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Reflection: Belly Up To The Stage In STL’s Fox Theatre’s ‘Once’

The Fabulous Fox

Ever dreamed of appearing onstage at St. Louis’ Fox Theatre, basking in the lights, beaming at the audience – even once?

Thank you, Fox and the musical “Once”for helping me cross that off my bucket list. Through April 20, you, too, can stand in the very space where giants – including Nat “King” Cole, Mae West and Elizabeth Taylor – have planted their feet since 1929.

A bar is the beacon that lures audience members to the stage and into the world of working-class Dublin. The dark-wood cavern flanked by aged mirrors and filled with instruments including guitars, strings and an accordion, comprises the set for “Once,” the Tony and Grammy Award-winning story of Irish, guitar-playing, song-writing “Guy” (Stuart Ward) and Czech pianist “Girl” (Dani de Waal). The pair shares a love of music (by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová) and a brief dance with romance.

Before the show, their place of pas de deux beckons the audience to belly up and order a beer, wine, soda or water – cash only – while the musicians/actors jam. The bar opens for business again at intermission.

Shattering the fourth wall between the stage and seats emphasizes the communal nature of “Once.” “We want the audience to own the experience,” playwright Enda Walsh says in a news release. It also helps to recreate some of the intimacy ofthe mid-2000s film, from which the play is derived.

The cast is a collection of not just triple but quadruple threats, who sing, dance and play music, always in character. “Girl” can make the piano sing, and her own voice envelops The Fox in sweetness in “If You Want Me” and “The Hill.”

If you come for the chance to be onstage, you’ll stay for the music – and for the love, a fleeting variety which nevertheless manages to leave an indelible memory of what once was.

View scenes from the original Broadway production of "Once" and watch “Guy” (Stuart Ward) and “Girl” (Dani de Waal) reflect on the unconventional love story.

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.