The spirit of folk music will be coming to Milwaukee soon with the arrival of the smash musical Once (based on the Academy-Award Winning movie of the same name) at the Marcus Center this week. I got to talk to one of the cast members, Isaac Haas, to talk about what led him to the stage and as well as his experience bringing Once around the country.
Q: What is Once about, and what is your role in it?
Isaac: The show is a classic Guy meets Girl—Guy is a singer, Girl finds him on the streets, and the play is about their relationship over the course of a few days. I play Andrej, one of the Czech characters—Guy is Irish and Girl is Czech—who lives with Girl in her apartment.
Q: What led to you pursuing a career in musical theatre?
Isaac: My parents are classical musicians, so I always had music around. Singing was always something I’ve been able to do—I’m a singer-songwriter and play the guitar as well. I got involved with theatre in High School, and I attended the Cap21 Musical Theatre Conservatory for a few years after graduation. It’s great to do what you love, and I’ve been lucky to be successful at it so far.
Q: Once is about the relationships between people and music as much as it is between people. What drew you to this story?
Isaac: It’s hard to put into words. This show is so powerful. It’s about and by people who care about what they’re making, and it’s unlike any show I’ve seen. The chords and melodies just stick with you—from the first time I saw the show three years ago up until now.
Q: Do you sing in the show? If so, what is your favorite musical number to perform?
Isaac: All of the characters sing in the show. One of my favorites is our pre-show, where we all sing on stage as a group. We sing traditional Irish and Czech folksongs. Another is “When Your Mind’s Made Up”—it’s the eleven o’clock number. Everyone’s just yelling their faces off and it’s powerful to be a part of.
Q: How is touring from city to city different from performing on the same stage every night? Would you say it’s more of a challenge?
Isaac: It’s definitely more of a challenge. It’s awesome because you get to see different parts of the country, but the audiences are different as well. They react differently to certain parts of the show than the audience in another city, for example.
Q: What parts of the country have you visited with the tour?
Isaac: We’ve been all over—our last shows were in Los Angeles and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Most of our shows so far have been in the northeast, so this is as far west as we’ve gone. Going back to challenges—locations were definitely a factor. Albuquerque was very dry and had a high altitude, which affects breath. Singing is all about breath, so that was particularly challenging.
Q: What’s been your best memory of touring so far?
Isaac: It’s so difficult to pick one, but if I could cheat a little and pick the people in the show… we’ve really become one big family. To create this piece of art every night with the people you love has been the best experience.
Q: What do you hope audiences take away from Once?
Isaac: I hope they feel inspired—inspired to just make a change in their life that they’d been afraid to. The show is about fear and overcoming fear, so if one person is encouraged to pursue something—musical or otherwise—then we’ll have been successful.
Once opens on April 5th and continues until April 10th. You can buy tickets online at the Marcus website now. Student rush $25 tickets will be available two hours prior to each show with a valid student ID.