Don Reviews "Once on This Island"
True love is one of the most universally used stories told in almost every possible medium, but along with that is the possibility of heartache as well. We all know the formula of boy meets girl, they each fall for the other, there is some form of conflict, but they end up living happily ever after. The musical “Once on This Island” deals with this but in a different way.
With music by Rosa Guy and lyrics from Lynn Ahrens, this story takes place in The French Antilles islands in a peasant village which worships many gods. Through the villagers, the story of Ti Moune (Courtnee Carter) is told, who is an orphaned girl taken in by Tonton Julian (Phillip Boykin) and Mama Euralie (Daniele Lee Graves). As she starts to try to find her purpose in life, she meets a man named Daniel (Tyler Hardwick) after his car wrecks, and as she falls for him, the gods make a bet as to whether love is more powerful than death. It turns out that Daniel is from a very rich family from another island, and as Ti Moune cares for him, the bet is on and takes twists and turns that Ti Moune may or may not be prepared for.
There is basically only one set (which looked very well done) that resembles a market and street on a tropical island. There is also a live band up in the rafters along with actual audience seats on the stage, which I found to be very innovative, so the scenes and transitions were done with the lighting and certain props to move the story along. Even though some of them required a certain amount of imagination to go with it, I thought it was still done well along with some of the sound effects to enhance the scenes. Carter and Hardwick do a good job overall with a good supporting cast, and although none of the performances blew me away, I also had no complaints.
This production is done in the same operatic style of “Les Mis,” with just a few lines of dialog here and there, which got a bit confusing to me early on to understand what was being established. As the show went on, I was able to get used to it and follow along better in order for its emotional impact to hit me in the final numbers. With only one act that lasted about ninety minutes, I liked how it told its story without a lot of fluff, but the accents simply made it a bit rough for me and almost seemed forced. Overall, I did enjoy “Once on This Island,” but I did not love it, so I will recommend sitting in the second level balcony here.