How 'Once' Let Me be a Audience Member

Jennifer Butler

It was more a little more than a year ago when I first got involved with community theatre and ever since then I have been watching shows not as a patron but as a tech person. Trying to figure out how they pulled off certain things. I did this with two community theatre productions and three of the national tours that came through town. 

I expected I would do the same when I went to see Once the Musical. I have wanted to see that show for at least two years and have had the tickets for 3 months. I arrived at the theatre and was easily in awe with the set. The actor musicians come on stage and start jamming. The lights go down and the show starts. Next thing I knew the show was over. It was then I realized that I didn’t watch the show as a tech person. I watched it as a patron who simply got lost in their world. I was amazed at this. 

For once I wasn’t sidetracked with counting costumes changes. I sat and watched in admiration at the simplicity of the show.  The music was hauntingly beautiful. The actor musicians had me lost in there world. They made me feel like I was in that pub in Dublin. Immersed like I was sitting on the stage listening as Guy stood on the Bar and sang “Gold.”  

For once I was not distracted by the dancing. Counting the number of turns that the dancer did at the end of “Once and For All” in Newsies. Then injuring myself because I went home and tried to imitate one of the jumps. The simple movement and placement of the actor musicians was just enough. 

For once, I was not preoccupied with the fake snow and cool lighting effects. I was able to listen to the words and laugh at the jokes. I went home quoting the show, not asking how did they make it happen?  

The show was in itself was worth every penny. The way the actor musicians came together effortlessly to put on this beautiful piece of art definitely rocketed this musical to the top of my personal favorites list. 

Now, I know that every musical, every song, and even every note will resonate with each person differently. For me, it was the show Once. It wasn’t just the music though.  I connected with the story of being at a crossroad and having to figure out which path to choose without knowing the outcome. I think that is why I didn’t watch it as a tech, I watched it as a person who connected with the story and fell in love with the music.