SARASOTA - It’s more than a musical.

Once: The Musical stars Mariah Lotz and Jack Gerhard play Guy and Girl. Both say it’s an immersive audience experience, a voyage everyone takes together through song.

“It’s also a story about loss. I think it touches on a lot of visceral human truths. I think if you’ve ever been in love before or loved anyone it’s going to pull on your heart strings. We had a crowd that was so with us that you couldn’t hear a pin drop after the songs. To me it was so powerful, I was like, these people are with us," says Lotz.

Actor musicians uniquely bring their instruments from the pit straight to the stage in an unprecedented move for musical theatre.

When asked what the soul of the story for Once is, Gerhard gave no hesitation in answering.

"I would say the music and how it affects the people in the lives of these characters and how it affects the characters. You can just feel it, when you’re watching it you can just feel it affecting you," says Gerhard.

Once, set in a Dublin bar, immediately breaks the proverbial fourth wall inviting audience members onstage to drink before the show begins.

“They’re having a hell of a good time!" says Gerhard.

“In the second act too what I think is cool that they react, they laugh they will cheer especially in the first act it’s a lot more raucous but then the second half is a lot more intimate and tender and vulnerable," explains Lotz.

The Grammy award winning musical is the opening production of Van Wezel’s 50th anniversary season. Click here for ticket information.