough for some, but this cunningly unassuming musical… is clearly hoping to clean up at the box office with its new star… former Boyzone singer Ronan Keating has taken over the role of a Dublin singer-songwriter with a broken heart but lungs in perfectly good working order… director John Tiffany sprinkles bucket-loads of theatrical fairy dust over this guy-meets-girl musical with considerable help from movement director Steven Hoggett; designer Bob Crowley, who sets the whole thing in a pub-like space full of mottled mirrors; and the gorgeous melting, shadowy illuminations of lighting designer Natasha Katz… Keating acquits himself decently, but there’s not much he can do with a character whose default setting is anguished yearning and who is little more than a vacuum…