Tony Award nominee Michael Arden directs the Broadway revival of Stephen Flaherty & Lynn Ahrens' much-loved musical Once On This Island.
The musical originally premiered off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons in 1990 and transferred to Broadway in October of the same year. It ran for a total of 469 performances and received an impressive eight Tony Award nominations including "Best Musical". The West End premiere followed in 1994 and ultimately won the Olivier Award for "Best New Musical" at the 1995 ceremony.
In order to find the show's leading star to play Ti Moune, an international casting search was carried out until Arden found 18 year old Hailey Kilgore, who made her Broadway debut in the coveted role. She was backed up by a healthy dose of star power with the likes of Tony Award winner Lea Salonga and "Glee" star Alex Newell, taking on the roles of Erzulie (Goddess of Love) and Asaka (Mother of the Earth), respectively.
Arden's production in the round is staged on a sandy beach, following the aftermath of a natural disaster. The island natives recount the folktale of Ti Moune, a peasant orphan girl who rescues the life of - and falls in love with - a light-skinned boy named Daniel from the richer class. To her adoptive parents' dismay, she sets out on a journey to re-unite herself with Daniel, guided by a quartet of mercurial gods - Erzulie (Goddess of Love), Agwe (God of Water), Papa Ge (Demon of Death), and Asaka (Mother of the Earth). Their would-be union defies the strict rulings on class and color on the isle, but can love ultimately conquer all?
Flaherty & Ahrens' score is intoxicating with Caribbean influences and includes toe-tapping uptempo numbers such as "We Dance" and "Mama Will Provide" (with Alex Newell bringing the house down with the latter), as well as beautifully moving ballads like "The Human Heart". Arden's gradual transformation of the islanders into their respective characters in the folktale is expertly visualised with the aid of acclaimed costume designer Clint Ramos, utilising items you might find simply washed up onto a beach. Kudos also go to the production team for creating an equally exhilirating and unnerving tropical storm within the confines of a theatre... Breathtaking! And Camille A. Brown's choreography is joyously infectious and sure to be a real contender by the time Awards Season rolls in.
Once on This Island is not only yet another reminder of the importance of diversity on Broadway, but could well be regarded as the surprise hit of the 2017-2018 Broadway season.
(Photos by Joan Marcus)
90 minutes, no intermission
November 9th, 2017
January 6th, 2019
By: Music by Stephen Flaherty, with Book & Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Director: Michael Arden
Producer: Ken Davenport and Hunter Arnold
Cast list: Hailey Kilgore (as Ti Moune), Alex Newell (as Asaka), Lea Salonga (as Erzulie), Tamyra Gray (as Papa Ge), Quentin Earl Darrington (as Agwe), Isaac Powell (as Daniel), Boise Holmes (as Tonton Julian), Kenita R. Miller (as Mama Euralie), Alysha Deslorieux (as Andrea), David Jennings (as Armand), and Juliet Benn / Mia Williamson (as Little Girl)
Design: Dane Laffrey
Lighting: Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer
Costume: Clint Ramos
Choreography: Camille A. Brown
Sound: Peter Hylenski
Other info: Music Supervision by Chris Fenwick, Music Direction by Alvin Hough, Jr., New Orchestrations by Michael Starobin, and Vocal
Design: s by AnnMarie Milazzo
Once on This Island is the extraordinary story of a fearless young dreamer named Ti Moune. After a massive storm rages through her village, a ray of hope appears through a young man from the wealthy side of the island. An unexpected romance blossoms. But when their different cultures threaten to keep them apart, Ti Moune—guided by the island gods—sets out on a journey to stay beside the man who has captured her heart. The musical transforms the reality of post-storm Haiti into a fantastical world bursting with Caribbean rhythms and dance.
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