I have been fortunate enough to keep a little toe dipped in the theater world even though I left it professionally almost a decade ago (what?!). I have my husband to thank for that, and for free tickets, often offered on the same day like these were.
But a while back, David and I agreed that when offered tickets, we would do everything in our power to take advantage. Even though we were tired and had to hunt down a last-minute babysitter, we made it happen. And I’m so glad.
Based on the 1985 novel My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy, “Once on This Island” is a fable of love and death and temperamental gods set in the French Antilles. Long story short, a dark-skinned peasant girl (Ti-Moune) falls in love with a light-skinned rich kid (Daniel). The the gods of the island wager on the strength of her love. SPOILER ALERT: it does not end well for her.
It went really well for us, though.
When you walk into the sometimes-awkward Circle in the Square Theater, it’s like you’ve been transported to the tropics. The stage in the round has been covered in sand, and the natives are going about their daily business (fishing in a lagoon, gossiping, etc.) with the help of some live chickens and goats. Before the first notes are sung, you can feel that this is something special.
And it is.
A rundown on the island gods:
- Papa Ge – Demon of Death, played by Merle Dandridge (FUN FACT: I once led worship with her at our church back when she still in Rent on Broadway.)
- Erzulie – Goddess of Love, played by Lea Solanga, basically herself a goddess of love 😍
- Agwe – God of Water, played by Quentin Earl Darrington… who I thought was Norm Lewis by his voice, and is actually being replaced by Norm Lewis soon.
- Asaka – Mother of the Earth, played by Alex Newell of Glee fame. He. Killed. It.
Besides those four, newcomer Hailey Kilgore as Ti-Moune is another real stand-out. She was lovely and struck such a nice balance between innocence and passion. Her dance number? Amazing!
On the other hand, I basically wanted to punch Daniel by the end of the show… which I guess was the objective. I tend to prefer a happy ending to my stories, but I still really enjoyed this production. If you’re in NYC, and looking for something other than Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen to see, this is a great option.