Weekender

‘Once’ to bring heartfelt folk to Penn State

“Once” has been touring the country for months before making its way to Penn State.
“Once” has been touring the country for months before making its way to Penn State. Photo provided

Described as a “feel-everything” musical, “Once” is an award-winning, screen-to-stage production coming to Eisenhower Auditorium on Jan. 31. Based on a 2007 Academy Award-winning film, the musical follows the stories of a street performer and a young Czech woman, known only as Guy and Girl, as they explore life and love through music and song.

Folk music is a huge draw for the show, with the cast performing and playing on stage. In fact, many of the cast members play multiple instruments throughout the musical, from banjo to drums to ukulele. However, there’s no need for audiences to be folk fans to enjoy this tale.

“I honestly think anyone who has an appreciation for great storytelling will appreciate this show. I think specifically if you’re into folk and acoustic music, it’ll definitely hit you hard, but you don’t have to love that music to enjoy the show,” said Isaac Haas, who plays Andrej, Girl’s roommate and an aspiring fast food restaurant manager. “I’ve definitely talked to a lot of people who aren’t necessarily folk fans, but definitely enjoyed the show regardless.”

I honestly think anyone who has an appreciation for great storytelling will appreciate this show.

Isaac Haas, actor

The folk sound pairs nicely with the musical’s minimalistic feel. While some of today’s stage hits may revolve around elaborate sets and eye-catching tricks, “Once” puts music and story-telling at the forefront, thoroughly engrossing the audience in the lives of the characters on stage. Without limiting itself to one particular genre, the musical, as Haas says, really does fit the “feel-everything” bill.

“It’s kind of everything,” he said. “You laugh, you cry, there’s romance ... it makes you feel a lot.”

“Once” has been touring the country for months before making its way to Penn State, with rehearsals beginning in 2015, and shows occurring periodically since. The current leg of the tour lasts through mid-April, and, over the course of the show’s run, the cast will have visited more than 100 cities. Most weeks see eight performances, according to Haas.

Despite the demanding schedule, Haas said the the cast never runs short on inspiration.

“I think we get inspiration from each other; this is a show that we’ve all dreamed of performing and it is a lot of shows, (but) at any given moment one of us is there to inspire and lift the other one up,” Haas said. “I think we’re very lucky to have a cast of really talented people — that we can all learn from each other and seek inspiration from one another.”

It’s that camaraderie that shines through to the performance, particularly in the group number, “When Your Mind’s Made Up.”

“It’s one of the only times we kind of have a full band and a full drum set playing a song and we’re all playing together, and we all just get to kind of sing as high and as loud as we can,” Haas said.

Before the Centre County debut of “Once” on Jan. 31, an hour-long, informal discussion session featuring visiting artists will take place. Attendance is free for all ticket holders. The show also supports the Mid-State Literacy Council, and guests are encouraged to bring an elementary-age book to donate.

IF YOU GO

  • What: “Once”
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31
  • Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, University Park
  • Info: http://www.cpa.psu.edu
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