Once On This Island Musical Review – A Worthy Tony Award Winning Revival

Come see Broadway in Chicago’s tour production Once on this Island performing at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph) for a limited two-week engagement through February 2, 2020. Winner of the 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, Once on this Island is the sweeping, universal tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl in search of her place in the world, and ready to risk it all for love. Guided by the mighty island gods, Ti Moune sets out on a remarkable journey to reunite with the man who has captured her heart. The groundbreaking vision of two-time Tony Award nominated director Michael Arden (Spring Awakening revival) and acclaimed choreographer Camille A. Brown (NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live) conjures up “a place where magic is possible and beauty is apparent for all to see!” (The Huffington Post). With a score that bursts with life from Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the Tony Award-winning songwriters of Anastasia and Ragtime, Once on this Island is a timeless testament to theater’s unlimited possibilities. 

The Company of the North American Tour of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

Once on this Island premiered at Playwrights Horizons in May of 1990. The original Broadway production opened in October of that year and ran for 469 performances garnering eight Tony nominations including Best Featured Actress (LaChanze), Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Musical. The 1994 West End Production won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The critically acclaimed 2017 Broadway Revival, which opened in December of that year, won the 2018 Tony Award® for Best Musical Revival before closing January 6, 2019. 

The Company of the North American Tour of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

The Broadway Chicago revival was a magical, musical treat. Once on this Island holds a special place in my heart-I performed in it my freshman year at New Trier High School. It is a tale of how love, hope and forgiveness can withstand anything. The lyrics and music also tug at your heartstrings the entire show. The entire hour and a half of delightful storytelling is infectious, and you cannot help but sing along and connect with the characters. 

Cassondra James as ‘Erzulie,’ Tamyra Gray as ‘Papa Ge,’ Jahmaul Bakare as ‘Agwe,’ and Kyle Ramar Freeman as ‘Asaka’

The minimalist stage and set design and costumes were all wonderful. I felt as if I was invited to a realistic sneak peak of a Caribbean village in the French Antilles. Real sand lay beneath the peasants’ bare feet on stage, including water drizzling for a rainstorm.

Jahmaul Bakare as ‘Agwe’

The show’s cast provided a variety of personalities of the memorable characters. Courtnee Carter as Ti Moune was lovely to witness as the orphan, peasant girl, who believes in love and hope, to the end when she tries to win over and marry Daniel, the grand homme on the other side of the island, whose life she saves following a car crash during a rainstorm orchestrated by the gods. Tony Nominee Phillip Boykin as Tonton Julian and Danielle Lee Greaves as Mama Euralie were sweet as the adoptive, parental figures of Ti Moune. The actors who played the gods were the best part of the show: Cassondra James as Erzulie (goddess of love), Kyle Ramar Freeman as Asaka (goddess of the earth), Jahmaul Bakare as Agwe (god of water), and the outstanding “American Idol” Alum Tamyra Gray as Papa Ge (demon of death). Tyler Hardwick starred as Daniel Beauxhomme, Ti Moune’s love interest. 

Tony Nominee Phillip Boykin as ‘Tonton Julian’ and Danielle Lee Greaves as ‘Mama Euralie’

The musical’s premise and theme is similar to that of the Little Mermaid, where a young woman who comes from a very different world under the water, falls in love with a man from a world above the water. In Once on this Island, Ti Moune is an orphan dark-skinned peasant, who falls in love with a light-skinned man of the elite, again two different worlds who are completely separated on the island that they live on. The little mermaid and Ti Moune yearn to be part of the other world that they do not belong to, and risk their lives for it and the men they love. In this musical’s case, the peasants and the elite make sure to never cross paths, and teaches about the poor and the rich hierarchy, including limitations of love and marriage. 

Once on this Island is a gem of a musical and must not be missed-come see it before it closes! The musical tale is a memorable theatrical experience that will delight audiences for years to come.

Photos: Aneesah Muhammad (MKI)

The runtime is 90 minutes with no intermission.

For more information, visit the musical website.

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