Friday, October 10, 2014



ASU Gammage has selected its 2014-2015 season of Gammage Goers, seven Broadway theater lovers and savvy social media users to are of the sixth season of the program. Goers will review shows and then spread their reviews through their social media outlets.

The Goers were chosen from a pool of more than 200 applicants who applied based on their interest in Broadway and their social media expertise.

 “This program has been a great success for us, everyone is using social media to share great restaurants, stores and things to do, this is a great way for social media savvy residents help spread the ASU Gammage message,” says Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage. “We want their reviews to be honest and unbiased, we of course hope their experience is positive and they will encourage their friends to see a show as well.”

Gammage Goer reviews will be posted via the ASU Gammage Facebook, Twitter and You Tube pages as well as on the Goers accounts. Goers can also be followed with the hashtag #GammageGoers. Each Goer will review approximately three shows per ASU Gammage season.

The Goers include:

Margie (@mka19), business owner from Phoenix

Doug (@Dougmummert), Public Affairs officer from Phoenix

David ( @appleforddavid), Film and Theatre Critic from Awhatukee

Courtney (@cjrainville), Marketing Account Manager and former “The Biggest Loser contestant from Tempe

Kate (@kateesitter), ASU student from Phoenix

Abbie (@AbbieF), Public Relations professional from Scottsdale

Jennifer (@jennmaggiore), Marketing CEO from Scottsdale

Saturday, October 4, 2014


MAY 27-JUNE 7, 2015

 Cameron Mackintosh and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group’s spectacular new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will go on sale October 6  for the premiere Tempe engagement at ASU Gammage  With newly reinvented staging and stunning scenic design, this new version of PHANTOM, the most successful musical of all-time, will be performed by a cast and orchestra of 52, making this one of the largest productions on tour in North America. To purchase tickets, visit or visit the ASU Gammage Box Office.

Andrew Lloyd Webber said, “It’s wonderful to have a new production of PHANTOM touring America now that the show has celebrated over 25 years on Broadway. Director Laurence Connor has done an amazing job and this production has received huge critical acclaim in the UK.”

Cameron Mackintosh said, ''After a glorious celebration of 25 phenomenal years on Broadway with no end in sight, I'm delighted to be able to bring this dazzling new production of PHANTOM -- which has been phenomenally well-received by both audiences and critics in the U.K this past year  -- to North America.  With an exciting new design and staging, retaining Maria Björnson’s amazing costumes, I am confident North American audiences will fall in love with the PHANTOM in his new guise -- for the first time or all over again.”

 This new production of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is directed by Laurence Connor (the 25th Anniversary production of Les Misérables now on Broadway) with choreography by Scott Ambler, set design by Paul Brown, Tony Award-winning original costume design by Maria Björnson, lighting design by Tony Award-winner Paule Constable, sound design by Mick Potter and musical supervision by John Rigby. The production is overseen by Matthew Bourne and Cameron Mackintosh.  THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber; lyrics are by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe) and the book is by Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
There are currently seven productions of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA around the world: the flagship London production (27 Years and counting), New York (26 Years and counting), Sapporo (Japan, 25 Years and counting, in repertory), Budapest (Hungary), Hamburg (Germany), the Asian Pacific Tour (now in South Korea) and Cameron Mackintosh’s spectacular all-new production now on North American Tour.  The next international opening will be in Taipei, China in September 2014.
 THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is also the most successful entertainment venture of all time, with revenues higher (at $6 billion) than any film or stage play in history, including Titanic, Star Wars and far surpassing the world’s highest-grossing film Avatar (at $2.8 billion).
 Worldwide, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA has played over 65,000 performances that have been seen by 130 million people in 30 countries and 152 cities in 13 languages. The show has won more than 70 major theater awards.
 There have been three previous U.S. National Tours of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA that grossed over $1.5 billion in combined box office sales and played 216 engagements in 77 cities for an unprecedented total of 36 years and over 14,500 performances to 31 million people.
 Based on the classic novel Le Fantôme de L’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA tells the story of a masked figure who lurks beneath the catacombs of the Paris Opera House, exercising a reign of terror over all who inhabit it.  He falls madly in love with an innocent young soprano, Christine, and devotes himself to creating a new star by nurturing her extraordinary talents and by employing all of the devious methods at his command.

PERFORMANCE TIMES ARE: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m.
                                                     Saturday at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
                                                     Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m.

Friday, October 3, 2014



In 1957, ASU past President Grady Gammage had a vision to create a distinct university auditorium on the campus of Arizona State University (ASU). He called on close friend and famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to assist with the project. As luck would have, Wright had a design prepared for an opera house in Baghdad, Iraq that did not come to fruition that he decided to use for this theater.
During a tour of the campus, Wright took a liking to an athletic field and said, "I believe this is the site. The structure should be circular in design and yes, with outstretched arms, saying 'Welcome to ASU!'" Wright worked on the sketches for the building during the last two years of his life. His most trusted aide, William Welsey Peters, brought his plans to finished form.

In 1959, neither Wright nor Gammage lived to see the transformation of the blueprints, but their vision instantly became an iconic venue under the new direction of R.E. McKee Company from El Paso, Texas to complete the construction. In 1962, Grady Gammage, Jr. turned the first shovel of dirt in the official groundbreaking.

Construction of the $2.46 million building took 25 months. Gammage stands 80 feet high, eight stories by normal building standards, and measures 300 by 250 feet. Two pedestrian bridges add to the feeling of vastness, and extend 200 feet like welcoming arms. ASU Gammage was completed in September 1964. ASU Gammage is the only public building in Arizona designed by Wright.
The 3,000-seat performance hall offers three levels of seating, with the furthest seat only 115 feet from the stage. The acoustics are well balanced for unamplified performance, and the floating design of the grand tier assures an even flow of sound to every seat.

The stage can be adapted for grand operas, musical and dramatic productions, or for symphony concerts, organ recitals, chamber music recitals, solo performances and lectures. The remarkable versatility of the stage is enhanced by a collapsible orchestra shell which, when fully extended, can accommodate a full orchestra, chorus and pipe organ. The shell is telescoped into a specially designed storage area when not in use.

ASU Gammage celebrated its grand opening with great fanfare on September 18, 1964. Under the baton of legendary conductor Eugene Ormandy, The Philadelphia Orchestra filled the hall with a history making first performance. The first Broadway production was in 1964 and was Camelot.
For the next 30 years, ASU Gammage was host to many national and international dance companies including Alvin Alley Dance Company, Boston Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company and Joffrey Ballet and Broadway productions as well as legendary musicians including B.B. King, Neil Diamond, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash and Elton John.

Since it opened ASU Gammage, has had five executive directors David Scoular 1964-74, Warren Sumners, 1974-79, Miriam Boegel 1979-84, Jim O'Connell 1984-91 and Colleen Jennings-Roggensack has served since 1991. Jennings-Roggensack has artistic, fiscal and administrative responsibility for ASU Gammage, ASU Kerr Cultural Center, with additional responsibility for non-athletic activities at Sun Devil Stadium and Wells Fargo Arena.

In 1991, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack took the helm as executive director and established the mission of Connecting Communities.

The organizational mission of "Connecting Communities" allows Gammage to go beyond its doors to change lives for the better and make a difference in our community through the shared experience of the arts. Through this initiative, Gammage has discovered and created new avenues of communication through the arts to bridge cultural, economic and geographic divides.
Along with its mission Cultural Participation programs where created that take artists’ work into classrooms and community organizations so that patrons of all ages and backgrounds can reap the benefits of arts involvement.  For young people in particular, those benefits can be profound. Studies have shown that students who are involved in the arts perform better academically, are more involved in community affairs, have higher self-esteem and better attitudes toward school, and are less likely to drop out.

In Arizona, more than 134,000 students attend a school without any access to arts instruction and ASU Gammage provides numerous programs that give K-12 and university students opportunities to experience the arts through artist residencies, teacher development workshops and curriculum based programs that meet state arts education standards. Through a long-standing partnership with the Kennedy Center, ASU Gammage brings artist-mentors to Valley schools to work with teachers on integrating visual arts, dance, drama and music into mathematics, social studies, language arts and science lessons. By integrating the arts into other core subjects, teachers increase student engagement and make learning more relevant and meaningful.

Experiencing art communally with others also creates and strengthens social bonds, leading to an increased feeling of trust, mutual understanding and shared values that are vital for a healthy community. Exposure to the arts can even convey health benefits for people of all ages.
In the last 20 years, Jennings-Roggensack has commissioned 22 works to premiere at ASU Gammage which is more than any other presenter in the Southwest. Commissioned artists include Philip Glass, Trisha Brown, Bill T. Jones and the first North American commission of Pina Bausch.
Roggensack has also grown ASU Gammage into the largest university-based presenters of performing arts in the world. The Desert Schools Broadway Across America – Arizona series generates significant dollars, beyond the box office. The series is a leading economic engine for Tempe as well as the rest of the Valley. Even during difficult economic times, the series brought in nearly a billion dollars in economic impact to the Valley in the past 20 years.

Since 1991, hundreds of well-known celebrities, musicians and performers have come through the theater as well including Mary J. Blige, Billy Crystal, Tony Bennett, Melissa Etheridge. Past artists include icons of dance, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolph Nureyev, Bill T. Jones and the Bolshoi Ballet and pillars of classical music, Vladimir Horowitz, Phillip Glass, Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. Gammage also hosted the 2004 presidential debate, lectures, and symposiums featuring the world’s most prominent scientists, authors, dignitaries, politicians, and scholars, including Stephen Hawking, Elie Wiesel, Maya Angelou, and Margaret Thatcher.

To ensure ASU Gammage remains a Valley icon for another 50 years, a 50th Anniversary Advisory Board has be established to work with the staff to help secure the future of ASU Gammage.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s widow, Olgivanna, exclaimed that Gammage would be significant for centuries to come. “If this building is maintained, it will remain forever young.”

Monday, April 28, 2014

National Tour of THE BOOK OF MORMON Coming to Tempe During the 2015-2016 Season








Heaven on Broadway! A celebration of the privilege of living inside that improbable paradise called a musical comedy.” Ben Brantley, THE NEW YORK TIMES



The National Tour of THE BOOK OF MORMON, winner of nine Tony Awards ® including Best Musical, will play in Tempe at ASU Gammage as part of the 2015-2016 Broadway Season at ASU Gammage. 2014-2015 Desert Schools Broadway Across America Arizona series subscribers will have priority access to tickets ahead of the general public.
THE BOOK OF MORMON features book, music and lyrics by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. Parker and Stone are the four-time Emmy Award-winning creators of the landmark animated series, “South Park.” Tony Award-winner Lopez is co-creator of the long-running hit musical comedy, Avenue Q. The musical is choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw (Monty Python’s Spamalot, The Drowsy Chaperone) and is directed by Nicholaw and Parker. 

THE BOOK OF MORMON is the winner of nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Book (Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, Matt Stone), Best Direction (Casey Nicholaw, Trey Parker), Best Featured Actress (Nikki M. James), Best Scenic Design (Scott Pask), Best Lighting Design (Brian MacDevitt), Best Sound Design (Brian Ronan) and Best Orchestrations (Larry Hochman, Stephen Oremus); the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical; five Drama Desk Awards including Best Musical, the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album; four Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Best Musical, and the Drama League Award for Best Musical.
THE BOOK OF MORMON features set design by Scott Pask, costume design by Ann Roth, lighting design by Brian MacDevitt and sound design by Brian Ronan. Orchestrations are by Larry Hochman and Stephen Oremus. Music direction and vocal arrangements are by Stephen Oremus. 

The Original Broadway Cast Recording for THE BOOK OF MORMON, winner of the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, is available on Ghostlight Records.

For more information, visit 

Follow THE BOOK OF MORMON on Twitter and on Facebook.

Monday, April 21, 2014

ONCE Cocktails & Wine Tasting

Don't miss these signature cocktails for ONCE:

·      1.5oz Irish Whiskey
·      1.5oz Amaretto
·      1.0oz Cranberry Juice
·      .5oz OJ
·      1.5oz Irish Whiskey
·      1.5oz Amaretto
·      1.0oz Peppermint Schnapps
Moscow Mule
·      2oz New Amsterdam Vodka
·      Fill with Cock & Bull Ginger Beer
·      ¼ fresh lime
·      Splash Rose’s Lime Juice
Irish Buck
·      2oz Irish Whiskey
·      Fill with Cock & Bull Ginger Beer
·      ¼ fresh lime
·      Splash Rose’s Lime Juice

New at ASU Gammage Friday Night Wine Tasting at the May 2nd Performance of ONCE. 
Don't miss your chance to find a new favorite wine and add something extra to the perfect evening at ASU Gammage.
Each wine tasting event starts at 6:30 in the Schoular Gallery on the west side of the building.  You’ll sample four wines and then can choose your favorite to have a full glass of that you can bring into the show with you.  A representative from the wine distributor conducts the tasting giving you additional information about each of the wines. Also included is a selection of fine cheeses, meats, crudités, and fresh fruit to complement wine selections.
 Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased through the Box Office at 480-965-3434.
Patrons can add tickets to Friday Night Wine Tasting as part of their transaction on Ticketmaster.
If you already have tickets to one of the following performances and would like to add tickets to Friday Night Wine tasting please contact the box office at 480.965.3434.
Featured Wines for ONCE are:

Grace Lane Riesling:
Sourced from Yakima Valley, these Riesling grapes are exposed to long, sunny days and brisk, cool evenings. This extreme fluctuation in temperature results in bold, world-class vines that yield highly regarded wines. Grace Lane Riesling is crisp and balanced, showing bright aromas of green apple and white peach. Its delicate yet complex flavors are spicy, fruity and fresh with a long and rounded finish.

North by Northwest Chardonnay:
These wines are made from the inland grape growing appellations of the Columbia River Basin of Oregon and Washington. The NxNW winemakers have developed strong, creative relationships with growers and fellow winemakers in the Columbia River Appellation and throughout the northwest viticultural region - leading to this richly textured wine. With aromas of  vanilla, oak and pear, this Chardonnay is rounded with full flavors of vanilla, peach, toast, tropical fruit, banana, and a hint of toffee.

Kenwood Yulupa Merlot:

Aromas of dried cherries and plums with complex notes of cinnamon and a hint of bay leaf, distinctive tannins and rich mouth feel that give way to a long elegant finish. This delightful and approachable Merlot is an ideal accompaniment to pork, veal and lamb dishes, or for simply enjoying on its own.

Sterling Vintners Collection Cabernet Sauvignon:
This Cabernet expresses the intense character of Monterey fruit in a full and balanced wine. Distinctive aromas of ripe blackberry, pepper, toast and hints of smoked meats are followed by subtle notes of light chocolate mint and vanilla. The palate offers concentrated black fruits, toffee and dark chocolate powder. The texture is full, rich, and soft in the mouth, making it a great match with classic beef dishes, duck confit, assorted cheeses, and dark chocolate.

Monday, April 7, 2014


On April 11, 12 and 13, Aaron Landsman will present APPOINTMENT, his first performance as part of his three-year ASU GAMMAGE RESIDENCY. Appointment will be performed at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in The Donald W Reynolds Leadership Suite #302 and performance times are 7, 8:15 and 9:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2, 3:15 and 4:30 p.m. on Sunday.

APPOINTMENT is a series of intimate THEATER works that are presented in office spaces by ASU Gammage Resident Artist Aaron Landsman in collaboration with local artists and the audience. Using the rituals and environment of the workplace as a departure point, APPOINTMENT takes a situation that can seem beneath examination and turns it into a surprising, entertaining and thought provoking experience. APPOINTMENT was developed in partnership with theater and dance companies as well as individual artists, and the result pushes the concept of theater to unpredictable and captivating places.

" Aaron is a gifted and unique theater artist with an international profile. We are excited to partner with him over the next three years to realize theater projects that have a lasting impact on our ASU, local theater, and general communities, says Michael Reed, Senior Director of Programs and Organizational Initiatives at ASU Gammage.

Aaron Landsman is ASU Gammage's current Gammage Residency Artist following in the footsteps of Bill T. Jones, SITI Company, Anne Bogart and Daniel Bernard Roumain. Landsman is an actor, writer, teacher and director, who performs around the world to critical acclaim while teaching at such prestigious institutions as Julliard and NYU. Perhaps more importantly, Landsman has been tearing the concept of theater apart and putting it back together in fascinating and compelling ways that put real cities and real people in the middle of it all.

Tickets are $20 and $10 and on sale now at or by calling 480.965.3434. The BEYOND series is made possible by Margaret T. Morris Foundation, The Way Family/Way Family Charitable Foundation, Reverend Jenny Norton and Bob Ramsey, US Airways, APS, NEFA and media partner KJZZ and KBAQ. APPOINTMENT is made possible in partnership with the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Downtown Phoenix.

For more information and/or tickets please visit

Friday, April 4, 2014

Q&A with the Creative Team behind ONCE

In 2012, Once was the recipient of eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (John Tiffany), Best Book (Enda Walsh), and Best Orchestrations (Martin Lowe). This romantic, quirky show is based on the Irish movie of the same name, written and directed by John Carney, about the life-changing connection between a pair of musicians known only as Guy and Girl. He is a street singer/songwriter in Dublin who earns money as a vacuum repairman, and she is a Czech immigrant who sells flowers in order to support herself and her family. With music as the catalyst, Guy and Girl embark on a brief, powerful, and transformative journey. The show is set in a Dublin pub designed by Bob Crowley, and was choreographed by Steven Hoggett. The score is by  Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, the stars of the film, who received an Academy Award for their gorgeous ballad, “Falling Slowly.”

Tiffany, Walsh, and Lowe discussed the evolution and creation of Once, for the purpose of providing a document that editors and writers can use to create their own articles about the show. 


What was your reaction when you were initially approached about creating a musical based on the film Once?

Tiffany:  “I thought it was a terrible idea. I never think about adapting films for the stage. That’s not the way I work. And when I was approached about Once, I hadn’t even seen the film. But one of my best friends said, ‘You will love the music.’ So I downloaded the soundtrack, and absolutely loved it. I’d never heard music like that, and the music is the reason why I wanted to do the show. Not just the music itself, but the fact that it’s a story about creating music, a story about the healing power of music. Immediately I thought, ‘We’re going to be able to see actors create that music in front of us.’ That’s really exciting. Actors have played instruments onstage for years, but not always in a show about making music.

“One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Glen takes Marketa to this house, and there are a lot of singers and musicians around, and they all do their songs. And that reminded me of when I was growing up, and my dad played in a brass band. We would go to band competitions, and we would go back to the band room, and all the men were singing their songs. They would find a way to communicate things that they couldn’t communicate in just words.”       

Walsh: “I guffawed when my agent called and asked me to speak to the producers. I said, ‘What a stupid idea. It’s a two-hander with very little plot. It’s delicate.’ So I called the producers and told them it wasn’t for me. There’s no tradition of musical theater in Ireland, so I rubbished the idea. Then they told me John Tiffany was attached to it as director.”

Tiffany: “I suggested to the producers that Enda write the book. We’ve known each other since 1997, when we were working in Edinburgh. I felt that if you’re going to do a piece of theater about Dublin, then you get Enda Walsh from Dublin to write it.”

Walsh: “John called and said, ‘Let’s take two days, and we can read the screenplay and listen to the songs and talk about it.’ So I said, “Okay, we’ll do two days. And that’s all we’ll do.’”  

What did you learn during those two days?

Tiffany: “Those two days convinced us that we wanted to do this show. We weren’t convinced before that.”

Walsh: “I’m a big fan of the movie Brief Encounter, and I saw similarities. There’s a bittersweet pang that really hurts. Very quickly I thought I was a good match for the material. I tend to write characters that are inarticulate and lonesome, and something comes into their life that changes them. And from listening to the songs, I thought it might be good for me to do something about Ireland, which was so hurt in the recession. I thought it would be sweet to do a little love letter to Dublin. That was my way in.”  

The movie is the inspiration for the show, yet you have to walk a fine line between being true to the film and transforming the material for the stage. How did you start?

Walsh: “You start by bringing two people together and getting them to talk to one another. The tone begins to show itself quickly, so you step out of the way and allow it to begin to write itself. I knew all along that there were markers there, that John Carney had written this amazing romance. I just had to unlock a stage language that was right, and that happened very quickly. As soon as the Girl started talking, I thought, ‘That’s the swagger of it.’ She became the style of it and the force of the piece, and the central storyteller. From page one, she began to influence everyone.”
Tiffany: “I knew from the beginning that the actors would be the musicians. At that point, I didn’t know the play was going to be set in a bar, but I knew before Enda began to write that we were going to move from one location to another in very simple terms. When an actor brings a Hoover [vacuum] onstage, you’re immediately telling an audience, ‘There are going to be no tricks here, no illusions. Just watch the actors because you don’t know what they’re going to do next.’ I don’t know the rules of Broadway musicals, but from the ones I’ve seen, a lot of them have a chorus of singers and dancers, and I knew I didn’t want anyone onstage who we didn’t get to know intimately.

“I told Enda, ‘Write this as if you’re writing a new play, and then let’s choose where the songs go in terms of telling the story.’ In some ways it was obvious, because we followed the structure of the film in terms of where the songs go. But we did make changes, although not radical in terms of the whole. We put ‘Leave’ at the very beginning, which I thought within a theatrical context was a much more powerful way to start. ‘Leave’ is about something ending, and that’s where Guy is at the beginning.” 

Walsh: “I think the big difference with this show is that we created a community. It’s like a spotlight is shone on these people in Dublin at a specific time, and around it grows romance and creativity. And then it goes. That’s part of the loss. You see the potential for people to come together and do beautiful things, and then those things end.

 “In addition to making it about community, we also wanted the show to be hugely communal. So how do we do that? We allow the audience onstage. We wanted the audience to own the experience.”

Tiffany: “We did the show for the first time at American Repertory Theatre in Boston, and every weekend they stage The Donkey Show, for which they built a cabaret space with a bar. I liked the idea of setting Once in a bar, and I wanted to see how that worked.
So when the audience arrived, they could get a drink and the actors would be having a jam session. The idea worked, but that space was very dark. Bob [Crowley] and I decided to create a Dublin pub.”

Walsh: “In addition to the story of the Guy and the Girl, we needed to be sure there are all these other love stories in the air. Each person is riffing off a love that’s been lost, that got away. That was the key: for the audience to feel part of the experience, also to look at the people on the stage and go, ‘They’re us.’”


John, please talk about the way you and Steven Hoggett collaborate.

Tiffany: “We’ve worked together for years, and when I told him we were doing Once next, he went and watched the film and . He said to me, ‘Are you joking? How on earth can you choreograph that?’ And I said, ‘That’s why we need to do it; because we don’t know how to do it. If we knew how to do it, we’d be bored.’ From the beginning, we were very clear about which songs could be choreographed and which couldn’t. We knew that we’d come a cropper with ‘Falling Slowly’ if we tried to put any movement on that. We knew that when they’re in the studio and they sing ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up,’ that it was about the song, and if we put any movement aesthetic to it, we’d screw it up. We found our vocabulary on the songs within an environment, like when they’re in the bank and the bank tellers respond to what Guy is playing. Stephen and I work together all the time and we don’t switch up our sessions and say this one is movement, this one is direction. There is much of Steven in the actual direction of the production, and much of me in the choreography.”

The first act ends with “Gold,” which is performed by the entire cast. The actors actually dance while playing the song. How difficult was it to stage this number?

Tiffany: “It’s such a difficult song, because the time sequence keeps changing. And it’s an open E, which is a very different key for the guitar to be in. The actors were really struggling to learn it, because obviously we weren’t going to have any music stands on the stage. Steven and I knew that we were going to get them to move with their instruments, but they didn’t know it. One day they were really moaning about how difficult the arrangement was, how difficult the song was to play. So I said, ‘Steven, go. Do it now.’ And he started to teach them the dance, and he let them know that they were going to be doing it with their instruments. Suddenly they could play the song brilliantly. Often you solve something actors are struggling with by giving them a bigger problem.”   


Martin, talk about your overall approach to arranging and orchestrating the music.

Lowe: “My main investigation was the soundtrack album, because I felt that it was what fans knew best and it was the sound they would want to hear. On the first day of rehearsals, I said to the cast, ‘It’s not my job to reinvent this music. It’s my job to serve it up to the audience in a way that they remember it.’ After about three days, John said to me, ‘You know, you are going to be allowed to be creative, you’re going to be allowed to express yourself, rather than just recreate someone else’s album.’ That was freeing. The songs started to develop, and that was led by the company. We had an amazing company of actor/musicians, and they would come to me and say, ‘I’d like to learn the mandolin’ or ‘I’d like to learn the ukulele.’  

“The songs feel just a little bit bigger than they did in the movie. That’s unusual; it’s the movies that are always bigger. But the most musicians on any number in the movie is five. We’ve got 12 onstage, although they’re not all playing all the time. Often, we have three or four guitars playing at any one time. We also use ukuleles, mandolins, strings, drums, an accordion, and a banjo. The banjo is in quite a lot of the songs because one of the actors wanted to learn it.”

You hear the difference the most in Gold, which uses all the instruments. How did that number evolve musically?

Lowe: “I was very specific about what the strings were doing, but everyone else was just given the chords. As they learned and rehearsed the song, two of them wanted to play the mandolin, and one wanted to play the ukulele. So I just left them to it. One of the guys playing the mandolin found a figure [a short group of notes or chords], and I said, ‘Just keep doing that.’ Then somebody else found a variation on that figure, and I’d say, ‘That’s great. Just keep doing it.’ Every day we went at it until we found the sound we wanted, and I said, ‘That’s it. No more changes.’ I wrote some of it down, but not all of it. I wanted the actors in London and on the tour to have a chance to be inventive as well.”  

 “Falling Slowly,” on the other hand, sounds much as it does in the film.

Lowe: “It is pretty much the same. In the movie, Glen sings a line and Marketa sings a harmony line. I didn’t deviate from that at all. I had to stick to it, because audiences know how they want to hear it.”

What about some of the other well-known songs: Did you make many changes to the vocal arrangements and orchestrations?

Lowe: “A lot of the vocal arrangements and orchestrations weren’t written out. They were very vague. They were in a songbook that anyone can buy. The harmonies aren’t in them. So I spent a long time listening to recordings. But I think that with vocal arrangements, you have to create on the cast that’s in the room with you. There’s no point in writing high vocals or low vocals if people can’t do them. So I did something unusual, but it worked with this show. I taught everybody the songs, and then I asked them to invent their own harmonies. I’m thinking particularly about ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up.’ I asked them to find a harmony where they sounded good, that was on their best note. And then I gave it a bit of shape. I said, ‘I want you all to start low, in harmony, and then I want you to get higher and louder.’ So we sort of created that together. Eventually I wrote it out and made it more specific for other companies.”

There is no conductor on the show, so how do the actors get their music cues?

Lowe: “It’s the thing they worry about most during the first week of rehearsal. They start to panic when they realize there’s no conductor. But after four or five weeks in a rehearsal room, they all know the songs really well, they know the speed they should go at, and they know what they should sound like. That’s my job. That’s what I teach them in the rehearsal process. Onstage, every song has a different conductor, or a different person starts the song or stops the song. It’s totally dependent on who’s onstage, where they’re sitting, and who can see them. That’s how we do it. It sounds very scary and complicated but, in fact, it’s the easiest thing in the world.”

Were Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova involved in the show at all?

Lowe: “They were interested in the project, but they didn’t want to be involved in it. They’ve both moved on from that part of their lives, so I was left to unravel the music myself. But I asked Glen to come and check on what I was doing, to see if it was right. So when we staged the show for the first time at American Repertory Theatre, Glen came to our fourth performance and was really helpful. Later, when we did the show at New York Theatre Workshop, he and Marketa came to a rehearsal. They were helpful in finessing things, showing the exact way they felt a song should go.”

Tiffany: “Glen would come and do some jamming sessions with the cast, and talk about where the music came from, the inspirations behind some of the songs. Basically he’d just be around so that we felt we had his blessing. And he gave us space.”


How difficult is it to cast Once?

Tiffany: “We need actors who can act brilliantly, move, and play instruments. In a way, casting the first production was the easiest, because we arranged the music around the instruments the actors could play. It was more difficult to cast London and the tour. We got used to having the bank manager play the cello, for instance, and we wouldn’t be happy having that character play a different instrument in another production. A character named Baruska has to play the accordion because it fits who she is. We found amazing actors, but it took bloody ages. The good thing is Steven won’t compromise, I won’t compromise, and Martin won’t compromise, so if one of us vetoes an actor, then that’s it.”

Lowe: “John, Steven, and I dig in our heels for our own department, and we fight for our own department like you’ve never seen three grown men fight. If you get into the show, it’s because all three of us love you and you’re brilliant at all three skills. None of us would compromise, none of us would back down. I’ve never seen this happen on any other show I’ve worked on. In musicals – and I’m guilty of this – if the director or the choreographer really loves somebody and they’re not the greatest singer, I’ll go, ‘Oh, fine. You can have them. I’ve got other good singers.’ But there are only a few people onstage in Once, so you can’t hide. If you can’t play the piano or the guitar or the violin, there’s nothing we can do with you. Similarly, Enda’s text is really difficult to do, so you’ve got to be a good actor. And Steven’s choreography looks easy, but it’s very skillful.”   


Why do you think Once has been so successful as both a film and as a stage musical?

Tiffany: “I think what’s very moving about the piece is how sometimes we meet people who we don’t necessarily stay with forever, but they give us the resources to move on to the next part of our life. There’s something very truthful in that. People have said to me, ‘When I was sitting in the theater watching Once, I felt like was watching it with everyone I’ve ever loved, whether or not they’re still in my life.’”

ONCE will be at ASU Gammage April 29- May 4 for details or for tickets visit