Oscar E Moore

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ONCE ON THIS ISLAND – spreading an aura of enchantment

December 7th, 2017 by Oscar E Moore

A perfect cast.  A perfect score.  A perfect story of forbidden love on a hurricane ravaged island in the French Antilles.  There are no commercials and no intermission at Circle in the Square – just 90 enchanting minutes of clear sailing from start to finish in a production directed by the imaginative Michael Arden that oozes truth and honesty with more than a few Caribbean flourishes.

Based on the novel “My Love, My Love” or The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy – this musical adaptation by Lynn Ahrens (Book & Lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (Music) was first produced in New York in 1990.  We must be thankful for its return in a perfect theater to house it.  It was well worth the wait to hear this magical, sensual and mystical tale seamlessly retold.

As the survivors of a massive hurricane literally pick up their lives around the sand covered stage – cleaning up debris and fearful of any further sound of thunder – they are smiling – happy to be alive after such a disaster – drying out their clothing, tending the chickens and a goat, cooking in a kettle drum and singing an anthem to life “We Dance.”  What better way to overcome what the god’s have delivered to them.

A quartet of gods: Agwe – God of Water (Quentin Earl Darrington) Pape Ge – Demon of Death (Merle Dandridge) Asaka – Mother of the Earth (a sensational Alex Newell – halting the proceedings with roars of approval from the audience) and the lustrous Erzulie – Goddess of Love (Lea Salonga) that the superstitious inhabitants both fear and honor on this island of “two different worlds” – the peasants “black as night” and the lighter skinned descendants of the original French planters.

As a survivor – a little girl Ti Moune (Emerson Davis) is adopted by Mama Euralie (Kenita R. Miller) and Tonton Julian (Phillip Boykin) whose story is then retold as an older Ti Moune (a ravishing and feisty Hailey Kilgore) saves the life of Daniel (Isaac Powell) a wealthy light skinned boy and then falls helplessly in love with him.

A love that cannot be.  If you cannot believe in this love then all is finished but in the casting of these two excellent performers there is no doubt about their heartbreaking love for one another.

The native choreography by Camille A. Brown is exceptional and thrilling to watch.  Costumes by Clint Ramos whimsical, brightly colored and true to character.  Lighting by Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer transforms the various moods and locations beautifully.  Scenic design – Dane Laffrey.

So what are you waiting for?  An invitation from the gods?  Please go see this beautiful production of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND.   Highly recommended.


Photos:  Joan Marcus

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