It was just about as low-budget as a film could be, reportedly costing $180,000 and featuring no well-known actors. But its simple love story and its lovely music made "Once" one of the most respected movies of 2006.
The stage musical adaptation opened Off-Broadway in 2011, and almost immediately became even more acclaimed. It won eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and last year its cast recording won the Grammy Award for best Musical Theater Album.
The first national tour of "Once" launched in the fall of last year. It comes to the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa for seven shows beginning Tuesday.
"It has been left pretty true to the film," said Dani de Waal, who plays the character known only as "Girl" musical. "I think mostly they were committed to keeping the intimacy of the film, which is pretty difficult when you put it on the stage of a great big theater."
To keep the intimate feeling that made the film so poignant, the actors, all of whom are on stage for the entire show, play all the instruments.
The show starts in an Irish pub, and the audience members are invited on stage to have a drink at the bar. The cast starts off by playing some folk songs, the audience members return to their seats, and the show slides into its original music.
"They have a pool of about 30 songs to choose from, Irish and Czech folk songs, and they play three," de Waal said. "So it's a different every night."
By inviting audience members on stage, she said, the show lowers the "us and them" divide between cast and audience, so the connection with connection with characters is enhanced.
But the musical, with a book by Enda Walsh, doesn't tinker with the story that made the film so successful.
The story concerns an Irish street musician who meets and falls for a Czech immigrant. She does not seem to requite his feelings, but she encourages him to broaden his musical vision and ambitions.
Walsh also kept almost all the film's music. It was written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who played Guy and Girl in the movie. The song "Falling Slowly" won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
"It's a love story, of course, but it's not a traditional love story," de Waal said. "It's really about finding the courage to follow your passion. I think that's why people connect to it so much."
Details: Feb. 11-16, Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N. MacInnes Place, Tampa. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $46.50-$92 plus service charge. Information: 813-229-7827, www.strazcenter.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919.