I have been excitingly waiting to see the touring production of Once on This Island since the Hershey Theatre announced it was part of their 2019/20 season. I am a huge fan of this musical. I saw it twice on Broadway, the score by Ahrens and Flaherty is exquisite and it is such a beautiful and hopeful story. I was curious to see how the tour of the show would translate from the Broadway production and I am pleased to say that the touring production is just as exquisite. The touring production of Once on This Island did not disappoint – it is beautiful and stunning, and there are moments in the show that took my breath away. However, what I love most about the show is the positivity the show inspires through the storytelling, performances and wonderful direction by Michael Arden.
Once On This Island immerses the audience in the sights and sounds of island life that lead you to as if you are in this magical place. There are a number of incredible effects during the show that are unexpected and wondrous. I do not want to provide too much detail because I do not want to take away from the experience, but I will simply say that there are moments in the show that are breathtaking.
If you are not familiar with the story of Once on This Island it is about a young peasant girl, Ti Moune, who is bravely trying to find her place in the world. As she is guided by the Island gods, Ti Moune sets out on a journey to reunite with the person who has captured her heart. It is a touching story that definitely captures the heart of the audiences. In addition, the score is by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and the music beautifully captures the magnificence of the story told in Once on This Island.
The cast of this production is fantastic, as they are a powerful group of actors who bring this story to life. The night I was in attendance Ti Moune was played by Savy Jackson. Jackson was incredible in this role as she skillfully portrayed the determination and passion of her character. Her rendition of “Waiting For Life” was strong and zealous as was her dancing in the number “Ti Moune’s Dance,” which is choreographer by Camille A. Brown. Playing Ti Moune’s adoptive parents, Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian, are Danielle Lee Greaves and Phillip Boykin. These two are phenomenal in their roles from the time they enter the stage and perform “One Small Girl” until the end of the show with the song “A Part of Us.” What I liked most about Greaves and Boykin’s performances is the humanity they bring to their characters. They infuse the story with joy and merriment as well as heartache and anguish. It was as if I personally felt their range of emotions throughout the show. Daniel, the dashing young man that is the object of Ti Moune’s affections is played by Tyler Hardwick. Hardwick is charming and gives an enchanting performance with the song, “Some Girls.” The Island gods in the show are played by Kyle Ramar Freeman, Tamyra Gray, Cassondra James and Jahmaul Bakare. Jahmaul Bakare plays Agwe, the god of water. Bakare gives an outstanding performance and his rendition of the song “Rain” is dynamic. Cassondra James portrays Erzulie, the god of love. James is flawless in this role as she brings the essence of light and love to the stage. I have always loved the song, “The Human Heart,” and seeing James’s performance of this song was exquisite and it brought me to tears. Playing the god of death, Papa Ge, is Tamyra Gray. Gray brings out the power and darkness of the god without making the character too frightening or bleak. Also, she is impressive in her number, “Forever Yours.” Rounding out the gods is Kyle Ramar Freeman who plays Asaka, Mother of the Earth. Freeman is bold as Asaka and definitely makes the role his own. Freeman gives an energetic performance of “Mama Will Provide.” It is such a fun and lively number and one of the best numbers in the show. There are so many aspects [of] and performances in this production of Once on This Island that make it such an unforgettable show. However, what [so captivates my thoughts are the passion and determination of the characters. It is such a magnificent production that I feel people will be talking about for a long time to come.
Do not miss this incredible production of Once on This Island at the Hershey Theatre. The show will be there through December 8, 2019. For more information and tickets please visit the Hershey Theatre website, www.hersheyentertainment.com/hershey-theatre.
Final Thought: Once On This Island expresses the human heart on stage. The production is inventive, gorgeous and stunning to watch. Under the direction of Michael Arden, this show offers a unique experience. In addition, this cast is remarkable. They each infuse their characters with life and they all give performances that are memorable and touch the heart. I highly recommend you go see this extraordinary showas it will warm your heart, and I assure you that you will regret missing it.
Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for theatresensation.com. She has maintained a love of the performing arts since a very early age and she is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.