TheOnceMusical.com has been closely following the transition of the musical Once from Broadway to the West End for months now. When we started out, we were hoping to become your one-stop source for news on the Once musical, but today we can do one better, with an exclusive interview with Declan Bennett, the leading man in this exciting new production. The star kindly agreed to answer fan questions and provide us with some insights into Once, his inspiration and how budding performers can reach their dreams:
You usually identify yourself as a singer/songwriter. What made you want to get into the theatre?
“I’ve always been a fan of the theatre since I was a kid. I grew up in Coventry and was involved in local theatre groups. Those kind of circles always attract the outsiders who don’t fit in at school so you find this new family where you feel safe and I used to love this feeling of an external community where you could lose yourself, find yourself, exactly what I think theatre and music should do for an audience.”
Do you have any tips for budding actors and actresses, or for singers/songwriters?
“Go join your local theatre group. Take your guitar down to the local open mic night. Find a band to sing with. Lots. Do it as much as you can. Every night. This is where you learn your craft. Playing to one man and his dog and connecting with others with similar interests is the best thing you can do for yourself. Don’t worry too much about getting into a big drama school or finding a record deal. Just connect. And learn. Play. Have fun. Find out if this is really what you want to do for the rest of your life or if it’s just a hobby. I’m about to turn 32 and I still question this every day…..haha. If you’re good, honest and curious, you will find your way through the mess.”
How are you getting on with the rest of the Once cast?
“They’re alright. haha. They’re the BEST. You feel damn lucky to be surrounded by sound people every day who come together and create. And Once has this internal heartbeat that we all share onstage. And we have a real family dynamic already which helps. Being in Dublin before we bring this back to the West End is helping us bond more too. To all experience performing Once in Dublin for its people is something we can all lean into and share as a group and then carry that spirit back to London. It’s really special, this part of the journey.”
Other than Once, what has been your most memorable/enjoyable role to date?
“I think playing Roger in RENT was quite massive for me personally. And to play it in New York was way beyond any dream I could have originally conceived. I loved singing that stuff every night. I heard the soundtrack when I was 16 and it blew my mind. And the whole experience had a profound effect on me creatively, mentally, geographically, emotionally…”
What’s your daily routine now rehearsals have started?
“I wake up. Drink about 4 cups of tea till I feel like a normal human being. Knock some breakfast back, head to theatre, get into mics/costume. Start rehearsals with the company, work on whatever scenes John/Steven/Martin want to, grab some dinner, maybe knock back a pint of Guinness (though I’m being a good boy right now), melt back into bed.”
What made you audition for the role of Guy?
“It felt like a role that I had to give a shot. I’ve always struggled slightly with the idea of being a singer/songwriter who pops up onstage every now and again in a musical so I try and work on projects that are an extension of myself in some way and let it feed and influence my songs and creative desires. Once was a no brainer. It’s about a struggling singer/songwriter who has all these songs and is facing the usual fear creative people experience every day.”
Have you seen the Broadway production and/or the Film of Once and whose performance, if either, do you think yours will be most similar to?
“I’ve seen both. I don’t want to imitate Glen or Steve. And I don’t think I could if I tried. What’s lovely about this role is you are so closely connected to your internal voice and musicianship that it’s impossible to do anything except trust that and let it out. When a musician puts an instrument on and starts to play he resonates in a way that no other does. That’s why we love watching people sing songs they’ve written. It’s different every time. And with everyone. We all come from similar but very different backgrounds that influence our portrayal of Guy. I gotta keep it real.”
The subject matter of “Once” is really fascinating. Have you ever experienced a story like that yourself?
“Have I ever been at a very low point and had someone incredible arrive unexpectedly to help pull me out of the mess? Oh yes…”
What is your favourite song from Once?
“Say it to me now”
Do you have an idol/rolemodel? If so, who?
“My brother, Kieran.”
Do you think you’re much like Guy?
“We have a weird amount of similarities.”
If not you, which actor would play you in a film of your life?
“Is Lindsay Lohan available?”
So, we’ve learnt that the best route to becoming a musician is to get out there and play, that tea is a performing actor’s best friend and that Declan’s got a lot in common with Guy, but maybe just a little with Lindsay Lohan too!
You can see Declan performing as Guy in the Once musical at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin for the next few weeks, or at London’s Phoenix Theatre from March 16th; and you can buy your Once musical tickets right here.