When you travel on London’s underground, you expect to pass one tuneful busker, maybe even a duet. Not the entire cast of Once!
Yet last Friday, that was exactly the sight and sound that met commuters at Leicester Square tube station, where a 12-strong company from the hit new musical were filling the tiled tunnels and corridors with their upbeat Irish folk sounds.
They weren’t there trying to earn a little extra on the side – they actually donated all money made to the charity Kids Company – but to help mark 10 years of the licensed busking scheme on the Tube, playing alongside a collection of the station’s regular buskers for a couple of hours.
“As a singer-songwriter who has done my fair share of busking in the past, it was especially exciting today to have spent time at Leicester Square Tube with my fellow Once cast mates and some of London Underground’s regular buskers,” said Declan Bennett, the show’s leading man. “My role as the heartbroken busker Guy in Once at the Phoenix theatre is heavily inspired by my experiences before making the leap to become a professional performer. Today was a great way of reconnecting with that time.”
The musical, based on an Oscar-winning film and previously a Tony Award-winning hit on Broadway, tells the story of an Irish busker ready to give up on his dreams before he meets a young Czech mother, who reinvigorates his passion with her shared love of music. When it opened at the Phoenix theatre in April, Official London Theatre’s Charlotte Marshall described it as “arguably the most romantic show in the West End”. It’s also the only show in the West End where you can enjoy a pint at an onstage bar before the performance and during the interval.
You can watch footage of the Once cast busking at the top of the page.
Once is not the only musical that will perform live and for free this coming week end, when many of London’s most popular shows take to the stage in Trafalgar Square as part of West End LIVE. The annual entertainment extravaganza returns, with performances including tasters of new Tim Rice musical From Here To Eternity alongside a host of current hits, on 22 and 23 June.