Imagine a story that’s equal parts fairy-tale, myth, and harsh reality. Those things might seem to contradict one other, but somehow, all of these elements manage to combine successfully in “Once on this Island,” playing now at Raleigh Little Theatre. Set on a Caribbean island—brought to life by Thomas Mauney’s effective set and Vicki Olson’s colorful, flowy costumes—the play focuses on re-telling the story of Ti Moune (Josephine Christian), a girl from the “wrong side of the island” if you will, and her ill-fated love affair with the not-so-aptly named Daniel Beauxhomme (Daniel Gonzalez). It might not be fair to call the love affair ill-fated, however, because, as the story’s poignant ending shows, the gods of the island have a purpose for everything.
The show features twenty-two musical numbers, all paired with L.D. Burris’ seamless choreography. Some of the musical numbers utilize dancing that’s as shaky and purposefully chaotic as one would imagine island dances to be, while others—in particular “The Human Heart”—offer mesmerizing, achingly beautiful dances. The combined effect is a story that’s immersive and entertaining, and surprisingly fresh. Early scenes convince the viewer that the show will be a fun, lighthearted, even family-friendly one, reminiscent of films that feature Disney princesses. Things take a dark and unexpected turn a little more than halfway through this one act, however, providing for an ending that’s truer-to-life than a fairy-tale and maybe, in some ways, more satisfying.
While the performances are mostly solid throughout, Christian absolutely shines in her role as the innocent, sweet-faced, and wonderfully wild-at-heart Ti Moune. She creates a character to root for and to cry for. Gonzalez also proves gifted, bringing just the right touches of arrogance to his role.
“Once on this Island” offers an intriguing commentary on the things that divide people and the sacrifice it takes to bring them together again. While it can be viewed as a cultural and human study of sorts, it can also be enjoyed with a more light-hearted slant, making this a fun pick for all viewers.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents ONCE ON THIS ISLAND at 8 p.m. June 13-15, 3 p.m. June 16, 8 p.m. June 20-22, and 3 p.m. June 23 in RLT‘s Cantey V. Sutton Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27607.
TICKETS: $22 ($18 students and seniors 62+).
BOX OFFICE: 919-821-3111 or https://raleighlittletheatre.secure.force.com/.
2012-13 SEASON: http://raleighlittletheatre.org/shows/12-13/index.html.
NOTE: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive-listening devices are available for all shows.
My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl (1985 novel): http://coffeehousepress.org/shop/my-love-my-love-or-the-peasant-girl-2/ (Coffee House Press).
The Novel: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Rosa Guy (novelist): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosa_Guy (Wikipedia).
Once on this Island (1990 musical): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_on_This_Island (Wikipedia).
Stephen Flaherty (music): http://www.ahrensandflaherty.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Flaherty (Wikipedia).
Lynn Ahrens (book and lyrics): http://www.ahrensandflaherty.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Ahrens (Wikipedia).
L.D. Burris (director and choreographer): https://www.facebook.com/ldburris (Facebook page).