My ATG Blind Date - Once the Musical

If you've never gone on a blind date before then let me tell you now, being set up with someone entirely at random, (via a questionaire on twitter in my case), is probably one of the most nerve wracking experiences ever. However, the call of free tickets and a night of stagey company was too good to refuse and so I applied to take part in ATG's first ever blind date experience purely out of curiosity. It seemed like a great opportunity to meet someone else who loved theatre as much as me, enjoy a lovely night out at the theatre and do something different on a night when otherwise I'd probably only be prepping for uni the next day. That being said, I apply to these sort of things all the time, never really expecting to be chosen. So imagine my surprise when Lauren from ATG emailed me to tell me that I'd been selected to take part, and that my date and I would be seeing Once at the Phoenix Theatre! I was both shocked and delighted, and more than a little bit nervous too.
The day quickly approached and I headed to London on the train, ready to meet my date! Unfortunately, the course of true stageyness never does run smoothly and I found myself on a delayed train that arrived at Charing Cross at 6:25, five minutes before I was due to be at the theatre! Panic! Still, after power walking from the station to the theatre I managed to arrive only 5 minutes late. Not bad going. I introduced myself to the lovely front of house staff and was led to the Abassador Lounge, offered a drink (I decided on orange juice) and left to wait for my blind date, who arrived only a few minutes after me!

My date's name was Tom and as we chatted before the show he told me all about his work as a lighting technician in London and I talked about uni and the show I'm currently rehearsing for. We also discussed our favourite shows, and the ones that we were looking forward to seeing in the future (Kinky Boots in particular!). Then, after enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the staff in the Ambassador Lounge and chatting for a little while, it was time to take our seats for the show.

I was excited to be seeing Once again, having already seen it with some friends last summer, and despite there being a new leading guy on the stage (singer Ronan Keating of Boyzone fame, who took over from the marvelous David Hunter a few months ago) I'm happy to say that the show was just as mesmerizing this time as it was the time before. From the moment Ronan started strumming his guitar I felt my heart start racing. Every note played in Once is heavy with emotion, and before you get to know any of the characters, or even get a sense of the story, you can perceive that it's going to be a teary ride. By the time the show reached it's finale I was so swept up in the action, and enamored with the characters, that I didn't want it to end. I could have easily sat for another 2 and a half hours or more and watched Ronan Keating, Jill Winternitz and the rest of the brilliant performers in Once tell me all about what happened after the story finished. But sadly, the show ends on a poignantly bittersweet almost-cliffhanger, and I left the theatre feeling empty yet full, oddly uplifted and completely venerated. My gut was unquestionably wrenched.

I don't think I could ever say enough good things about Once. From the colourful array of brilliant characters played by a cast of hugely talented actor-musicians, to the gorgeous set design and hauntingly atmospheric lighting, every single element of the show is sewn together perfectly. Once is a vibrant patchwork quilt of a show, and a must see for any self respecting theatre fan!

As for my Blind Date over all, I had a fantastic time. My date and I exchanged contact details and I'm certain we'll get in touch with each other soon to discuss all things stagey again. Thank you ATG for this wonderful evening, and thanks also to everyone at the Phoenix Theatre for making my visit so comfortable and enjoyable. I can't wait to read how the other 4 blind daters got on over at the ATG blog, and will link the article HERE if you're interested in seeing what my date thought of me!

Verdict - 4 Stars

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