ONCE ON THIS ISLAND: CELEBRATING TOGETHERNESS
REVIEW: ONCE ON THIS ISLAND
BY RYAN LUÉVANO
The musical Once on this Island may not be a household name like West Side Story or Wicked, however this show, with a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, takes audiences to an exotic island in the Caribbean boasting messages of goodwill and peace. The musical is based on the 1985 novel My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy and follows the story of a young girl who proves that love can bring anyone together, even two distant social classes.
Given that Once on this Island is set in the islands of the Caribbean, audiences immediately look forward to experiencing all the unique characteristics of another culture. 3D Theatricals maximizes these exotic opportunities and highlights them in all the visual elements that keep our eyes ogling throughout.
What immediately stands out are the colorful and free flowing costumes by Nephi Garcia—bold colors and textures that suit each character perfectly. The chorography by Yusuf Nasir moves well in the vibrant costumes, adding a suburb visual element which brings dimension and culture to the experience. In numbers such as “We Dance”, “Pray”, “Mamma Will Provide”, and “Why We Tell the Story” Nasir blends modern and African dance styles to tell the story and communicate with the audience on a level that is so inherent to the culture from which it seeks to emulate. The set design, in tandem with the projections, fully transports audiences to the island—rainstorm, starry nights, and fireflies make their way to the stage in the most eloquent depictions.
Stephen Flaherty’s rhythmic and Caribbean-esque score is beautifully expressed by the impressive voices that make up this cast. Although the musical has some solo and duets, the heart of the score are the vocals from the storytellers who often act as a Greek chorus singing in many numbers—glorious voices all around. The lead in the show, Ti Moune (Leah Stewart), is a powerful force of nature, strong acting, singing and a mesmerizing solo dance that is captivating. Dominique Kent (Asaka, Mother of Earth) gives us a robust and moving rendition of “Mama Will Provide” that will give you chills.
Director Rufus Bonds Jr.‘s staging is intriguing and smart—a creative blend of traditional and contemporary devices. The largest element is a giant rotating turntable employed for many scenes in a way that’s enchanting and surprisingly unobtrusive. His charming staging in “The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes” uses Commedia dell’arte devices combined with projections and animations to tell this story—impressive and alluring.
WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC DIRECTOR?
Music director Corey Hirsch magnificently leads the shows from the keyboard, getting a big sound out of the 6-piece orchestra. The voices and the orchestra work well together while constantly responding to each other, especially in the dance sequences.
3D Theatricals continues it’s run of Once on this Island at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts where the show is given a vivid and stirring presentation that is perfect for the whole family.
CERRITOS CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS: 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos, CA 90703
Parking: Complimentary parking adjacent to the theatre.
Performance Dates and Times:
Thursday, March 2 at 7:30 pm
Friday, March 3 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, March 4 at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm
Sunday, March 5 at 2:00 pm