Evelyn @ 'Once on This Island' - an island of calypso wonder

What’s it about?

The love story of a peasant girl named Ti Moune and a rich grand homme named Daniel in a world separated by class, natural disasters and temperamental gods.

My experience.

Out of the blustery NYC winter and into the summer heat of the Jewel of the Antilles — that’s what walking into Once on This Island felt like. I had been wanting to go to this show since the beginning of September and finally had the time (and the money, lol) to attend. I was so excited that one of my idols, Lea Salonga, had returned to reprise her role as Erzulie for the end of the show’s run :)

I walked into the theatre with my brother in tow and prepared for an amazing show. Because I had done research on this musical for a paper, I knew the entire plot by heart and thus wouldn’t be as surprised by the ending as other people.

The musical has a calypso-inspired score, however, I would say that this show definitely draws more from its musical theatre roots. The production design uses strewn-about trash to mimic the setting of an island after a hurricane, both within its set as well as for makeshift instruments. As a fan of using random objects as percussion instruments, I absolutely loved it. Using the pieces of trash to make up bigger set pieces was awesome. The use of props and the set in “Rain” was definitely my favorite moment — to me, it was just as jaw-dropping as the helicopter scene in Miss Saigon.

I’m very nitpicky about musicals, especially when it comes to the musical talent (I am a music student), and this show blew my expectations right out of the water (or, in this case, makeshift river). Each member of the cast, from leads to ensemble, were vocal powerhouses. Both my brother and I joked with them at the stage door about how raw their vocal cords must be at the end of every week. I have a newfound love for a lot of the solo numbers after watching this show, especially “Ti Moune’s Dance” and “Rain.” The whole score was honestly a BOP (except for “Some Girls,” which honestly feels like the modern-day equivalent of “but you’re not a ho”).

The only issue I really had was with the ending. Now, I won’t spoil it because you should experience it for yourself rather than read an account of it, so I’ll be brief.

The show establishes an Odyssey-like storytelling style with a beloved heroine, yet, with the very last song, “Why We Tell This Story,” it's almost as if this whole mood is erased. Walking away from the theatre, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the ending or the fact that this whole story is being passed down. Are we to learn from this story and heed caution? It feels almost as if there should be a moral to this musical, yet there appears to be none. If there is, is this really the kind of moral we should be endorsing? Aside from that, I was honestly just absolutely blown away by the entire show.

Now Closed. But we gotchu!

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