Britney Spears was thrilled to lend her discography to Broadway — with one specific caveat.
“It was actually Britney who approached us and said, ‘We’d like to have a show based on my music, and specifically not a bio-musical,’” producer Hunter Arnold told Variety at Once Upon a One More Time’s opening night on Thursday, June 22, referring to the 41-year-old pop star. “The original idea came from ideas brought forth by her: She loves fairy tales, princesses [and] storybooks. We took a couple of passes at it — we didn’t get it right instantly. Then we did a workshop after we got the current-ish version together and she came to see it and give thoughts on it.”
Once Upon a One More Time, which began performances at New York City’s Marquis Theatre in May, brings together six iconic storybook princesses as they gather for book club. During their meeting, a “rogue fairy godmother” hands them copies of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, which subsequently inspires them to embrace feminism. The musical — which the official summary proclaims is “powered by the hits of Britney Spears” — stars Justin Guarini, Briga Heelan, Jennifer Simard, Adam Godley, Aisha Jackson, Liv Battista, Gabrielle Beckford, Ashley Chiu, Morgan Whitley and Lauren Zakrin.
As the ladies learn to stand up for themselves, they (along with the whole cast) can’t help but bust out some of Spears’ most iconic songs along the way.
“I just make sure I’m really warmed up and drink a lot of water because I sweat a lot,” Guarini, 44, told Variety earlier this month. “In ‘Circus’ right into ‘Sometimes’ right into ‘Oops,’ it just goes, goes, goes. Everyone is dancing, and every single time I get off the stage, we’re just like ‘How did we do that?’ That is the beauty of Broadway’s magic.”
The musical, however, did slightly tweak some of Spears’ lyrics to better fit the story lines.
“The songs work way better than they have any right to work,” Arnold explained to the outlet. “Most importantly, Britney and her team gave us pretty liberal ability to shift lyrics here and there, to make sure things didn’t feel clunky, but purposeful. You don’t want to change too much because this is music that everyone on Earth loves; it’s a half art, half science to make sure everything fits where it is. Some songs that were big numbers of hers, there weren’t places to fit. Outside of the mega hits, there was no expectation that every song would be in it. They gave our creative team freedom to do what makes the show make sense.”
The Crossroads actress, who married Sam Asghari in June 2022, gave the show her stamp of approval over on her Instagram.
“Good luck to the hardworking cast and crew of Once Upon a One More Time on opening night tonight 🌹💃🏼✨ !!!” she captioned a tribute post on Thursday. “I’ve seen the show and it is so funny, smart and brilliant 🤩 !!!”
Once Upon a One More Time marks Spears’ first career project since the conservatorship — run by her father, Jamie Spears, and Jodi Montgomery — over her estate and person was terminated in November 2021.