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'Once' Says Good-Bye at the Highline Ballroom

by Photo of Natalie Sacks

The cast of Broadway’s Once and The Uptown Outfit celebrate the end of an era.

'Once' Says Good-Bye at the Highline Ballroom

Once the Musical had a long and celebrated run on Broadway, winning the Best Musical Tony Award in 2012 and the 2013 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. On January 4, after over a thousand performances, the musical closed on Broadway--though the national tour is still going strong.

To celebrate their time making a small love story about a pair of singer-songwriters who fall in love great, the cast and orchestra of Once came together at the Highline Ballroom to share their success and their music with their biggest fans. Along with numbers by leads Paul Alexander Nolan and Jessie Fisher and the variety of other talented performers in the cast, the audience was treated to a set played by understudy to the lead Ben Hope and his band The Uptown Outfit.

The Uptown Outfit

So, how does a Broadway audience react to suddenly finding themselves in a country show? Pretty well, it turns out. Led by their joyous and charismatic frontman, The Uptown Outfit played a set of catchy and rollicking tunes, from "Hey Ya'll" and " On the Run" to "Knock Them Boots."

The band performed songs from their soon-to-be-released album, Ragged & Rowdy, coming out on February 4. The disc features such clever songs as the ironically mournful "Colleen," in which Hope considers his loss of the beautiful Colleen--a guitar once given to him by Garth Brooks. "Lonely a Fool" also struck a somber note, but the dominant feeling of the evening was of hope, as the band contemplated being a "Good Man," or perhaps a "Good Liar."

Ben Hope and the Uptown Outfit were a solidly good time, energetic performers with a rollicking country sound. They may have seemed out of place at first at a Broadway celebration, but they led nicely into the folk tunes that have made audiences go wild for Once.


One of the unique aspects of this musical is that the orchestra is onstage for the entire show, so despite the actors' jokes about never performing like this before, they were perfectly at home in the Highline Ballroom. The second act of the farewell show began with two rollicking full cast numbers, heavy on the dancing and on the fiddling, before moving into a series of small group numbers. 

The evening consisted largely of song covers, from Elisabeth Evans and Scott Stangland's rendition of the Gabe Dixon Band's "Even the Rain" to "executive producer Robert Cole" rocking out in a bathrobe. Even leads Jessie Fisher and Paul Nolan took part, Nolan with a sweet but hilarious love song he wrote for his eventual wife.

Several other acts premiered original songs as well, from the new band Fair Play to J. Michael Zygo's immense gospel song that he wrote for the cast. Throughout the show, there was a great sense of community amongst the performers, with shoutouts to the individual musicians on stage and no single actor, especially not the leads of the musical, dominating the stage. Instead, the evening was a chance for everyone to shine.

As the full cast came together again to sing "A Little Help from My Friends," it was clear that they had reached the end of an era. Still, the entire concert was about celebration rather than mourning, and it is clear that each act, from Hope and his Uptown Outfit to each musician, will be on to great things before long.

Once is closed on Broadway now, but the national tour plays through August 2015, so check it out. And for the best country and folk concert tickets at the lowest price, be sure to check CHARGED!

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