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242 West 45th Street, New York, NY 10036
Now showing, Closes 4 Jan 2015
Transporting! Once is the most romantic show on Broadway. It speaks volumes about the power of music and connection.
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Broadway's long-running hit Once recently announced that it would be ending its run at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on January 4th, 2015. The musical, based on the 2007 Irish musical film of the same name, won eight Tony Awards in 2012, including the award for Best Musical.
Ben Hope, who has been a part of the show for three years and is a standby for "Guy," has been working on a Goodbye Concert for the show that will take place at the Highline Ballroom on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015. The concert will feature performances of original music from a variety of cast members, as well as a performance from Hope and his band, the Uptown Outfit.
What can you tell me about the concert? What do you hope it will be like?
I've been arranging the whole thing. I was talking with Joe Carroll, and now he's over at CINDERELLA and he used to be with Once. And we wanted to do something for everyone involved, and I knew he had ties over at the Highline, so he and I kind of put it together.
I think it's going to give everybody kind of a cathartic moment to themselves. You know, we've all spent so much time playing this music together, and I think it'll be nice to end up on a note where we're playing each other's original compositions together before we all part ways and go off into the real world.
What was your initial reaction when you heard about Once closing?
It was emotional for everybody. I've been there for three years, so it was particularly emotional for people who have been there a long time. But even for people who have just joined us, it was shocking. It's hard, but everyone's staying really positive about it. We're all just trying to keep out heads up. It's an incredibly talented group, so nobody really feels very worried for each other. They'll all do awesome new things.
How many members of the current cast have been with the show for a while, like you have been?
A lot. I mean, we still have a lot of people who have been there since the move to Broadway, and even before...including understudies. Maybe six or seven people.
As a standby (for "Guy"), how often do you go on?
It varies. Back when Steve was around, I was going on quite a bit. When Arthur was around, I went on a good amount too. Paul's a tank. I don't know how he does it. He does really long stretches of the show without taking a break.
What has it been like being a part of the final cast of the show?
I take a lot of pride in it. I had seen the show downtown when they were off-Broadway, and it has moved me so deeply. I kind of set my sights on it as the thing I just had to be a part of. I personally take a lot of pride in what we've done, and how long we've run. When we opened on Broadway, I think a lot of us felt really nervous. We had a lot of questions about the future. It's a little atypical for a Broadway show, so we didn't really know where we were headed. And still, when I'm walking over to the theatre, when I'm walking down the alley, I still have days where I'm like, "What the hell am I doing here? This is so cool!" I think everybody takes a lot of pride in what we're doing over there.
How have the audiences been seen the closing was announced?
Wonderful. We had slowed down a little in what's always a tough period...after the summer but before the holidays. So we had kind of taken a slow turn, audience wise. But they've been great. Our audiences across the board, for years, have just been so passionate about the show. They've all been so kind. They've written beautiful letters to us. I even keep a bracelet that one of the fans made us on my guitar. They're amazing. They have been so wonderful. And the audiences have been great since we announced our closing.
Tell me about your band, The Uptown Outfit.
We play all original country rock, honky-tonk. I write all the songs, and I've got a super talented band behind me, which makes my job really easy. We've been going at it for three or four years now, and I absolutely love it.
Are any of the other members of the band actors as well?
Yeah, we've had several new members over the years. But when we first started a few years ago, it was me and a group of dudes who I'd done "Ring of Fire" with, and we started out as all actors. Then we recorded an album, and everybody left town because they all got jobs. So I kind of had to hire a new band. But Miles Aubrey, our guitar player, is currently in JERSEY BOYS. He's been there for six years, or something crazy like that. And then our other two guys...Joe Cogen, our drummer, is also a performer. I'm not sure if he's still pursuing a life in the theatre, but he's done a lot of productions of THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY.
They're all awesome dudes. Our album is called "Ragged and Rowdy" and it's coming out in February.
What can you tell me about the album?
I think the album is like a collection of self-confessions. But the album, you know, doesn't wallow in itself. It's actually quite upbeat, which is what I love from country music as a genre. It really provides a pallet to sort of break your heart open onto. I think there's something really freeing about that. You get the opportunity to celebrate the things you've done wrong, or the things that make you feel blue. It's not really wallowing...it's more just proof that your heart still works. And that's kind of what the album is. It's a lot of self-reflection and self-confession.
How do you juggle your Broadway career with your music career?
It's been difficult at times. It's hard to give 100% in two different areas. And it's particularly difficult in this town because playing music at eleven or twelve o'clock isn't very doable when you have to get up and do a matinee. And we can't really do it earlier because of the show's schedule. So the one thing I am looking forward to after Once has closed is to have a more free schedule so that we can play in venues a little bit earlier and get the peak crowd. But I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to focus more on my music. I've had a really good run of theatre stuff for ten years, and I feel accomplished and I feel really good about it. I'm excited to redirect my focus back on the music.
Do you think you'll mostly be staying in the New York area?
Yeah, my wife is an actress as well, and she just recently came off the road with MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET. So we're here, because it's kind of where the jobs are. And we feel good about being here. We're still a number of years away from starting a family. So maybe when we get closer to those types of decisions we might think about moving down South, but for now we're New Yorkers.
How does your experience in your band and as a composer affect your acting career?
It's been so similar. That's why I think Once speaks to so many people, and it certainly spoke to me. When I saw the show, I was out of work and down on my luck. So I run pretty parallel, at least to the story of "Guy." So it actually is not very difficult. It's kind of strange to go out there and feel like you're just being yourself. But it's wonderful and that's kind of what I think is important about the gig at the Highline for all of us...to redirect our hearts off of the music we've been making and back into ourselves. It's such a beautiful parallel to the musical, which is the story of a love affair with music, and new beginnings, and picking yourself up and going back out there. There's something kind of poetic about the show ending for all of us and all of us coming together one last time and celebrating each other's music and opening our hearts back up to the world.
This is your Broadway debut. What has been the most exciting thing about it for you?
It must've been my parents seeing me. I just knew how proud they were, and they'd been so supportive for so many years. And my wife, Katie, also. She's been so incredibly supportive and so sweet. So seeing on their faces how proud they were was really moving.
What do you hope to get out of the experience of the goodbye concert on a personal level?
It's funny, because I've arranged the whole thing, it seems like I would have a personal interest. But for me it's more about the group. When I got in touch with Joe about it, the thing we kept saying to each other was that it feels like we should all be getting together and doing something. It feels like the group has become such a family, and we all have made each other better people, better musicians, and better actors. And when somebody plays us a new song of theirs, they don't make it halfway through before everyone in the room has picked up an instrument and wants to be involved. So I think I don't really have much of a personal investment in it. It was an opportunity to celebrate one last time as a group and make something beautiful.
Do you have any other upcoming projects besides your new album?
Actually yes. My wife Katie and I are going out to Ivoryton Playhouse in March to do a production of STAND BY YOUR MAN, the Tammy Wynette story. And Katie will be playing Tammy and I'll be playing George Jones. That's kind of the only thing I've got lined up. But we've got tons of gigs coming up in the new year in the New York area, around Queens and Brooklyn and Manhattan. And in the summer, our buddy John Rochette who was the original drummer for the band is going to be on a four-week layoff from the JERSEY BOYS tour. So I might take him on the road with a couple other dudes on tour to promote the album.
Ben Hope won the Kennedy Center award for "Most Promising Career" in 2006 and appeared in the lead role for such critically-acclaimed productions as Ring of Fire, Hank Williams: Lost Highway, and The Buddy Holly Story. He's building anticipation for his band's forthcoming album, Ragged and Rowdy, due out Februrary 24, 2015.
Article reprinted with permission from www.BroadwayWorld.com
5 reviews, average rating: (4.1 Stars)
Uplifting, gracious, from Dublin Ireland. "once" would love to see it aga... more
Uplifting, gracious, from Dublin Ireland. "once" would love to see it aga... more
I loved the sweet, simple story and the emotion- packed music. If y... more
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