Through word of mouth and fantastic reviews, Once the Musical, which is playing at the Phoenix Theatre, has built up a very big buzz within the West End. Ticketmaster Groups recently caught up with the cast to find out what it is about this show that is connecting so well with audiences and keeps them coming back for more.
In Once, the cast also act as the orchestra playing all the music live on stage; are there any challenges you face with not only having to concentrate on your acting performance but also playing the music live on stage?
Aidan Kelly (Billy)
There is a constant friction in every performance for the cast, as you’re playing the violin or cello or guitar and you’re trying to keep your steps but also convince everyone that you’re this character. In a way, that’s what keeps the show a foot off the ground because we are constantly alive with having that awareness of not just ourselves but of each other.
Something that is so unique to Once is that before the show the audience can buy a drink from the bar on the stage while the cast perform in the centre. I feel this is great, almost as if the audience are transported to Dublin where the heart of the story is set; how does it feel to do this before every performance and do you feel this helps you connect with the audience and makes them feel part of the show?
Gareth O’Connor (Eamon)
Personally I feel having everybody there gives us such a buzz before the show. It’s one of my favourite parts of the show and it’s great for the audience to enjoy and be part of that too. It’s also actually helped us grow as a band because that’s kind of what we are at the moment: we’re playing 20 pieces of music each night and we’re not being conducted, so a lot of it is cues that we’ve pulled out of the air, conducting each other, bringing everyone in and staying in time, and I think the pre-show helps with that.
Declan (male lead ‘Guy’), being a successful songwriter and artist in your own right, how does it feel to perform songs from Once that were so intimately written and personal to Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova, and how do you make those songs your own?
It’s a huge pleasure to perform and sing this music, and I would say the style of Glen’s writing is not too dissimilar to my own, so that definitely helped me be in a similar creative space as him. I was playing at Glastonbury four years ago when I saw Once for the first time. It was chucking it down with rain and at about two in the morning someone texts us and says: “you have to come and see this movie, it reminds us of you!”. So me and our keyboardist went to see it and I remember thinking, this is such a cool and interesting movie, but I didn’t ever think I’d end up in the musical version of it!
Zrinka, the songs in Once are very moving and it is visible – especially at the end of the show when you are performing Falling Slowly – that you are very moved and emotionally attached to the song. How do you maintain that degree of commitment to every performance?
At one point, I think it was after four or five weeks of playing, I went home and I was thinking “you need to find another way to save yourself, because if this will happen to you emotionally every single night for a year, you’ll be ready for a hospital!”. But I just can’t – it’s impossible! It’s him [looks at Declan], it’s the power of Glen and Marketa’s music, the power of Enda Walsh’s script, and it’s just the way it is. We fall for each other each night.
Finally, what do you think makes this a great show for group bookers?
Miria Parvin (Ex-girlfriend)
You would invite your mates to the pub on a Friday night to have a drink, wouldn’t you? That essentially is what the stage is, especially because we open it up for the audience. So you can bring your mates along, have a drink at the bar and listen to some good traditional Irish music. All I can say is: be prepared to cry in front of your mates! It’s a great thing to come to with your mates and enjoy as a group.
Jim (Musical Supervisor)
Also, we actually have got two sets of communities: the Irish and the Czech community, so in as much as it is a piece about love between individuals, it is also very much about that community spirit, which groups will especially be able to relate too.
Early bird group rate: Groups of 10 get top price seats reduced to £35 if you book and pay by 30 November 2013. Valid Monday to Friday and Saturday matinee performances.
Thursday matinee group rate: Groups of 10+ get top price seats reduced to £29.50.
Watch the full interview at www.facebook.com/TicketmasterGroupsUK