Photo taken by Joan Marcus
After closing on Broadway in early 2019, Once on This Island embarked on a national tour in October later that year. As a part of their 2019-2020 season, Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS) is housing the Once on This Island National Tour until March 1.
The musical begins with the storytellers setting the stage for the next hour and a half. A world in which the gods rule and a young girl, Ti Moune, full of love and hope, falls for a young boy who does not understand her true worth.
“Once on This Island is the story of how one seemingly insignificant girl becomes myth and legend for survivors of a wounded and healing island and how the good we do can echo and reverberate long after our lives are over,” Michael Arden, Once on This Island director, said.
Following the opening number, We Dance, audience members get a look into Ti Moune’s backstory with One Small Girl. After a horrendous storm, Ti Moune lands on an island and her adoptive parents, Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian, take her in. In this scene, the audience also sees Ti Moune transform from a young girl into a young woman.
In Waiting for Life, Ti Moune and the audience are introduced to Daniel Beauxhomme, a boy that Ti Moune immediately falls for. Once Beauxhomme’s car crashes in Discovering Daniel, Ti Moune believes the reason the gods spared her was to save his life. Going weeks without sleep, Ti Moune ends up healing Beauxhomme.
After Beauxhomme returns home, Ti Moune persuades her parents to let her follow her heart and be with Beauxhomme, in the song Ti Moune.
After the dramatic and heartwarming songs comes Mama Will Provide, and upbeat and partially comical song sung by Asaka Mother of the Earth, portrayed by Kyle Ramar Freeman. Freeman’s powerhouse vocals and bright spirit ropes the audience in and shows them the true beauty of nature.
“You should expect a stage of beautiful black and brown people telling a story that is universal. It’s a story about love, forgiveness and hope,” Freeman said.
Throughout the rest of the musical, Ti Moune and Beauxhomme have numerous different interactions, ranging from sweet and heartfelt, to cold and brutal. During the final song, Why We Tell the Story, the audience sees Little Girl, played by Mimi Crossland and Mariama Diop.The Little Girl repeats the story back to the storytellers and reiterates the beauty the viewers just witnessed.
Other songs in Once on This Island include And the Gods Heard Her Prayer, Rain, Pray, Forever Yours, The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes, Some Say, The Human Heart, Gossip, Some Girls, The Ball, Ti Moune’s Dance, When We Are Wed, Forever Yours (Reprise) and A Part of Us.
Courtnee Carter made her Broadway debut as a storyteller and an understudy for Ti Moune and now she gets to travel the country as the leading lady. Carter’s powerful voice and emotions allow the audience to empathize with Ti Moune.
“She [Ti Moune] goes on this beautiful journey that really teaches people how to follow your dreams, knowing that you have a purpose. She’s strong and she’s powerful…She fights for what’s right and I think that’s one of the best messages of the story. She spreads love and compassion and understanding and she doesn’t believe that there’s a difference between black and white or yellow or green. She just believes in people and doing good things,” Carter said.
Tamyra Gray plays Papa Ge, demon of Death, Jahmaul Bakare portrays Agwe, god of Water and Cassondra James plays Erzulie, goddess of Love.
“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 said.
Special effects such as thunder claps and smoke machines help the audience to feel like as if they are on this island with the actors. Once on This Island is a story full of love, hope, grief and acceptance. The tour cast beautifully presents the meaning of the musical and touches all audience members.
This story was originally published on Creek HiLife on February 20, 2020.