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Cardinal Reviews: ‘Once Upon This Island’ presented by U of L
By Esther Lee–
“Once on This Island” tells the story of a young girl’s journey through first love, heartbreaking pain and finally hope. “Once on This Island” conveyed the most powerful human emotions in a visually astounding musical and theatrical experience presented by the Department of Theatre Arts and African American Theatre Program. There was no doubt the production was a success.
The one-act musical was based on the 1985 novel, “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy and included notably similar elements to the fairy-tale story of the Little Mermaid. “Once on This Island” was written by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty; the production was directed by Nefertiti Burton.The musical begins with the entire cast calming a little island girl, Kyndia Motley, by telling her the story of Ti Moune, Jody Ann Henry. Ti Moune is a pleasant girl who rescues and falls in love with a grand homme named Daniel, Robbie McCracken, who is from the other and wealthier side of the island. When he is returned back to his home, Ti Moune embarks a journey to reunite with her love under the guidance of the island gods.
The entire cast was made up of talented actors and musicians. Ms. Henry excellently portrayed the determination and passion of Ti Moune. She thoroughly conveyed Ti Moune’s cry to the gods for her life’s purpose in “Waiting for Life.” The interaction and intensity between Ms. Henry and Mr. McCracken could not be overlooked. Renea Brown and Troy Bell who played Ti Moune’s adoptive parents harmonized beautifully while showing concern for their stage daughter. The gods were entertaining and colorful. And of course, the very adorable Ms. Motley brought the essence of hope and child-like innocence.
“Once on This Island” was non-stop music and dance. The music was played by a small band of musicians and singers who enhanced the musical experience with its Caribbean-flair. The music ranged from lively and comtemporary to soft and mellow, but the dance choreography was a far cry from mellow. The choreography was fun, exciting and energetic, especially during Ti Moune’s dance performance at the grand homme’s ball.
The combination of Michael Hottois’ embellishing scenic and lighting design, and Zhanna Goldentul’s colorful and alluring costume design, brought the whole production together. The lighting sparked the imagination and dream-like aspect of the gods. It was most notable during Erzulie’s (Krisit Papailler) “The Human Heart” as she sings and watches over Ti Moune and Daniel’s love blossom.
A definite must-see for the music, visuals, actors and plot. “Once on This Island” was an impressive production and should be applauded for its outcome. It was a great fairy-tale adaption entangled with excitement and bittersweet components.
Photo courtesy of louisville.edu