Friday, October 13, 2017

once again

It all started with a message from mom's vacuum, showing off after her tune up

Ain't she purdy?
Mom has a hate-hate relationship with her vacuum to begin with, and with recent reports that she hadn't been sucking, the tending to was well deserved. We chatted about it online, natch, and all I could think about was the plot from Once, which I deeply and desperately love: 


Act I
A thirty-something Dublin busker (identified only as "Guy") sings a heartfelt ballad of unrequited love in a local bar, accompanying himself on guitar ("Leave"). He then puts his guitar in its case and turns to leave without it; but a young Czech woman (identified only as "Girl"), who has been listening to him sing, approaches. She asks numerous personal questions about his songs; he replies that he wrote most of them for a girlfriend who broke up with him and moved to New York City. He is giving up on his music because the memories of his defunct relationship are too painful; he now works as a vacuum cleaner repairman in his father's shop. Girl responds that she has a vacuum that "does not suck", and asks him to fix it. She offers to pay for the repair by playing piano for him. Over his protests, she snatches the sheet music for a new song from his jacket. Reluctantly, Guy picks up his guitar and they play the song together ("Falling Slowly"). Girl suggests that he could win his old girlfriend back by singing her that song. Guy brushes this off; but Girl reminds him that he now owes her a vacuum repair, so they head to his father's shop ("The North Strand").

Seeing Once was one of the top faves for my theater buddy Clara and me. We've recently been on a regional theater kick with Billy Elliot one week

And Little Shop the next

And I don't even know if I told you about Ave Q this summer. We love the smaller venues and more intimate setting of these little local theaters, and the talent feels more palpable when it's right there in your neighborhood. But I will never forget that night up on stage with the cast from Once: 

just this once

My girl and I have a well-documented  thing for the theeYAYtah. We’re specificated folks, ya know.  We have been venturing out to smaller productions here and there to keep it real, but our favorite nights out are when we put on dresses and go to the Civic Theater downtown for touring Broadway productions.  The first one she ever saw there was Annie, and has since added Billy Elliot, Wicked, Beauty and the Beast, West Side Story, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and most recently, Once.  Am I forgetting any? She wasn’t with me for Hairspray, Rent, Jersey Boys, American Idiot, Book of Mormon, and she’s not coming to Kinky Boots, but we do have tickets for another tour of Wicked in November. ANYWAY.

I like to have a general sense of the story and music before seeing a new show, and although I’d seen the move Once my girl never had, so we sought to find it. We were chagrined that we couldn’t find it anywhere (meaning it was available neither on demand nor Netflix), but we bought the soundtrack and listened to it when we could in between travel and while not in the car together as much as we would have been during school months. We mostly sang the same song over and over and over. You know the one.

While searching for a story summary to share with my girl, I read many reviews and watched many outtakes and interviews. In two places, it was noted that the set for Once is a pub in Dublin, and the audience was invited to visit this pub before curtain to buy drinks and, you know, just BE ON THE STAGE. 
I told my girl about this, and she was skeptical. Have you MET her?  It’s her nature. I was excited, though, and I promised that if there was even the slightest chance that we could get ourselves up on that stage, we were going to do so.

I had purchased our tickets online, and the day of the show I went to my KEEP folder to find and print them. I opened up my account, and there was no print option! I tried several things to make it appear, but none worked. Now I’m known for finding bargains when I buy tickets to things. I search and study the web for promotional codes, memberships and coupons that I can exploit enjoy to make extravagent outings like the TheeYAYtah more affordable for families of modest means like ours. There was a nagging worry that maybe I’d taken it too far in securing these particular seats (which were spectacular), and the gig was up. I was rushing to get out the door and unable to print and everyone was waiting for me so I had no choice but to do the unthinkable and pick up the telephone to dial up a live human person. Ew. The human was nice enough, when we couldn’t figure the problem out together she offered to email me the tickets as an attachment, and I accepted. I just had to wait for the email. So I waited. Taptaptaptaptaptap refreshrereshrefreshrefresh. It did not come. Everyone was still waiting. It did not come. I had to call back! I got a new person on the phone and explained my woe and she made another kind offer: she’d pull the tickets and put them at will call. Perfect! Out the door. Let me just check my email one more…. Oh, they came. I printed them.

We got to the theater early, parked and moseyed over to the theater. There was no line at  will call, so I suggested that we pick up the tickets so we’d have the stubs to save with our playbills rather than the lame computer print out. The friendly humans at will call where not the same friendly humans of the phone calls, and they had never heard of me. They started sending me from window to window… was I a season ticket holder? I was thinking Oh God, did I finagle a season ticket discount? The worst part was that I had tickets in my purse, but what was I supposed to say? What kind of person goes to will call for tickets that she has in her purse? A crazy person, that’s the kind A crazy cheap person. Me. When asked to go to the next window, I pretended to get a phone call and stepped away from the counter then quickly ran away to the other side of the theater. Crazy person.  We went in with our perfectly acceptable computer generated tickets, and looked around.

There had been no public or spoken confirmation of the pre-show hinjinx, but I was determined to find out. My girl had it in her mind that if it was weird/uncomfortable/only for old people, she’d just go to our seats and take photos of me having my broadway debut. My decision making about the tickets had not done much to elevate my trustworthiness in my girl’s eyes, and she had just about reached the limit of her tolerance for my weirdness. But you guys, there was a line forming at the orchestra door.

Oh, she was skeptical.

I promised that when the doors opened, I’d ask the usher if it was legit and kid friendly. I told her not to worry, if we didn’t belong there they would just kick us out. She was not entirely reassured.  

Finally, the doors opened and I heard the usher say to someone: “Are you sitting in orchestra?” then wave her in even when the answer was no.  I knew it was a go, and my girl was along for the ride like it or not. We hurried up to join the line that was forming at stage left, where a portable stairway had been perched to allow access TO THE STAGE. 

We had to wait a while. There were guys on either side keeping track of the number of people up there, and at one point it seemed like we were stalling. We were almost at the front, and I started to fret that time would be up before we got our turn. After a few minutes, people started leaving the stage to take their seats. Soon my girl and I were next in line, and stood vibrating with excitement (me) and shrinking in concern (guess who). I struck up a conversation with the usher who stood next to us with her eye on the stage guy waiting for a go-ahead. She was non committal about our prospects, but she did say that if/when we got up there, we should stay put until someone asked us to leave.  I tried to engage my girl in hyperbole about which of my favorite big numbers I should belt out when I finally got on stage. She looked around as if to wonder who I was addressing. Turd. 

Then we got the wave! We were told the rules: don't touch the chairs, and no photographs. My girl naturally headed to the back of the stage, but I stopped her and led her front and center, where we stood together and faced the audience for a moment, drinking it in. I don't remember saying anything at all, but my girl insists that I went on and on about "remember this always" and "once in a lifetime" and yada yada blah blah blah.  We headed over to the bar where I ordered a drink. Right there on the stage. We looked around and chatted with people and it was cool and weird and exciting. 

Oh, and then the cast joined us. Are you familiar with the stage production of Once? There's no orchestra, the cast all plays instruments and they are all pretty much on stage the whole time, hence the chairs. So the cast joined us, and stood in the middle of our friendly conversation circle and started to play. Fiddles and squeezebox and all manner of guitars and banjos and things on which to drum. And voices. My God, those voices. We were standing next to them, hearing their voices right out of their heads rather than through amplification. We watched as they took big breaths and opened wide and unleashed their instruments. It was amazing. We'll remember this always. It was once in a lifetime. 


mom said...

I love this Jacquie, love my hated vacuum cleaner being the lead in to an awesome blog...I have never seen Once, but am going to try to remedy you.....

Jacquie said...

Thanks mom, I hope your loathed vacuum enjoyed her 15 minutes of fame :) Love you too, can't wait to see you! I will vacuum.


Me, You, or Ellie said...

oh my GOD this is so awesome. So deeply and wonderfully. I was riveted! Hanging on every word! You and your girl are just heroic theAYEtah goers, and this tale is a tale of a lifetime. ONCE in a lifetime.

And all because of Mom's vacuum.

(And Mom, you've got MB and Jacquie lined up for next month -- I think you're all set for volunteers.)


Beth said...

The movie Once is perfection.

I have a yoga instructor who plays that song from the movie soundtrack during savasana. I cry every time.

My vaccume sometimes makes me cry as well.