Here’s a different kind of way to visit an Irish pub for St. Patrick’s Day.
The national tour of “Once,” the acclaimed musical set in Dublin, is coming to the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall for two shows, a matinee and an evening performance, both on Friday (which of course is St. Patrick’s Day).
One of the interesting elements of the show is that the set for the opening scene is a pub, and members of the audience who arrive early can come up on stage and belly up to the bar as the performers sing Irish songs.
The audience members leave the stage before the actual narrative part of the show starts. The narrative is a lovely, unconventional, low-key love story about a struggling Irish busker and a woman who encourages him to advance his career.
It’s based on the 2007 Irish independent film that was a sleeper hit. A song from the film, “Falling Slowly,” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The stage version makes some significant changes to the story, but it retains all the film’s songs by Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Hansard and Irglova, who perform together as the Swell Season, wrote a lot of great songs for this show. The on-stage performers play their own instruments — there’s no pit orchestra— and that adds an element of realism and intimacy to the show.