Once Upon a One More Time celebrated its opening night June 22. Reviews for the show have been published, but there was one notice that stood out from the rest: from Britney Spears herself, whose discography provides the score for the new musical. In a post on Instagram, the singer wrote, "Good luck to the hardworking cast and crew of Once Upon a One More Time on opening night tonight! I’ve seen the show and it is so funny, smart and brilliant!" (Theatre fans, we think the Princess of Pop has more than earned a pass on that g*** l***, theatrical superstitions notwithstanding.)
When musicians have a jukebox musical inspired by them on Broadway, they usually show up to opening night and help promote the show (such as Neil Diamond leading the audience in a sing-along of "Sweet Caroline" during the opening night of A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical). In contrast to other pop musicians, Spears is more reclusive. She does not attend industry events and was not present for opening night of her show. Up until now, it was unknown what her thoughts were on the musical.
Currently, Spears is a ubiquitous figure on Broadway, with three currently running shows featuring her songs: Once Upon a One More Time, & Juliet, and Moulin Rouge!. But out of those three shows, Once Upon a One More Time is the only one that uses her name as part of its marketing (the show's tagline is "a new musical powered by the hits of Britney Spears"), and the only to solely use songs made famous by Spears.
Once Upon a One More Time is about a group of fairytale princesses who are forced to live out the same stories night after night, until one day they decide to rebel—empowered after reading Betty Friedan's landmark feminist tome The Feminine Mystique.
The show's creative team had been working to assure Spears' fans that the singer approved of the musical. That doubt was present because Once Upon a One More Time was originally conceived in 2017, while Spears was still under a conservatorship where her finances, health decisions, and career moves were controlled by her father, James P. Spears. For a time, fans feared that the money from the show was going to the elder Spears and the management team rather than the singer herself. The conservatorship was dissolved in 2021.
To assuage those fears, the musical's producers recently released a statement saying the show’s "license agreement with Britney Spears was negotiated, agreed to, and signed by Britney Spears in 2022, post-conservatorship.”
In an interview with the New York Times, one of the show's lead producers Hunter Arnold revealed that Spears herself receives royalties from the show, for the rights to use her name for the show, as well as the licensing fees for her music (the licensing fee also covers royalties to the other writers of her songs).
In a previous interview with Playbill, Once Upon a One More Time's book writer Jon Hartmere said that the show's fairytale themes came from Spears herself and that he met her only once, at a workshop in 2018. "It's obviously a big thing for her to go anywhere," he said. "Even seeing her come to that reading. It was such an operation—you can't walk down the street." Hartmere also admitted that though there are parallels to a story of a group of women breaking free to Spears' own life, that was coincidental. "While it's not a bio-musical at all, it does track with her life in many ways.”
But now that Spears has spoken positively about the show, it remains to be seen if that endorsement will be the magic the musical needs to become a hit.