Once on This Island, at the Circle in the Square Theatre, is a wonderful revival of the 1990 musical, as well as a reunion of the Tony award-winning team of lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty (Anastasia and Ragtime). The show bursts with Caribbean rhythms and dance as the story unfolds. Lea Salonga, Phillip Boykin, Darlesia Cearcy, and Merle Dandridge lead an extraordinary ensemble. Director Michael Arden adeptly intertwines the story elements, successfully integrating music, movement, dance, and the folktale. The creative team of Clint Ramos (costumes) and Diane Laffrey (scenic design) transform the stage into a post-hurricane Haitian village, transporting the audience. I watched children and young adults who were transfixed.
This is the tale of a young orphan, Ti Moune, played magnificently, through song and actions, by Broadway newcomer Hailey Kilgore. She is adopted and falls in love with Daniel (Isaac Powell), a young man from a wealthy family. But his parents intervene, and have their son marry one of his social class. Through the intervention of the island gods, Ti Moune saves Daniel’s life after a near-fatal automobile crash, but her heart is broken when he goes back to his home and marries another.
“It is my hope that the story of Ti Moune might inspire any person, regardless of age, gender, race, ability, sexuality or circumstance to become catalyst for change,” Arden says. “That through how they share love, they might inspire tearing down of walls and not the erecting of them.”
This show is fantastic, charming, and heart-warming entertainment for the entire family. Do not miss this revival.