Home / Music & Arts / 'Once on This Island' bewitches — theater review

'Once on This Island' bewitches — theater review

Broadway’s bewitching revival of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s “Once on This Island” is filled with beauty.

The ravaged set, meanwhile, appears to have seen better days. Make no mistake: That’s by design.

The show takes place on a Caribbean island. In this production, that isle has been hit by a storm.

Trees are down. Structures are battered. A goat searches for food. Islanders, relief workers and medics work to repair the damage. That’s what you do.

Director Michael Arden’s smart and timely concept underscores the elemental and emotional tempests at work in the musical fable that celebrates love, resilience and the spirit of hope.

The story, drawn from Rosa Guy’s book, traces the journey of Ti Moune (radiant newcomer Hailey Kilgore). Orphaned after a flood, she’s raised by loving peasants played by Kenita R. Miller and Phillip Boykin.

Ti Moune grows up and falls in love with Daniel (Isaac Powell), the son of one of the wealthiest men on the island. But class and complexions stand in the way of happiness

Goddess of earth, love and death are played by Alex Newell, Lea Salonga and Merle Dandridge.

Goddess of earth, love and death are played by Alex Newell, Lea Salonga and Merle Dandridge.

(Joan Marcus)

Omnipresent gods — of love (Tony winner Lea Salonga), death (Merle Dandridge), earth (Alex Newell) and water (Quentin Earl Darrington) — also play a role in this bittersweet tale.

Over a fast-moving 90 minutes, the score mixes captivating calypso beats and warm ballads, all brought to life vividly by the fine-tuned cast. Exuberant dancing adds bursts of excitement.

Imaginative storytelling lends delights. Pieces of wood combine to become a Daniel’s car. A whirled length of hose turns into a whooshing almost musical instrument.

In the end, Ti Moune’s journey doesn’t lead to happily ever after — but to a mythical sort of transformation.

“Once on This Island” is at Circle in the Square.

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