Once Upon a One More Time is a Broadway musical, set to Britney Spears’ chart-topping hits. Lucky or Toxic? We’ll tell you.
Once Upon a One More Time
Before divulging details of the show, let’s talk about that title. It sounds like the punch line of a joke that starts with “Cinderella walked into a bar.” Maybe it’s just me – against the music. After all, Femme Fatale was a lousy name on what ended up becoming Britney’s chart-topping comeback album. We took our orchestra seats with all eyes gazed at the center of the play, just like a fairy tale – sort of.
From Justin to Gigolo?
The premise of the fem-powered show is that Cinderella has an awakening, inspired by her modern fairy godmother. It dawns on her that maybe her happily ever after holds more than marrying a prince. She rallies support of other Disney princesses and starts a waffling timid-but-fierce revolution.
In a plot twist that almost makes you cover your eyes, it is discovered that Justin Guarini’s character, Prince Charming, was actually the prince in every Disney story. With a guilty grin, Guarini gives the audience a pregnant pause then breaks into the song Oops!… I Did It Again, complete with some of the dance moves from Britney Spears’ 2000 music video.
Guarini steals the show. We knew he could sing from his second place finish on season 1 of American Idol. His vocal talent would have won him the championship in any other of the 21 (thousand) seasons of American Idol, but season 1 went to Texas’s own southern spitfire, Kelly Clarkson. He was later cast alongside Clarkson in the rom-com too critically chastised to forget, From Justin to Kelly. Justin’s acting skills have improved since then. And his dance moves are impressive enough to pretty much guarantee him another Broadway role after Once Upon banishes its tiara for the last time.
The show attempts to find ways to protect the storyline, therefore takes some liberties with Spears’ original lyrics. One example is the song Piece of Me. The lyrics are rewritten to follow the play, but the original words seem like they would bolster the overarching theme: “I’m Mrs. She’s Too Big, No She’s Too Thin.” Women may not relate to a princess yearning to change her story’s end, but we can all relate to being scrutinized about our weight. In this case, I (and the other middle-aged women attempting to sing along with the play) would prefer to keep Britney Spears’ OG lyrics in the play adaptation.
I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman
Shout out to the other women in the audience, which is – the entire studio audience. Ignoring the parallels between Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and John Hartmere’s Once Upon a One More Time would be like looking at current-day Britney Spears’ Instagram and not seeing the nudies. It’s there, naked as a Jaybird, and begs to be mentioned. The Barbie movie knew its market: mothers; working women; active aging females who have been looked over and overlooked. The target market here is America Ferera’s character, Gloria, in Barbie.
The women who grew up playing with Barbies are the same ones who sing along to “Work B-ch” as they drive to the gym.
As much as they loved Barbie, they became mothers who raise daughters with stuffed animals, because body dysmorphia is not a concern with a teddy bear. And although they obsess over the song “Work B-ch,” only Britney Spears is allowed to call them that word, because it comes as a superlative from the Pop Princess, not as a snub from – well, any other human being.
If you’re expecting a plausible storyline, this is not the show for you. But if you’re a woman who wants to dream like a girl again, book your tickets. If you liked the Barbie movie, you’ll get your money’s worth here.
Keep On Dancing Till The World Ends
A celebration breaks out at the end of the play with a glitter explosion, lights of purple and pink strobing the stage, and free bracelets given to each audience member lighting up rainbow colors. Cast members dance down the aisles. The audience sings along “If you feel it, make it happen. Keep on dancing till the world ends.” The feel-good finish is reminiscent of Broadway’s 2001-2013 smash hit, Mamma Mia!
Lucky or Toxic?
Nothing that makes you feel this happy is toxic. We’ll give it the lucky stamp of approval and encourage you to rally your fellow Britney Spears-fanatical friends and travel to Manhattan to see the show.
I brought my 10-year-old son, who shot down my idea of dressing in denim like Britney and Justin at the 2001 VMAs.
I’ll have to return with friends to rock that look and let this show Hit Me, Baby, One More Time.
Pro Tips If You Travel to NYC to See Once Upon a One More Time on Broadway:
-Fly in to LGA airport. Public transportation is simple and easy from there. Take the free Q70 bus. It offers free nonstop transfers to the MTA subway station at Roosevelt and 74th in Queens, where you can purchase a Metro card and ride to Manhattan for less than the price of a cup of coffee.
-Stay at Luma Times Square. This hotel is a half-block off of Times Square, so you get easy access to the action, but pin-drop quietness in your room (no need to pack a sound machine. If you enjoy ambient noise, there’s a sound machine in the drawer under your bed). It’s a half-block in the other direction off of Bryant Park, a 9.6-acre wellness haven in the midst of a concrete jungle. My son especially loved Alina, the robot that the hotel uses as a butler to bring guests courtesy items.
-Eat at AperiBar. This Steve Palmer restaurant just opened one year ago this month. It has earned a reputation as the foodies’ destination for approachable Italian fare.
-Visit The Museum of Broadway. This nostalgic experience commences with a 4-minute video, explaining the evolution of Broadway. The building where Once Upon a One More Time resides holds some of the richest influence in Broadway becoming what it is today! Learn this and more in the opening video, then take your time traveling room-to-room, looking at memorabilia from Broadway shows over the decades.
Cover Photo courtesy Matthew Murphy