Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Once On This Island: a summary of an emotional, balmy musical


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Story by Sergio Pacheco

Photo courtesy of Once On This Island 

The Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) Healthcare and TriStar presented “Once On This Island”, the musical, at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) Tuesday, October 15 through Sunday, October 20,2019. The musical presentation ran from 8 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. 

In 2018, “Once On This Island” was nominated for nine Tony Awards and won Best Revival of a Musical, according to an article by PlayBill. The musical was introduced in 2017 by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, the playwright, and was directed by Michael Arden.

The story takes place on a Caribbean island where a poor, young girl named Ti Moune, an orphan child who was found and taken in by Tonton Julian and Mama Euralie, sets off in pursuit of finding her place in the world, while simultaneously chasing after the man who stole her heart. On the island there are two types of people, dark and light skinned. Dark skinned people are represented as poor and as servants, while light skinned people are wealthy landowners. One stormy night Ti Moune becomes frightened and to comfort her, storytellers of the island tell her about an orphaned girl who was chosen by the gods. Erzulie is the goddess of love, Papa Ge is the ruler of the underworld, Asaka mother of the earth, and Agwe god of water.

One day when Ti Moune is much older, she notices Daniel Beauxhomme as he drives recklessly in a storm and ends up crashing. Since she is the only one who notices the accident she takes it upon herself to save his life. Ti Moune makes a deal with Papa Ge, and trades her soul for Daniel’s life. Daniel is later taken back to his mansion while Ti Moune was away, but when she realizes he’s not there anymore she makes the decision of leaving the slums and chasing after him. Ti Moune arrives in the city and makes it all the way into Daniel’s room, where Daniel wakes up in utter confusion. She convinces him to let her stay and help him recover. What Ti Moune doesn’t know is that Daniel is soon to be married to Andrea Devereaux, a wealthy woman. Ti Moune falls under the wrong impression and she soon has to make a difficult decision. Papa Ge tells her that in order to live she must kill Daniel, but Erzulie intervenes and tells her that love is much stronger and will win. Naturally, Ti Moune chooses love over death. The day of Daniel and Andrea’s wedding, Ti Moune lays outside of their mansion’s gate dying as she sees both of one last time.

The musical was made up of fourteen cast members, each with prior experience and recognition from popular musicals and television appearances. Before the show began, it was almost impossible to tell if members were already in character or not as they interacted with audience members. On one occasion, Phillip Boykin, who plays as Tonton Julian, was getting a vaccine on stage. Some audience members were a bit confused, while one girl asked him, “did you really get a shot or is that part of the play?,” which Julian responded in a humorous tone, “Of course I got a shot. Do you also want me to ask if you can get one too?” Every cast member was truly skilled as they showed their talent in singing, acting, and even dancing throughout the performance.


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