Love story that wooed Oscar wins Tonys too

President Michael D Higgins led tributes last night to the team behind an Irish musical which triumphed at the Tony Awards in New York.

Once, the musical adaptation of the 2006 Oscar-winning film about the unlikely love story between a Dublin street performer and a Czech piano player, swept the boards at the Broadway equivalent of the Oscars, winning eight out a possible 11 nominations on Sunday night.

It dominated, beating hotly tipped Disney Theatrical Productions’ Newsies, to the best musical award, Irish writer Enda Walsh won the best book of a musical award, John Tiffany won best director, and Steve Kazee won best actor in a musical award.

Martin Lowe won for best orchestration, Clive Goodwin for best sound design, Natasha Katz got best lighting design, while Cork man and veteran Broadway designer, Bob Crowley, won his sixth Tony for best scenic design of a musical.

“Once is a story about when people believe in each other, they can move on in life, and so many people have believed in this project,” Mr Tiffany said in his acceptance speech.

President Michael D Higgins said he was delighted that Once, which combines Walsh’s writing with Glen Hansard’s music, did so well.

“Having seen the show last month, I am not surprised that it has received such critical acclaim,” Mr Higgins said from Poland.

“This is yet another example of how Irish artists are doing us proud in the international arena.

“I send my warmest congratulations to all concerned, especially to Glen, Enda and the fantastic cast.”

Hansard and Marketa Irglova wrote most of the soundtrack for the original film, which won an Oscar.

Adapted for the stage by Dublin-born, London-based Walsh and directed by John Tiffany, the musical opened on Broadway at Bernard B Jacobs Theater in March to critical acclaim, picking up three Lucille Lortel Awards, and best musical at the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards.

Walsh shot to fame when he won both the George Devine Award and the Stewart Parker Award in 1997 with his play Disco Pigs — a collaboration with award-winning Cork-based Corcadorca theatre company.

Its artistic director, Pat Kiernan, who worked with Walsh in the late 80s and throughout the 90s on several stage productions, said he wasn’t surprised by his Tony success.

“The initial instinct for a Broadway musical would be to go big and follow the Broadway formula,” Kiernan said.

“But they work-shopped this early on and decided to keep it simple. They stuck to their guns, and it’s worked.”

He described Walsh as disciplined, incredibly hard-working, possessed of an incredible imagination, confident in his own voice, and very clear about what he wants to achieve.

“I remember sharing a house with him in Shandon, and as he was writing plays, the amount of research around his desk was incredible,” he said.

“If Enda was stuck in something, you couldn’t pull him away from it.”

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