Once on This Island
Theater West End
Book and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Directed by Derek Critzer and Felichia Chivaughn Wright
Musical Direction by Austin McElwain
Choreography by Sterling Lovett
Starring Brandi Campbell
Wow! A real beach complete with water scattered showers and high probability of romance! Cool set, but as love stories go, this one leans towards the tragic. Ti Moune (Campbell) lost her folks in a storm and washed into the lives of Mama Euralie (Tonya Phillips Staples) and Tonton Julian (E. Mani Cadet). Will she find love? Of course. Just not the kind we all hope for. One rainy night classy and rich Daniel Beauxhomme (Freddy Ruiz) crashes his car, and Ti decides to nurse him back to health. They fall in love, but class keeps them apart and he’s forced to marry the rich French girl his dad picked out for him. So always the good son, he abandons Ti. It’s even sadder when you discover all these plot points stem from a bet between the gods Agwe (Shonn McCloud) , Erzule (Mandi Jo John) and Papa Ge (Kelly Rhianne). It’s a short romance, and Ti Moune doesn’t get the guy, at least not for long, but she does get immortality as a tree. This romance certainly goes places most love stories fear to tread.
Ms. Campbell has the bright positive glow of unstoppable youth, and her energy spreads across a cast packed with great local talent. Mr. McCloud plays an intense and focused God; he takes that direct interest in humans that all the great Greek Gods specialized in. Another great God here is Kellie Rhianne as “Papa Ge” with an excellent performance in “Rain”, one of the best songs in the music here. We never really got to know Daniel, he gets his first song near the middle of the show, and let’s face it: playing a guy in a coma just doesn’t give a guy much room to work with. Hanging over this island drama we hear the house band in fine form lead by Mr. McElwain. They’ve got seven musicians hidden behind the palm trees and under the post hurricane detritus of an island in the Caribbean. This is a unique and unusual romance, packed with solid island influenced tracks and touching love story that ends oddly. No suntan oil needed in this theater but be wary of the Oktoberfest festivities in Sanford. Parking may be tough as the vengeance of the Gods.