broadway

Wonder of Storytelling: Once on this Island

The award-winning Broadway musical Once on this Island is currently at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida. I was so excited to see that this show was coming to a nearby stage! I had seen clips of the show performed during the Tony Awards and I believe during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and thought it looked like it was full of characters to fall in love with. But the last time I was in NYC and ready to buy tickets, the show had already closed. Luckily Once on this Island is now on a North American tour! I was offered 2 tickets by Tampa Bay Bloggers through their partnership with the Straz Center in exchange for this post with my honest opinion about the show.

There is an island where rivers run deep
Where the sea sparkling in the sun earns it
The name “Jewel of the Antilles.”

Once On This Island is a one-act musical with a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty (the duo behind Ragtime and Anastasia). Based on the novel My Love, My Love or The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy, it was nominated for nine 2018 Tony Awards, winning for Best Revival of a Musical. (Revival because it originally opened in 1990.)

Once on this island tampa, florida

In the show, a storm is raging against an island and a child is scared. To keep her entertained, and to learn from the experience, villagers tell a story from the points of view of Erzulie, Asaka, Papa Ge, and Agwe – the Gods of love, earth, death (played by Tamyra Gray) and water.

The tale is of Ti Moune (pronounced ‘tea moon’), a Caribbean island peasant girl who falls in love with an upper class guy. She has to choose her own path while the Gods look down on her and follow her behavior. The songs are about love, life, prayer, family, racial struggles and more. In some ways her story has been compared to The Little Mermaid. There have been connections made to Romeo and Juliet as well.

This show is solidified by buoyant island music and infectious dancing. The vocals are brilliant. I laughed, cried and danced to the wonderful storytelling during the show.

The performance includes a small section of on-stage seating, inviting a select group of audience members to put their feet in the sand of the island. Tickets are on sale now and the show only runs through November 24. It is a 90-minute one-act show with no intermissions. Get a taste on the show’s Instagram account, here. There is also a video clip on the Straz Center website.

Rock of Ages now in Tampa

The 10th Anniversary tour of the ’80s rock show “Rock of Ages” is playing June 11 – 15, 2019, at the Straz Center in Tampa, Florida. You may have seen the movie with Julianne Hough, Alec Baldwin and Tom Cruise, but the Broadway show came first! It’s a boy meets girl story that takes place on L.A.’s Sunset Strip in the late ’80s and is sprinkled with ’80s rock tunes and ballads you’ll want to sing along with from your seat.

I love that the show doesn’t take itself seriously, it ain’t nothing but a good time. Bands featured include Whitesnake, Pat Benatar, Poison, Journey, Starship and REO Speedwagon – among others. The story is light, humorous and shallow, and it’s OK to sing and clap along. You may find jazz hands are encouraged. It’s not quite as boisterous as a rock concert – this is the Straz after all – but most of the audience is over 45 anyway, so they have some decorum.

This is a restaging of the show, so if you have seen it before don’t expect the same production. The set is multi-leveled, and concert road boxes are used in fun ways – making rooms pop up out of nowhere. And then there’s the bathroom scene…

Feel free to come in costume or your old Bon Jovi concert T-Shirt with a leather mini skirt. There’s a lot of 80s cosplay going on in the audience.

The singing in this production is fantastic! Every side character seems to be able to belt to the hills. I was especially astonished by the voice on Kristina Walz as Regina and the hysterical performance by Sam Harvey.

Sam Harvey as Stacee Jaxx i Rock of ages, tampa, Florida
He’s a cowboy, on a steel horse he rides…

My only warnings for you are that there is adult language and strobe lights – but, like, whatever. The only thing I would have changed was Sherrie’s wig.

And because I know you want it, here’s a video montage of the show so you can see and hear for yourself:

Get your tickets today! Prices start at $25.

Are YOU ready to rock??!

Thank you Straz Center and Tampa Bay Bloggers for #hosting me at this show. I received 2 free tickets in exchange for my opinion.

“Come From Away” now in Tampa, Florida

Thanks to a wonderful partnership between the Tampa Bay Bloggers and the David A. Straz, Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, I receive two free tickets to see “Come From Away.” All opinions are my own.

Raffi and Brian at Straz Center

Last night my husband and I enjoyed watching the opening night of “Come From Away” in Tampa, Florida. The show opened on Broadway in March 2017 and has been performing to standing-room-only audiences. The North American tour of Broadway’s Come From Away started in October 2018. The heartwarming production is full of true stories and human emotion.

“Come From Away” is a musical about events immediately following 9/11. Many planes in flight were diverted for safety purposes to a small town in the province of Newfoundland, Canada. Thousands of people nearly doubled the population of the town, and while scared and confused needed places to eat, sleep, mourn, etc.

Map of USA and Newfoundland

I first heard of the show last year when the Straz Center had a preview night of their upcoming Broadway season. We were lucky enough to be treated to a song from the show sung from the perspective of Beverly Bass, an American Airlines Pilot who really lived through these moments. Beverly was the third female pilot hired by a major commercial airline in American history. She was the captain of the first all-female crew in aviation history. Not only did we witness a spectacular Broadway rendition of the song, but Beverly Bass actually came on stage and introduced herself and the show. When she was asked to divert her landing to Gander, Newfoundland – she didn’t know why. She wasn’t watching TV footage of the Twin Towers like many of us, she was busy flying a plane full of people from Paris to Texas.

Come from away cast singing

The show focuses on stories like these – the people who were stranded and the compassion (and sometimes lack thereof) shown to them. It has simple sets of mis-matched chairs and tables you might find in a thrift store, fast-paced music with some Irish rock influences, and a cast of average, middle-aged people who might live right next door to you.

I love that the show started with the number “Welcome to the Rock.” (The rock being their island.) It was upbeat and catchy and apropos to greet audiences with the actual word WELCOME. I liked the particular verbiage, such as calling the thousands of passengers “plane people” and the locals “islanders.” I laughed and cried and danced in my seat (and on my feet during the curtain call.)

This show is 100 minutes with no intermission. It is recommended for ages 10 and older. At the 71st Tony Awards, it was nominated for 7 awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actress in a Musical, ultimately winning for Best Direction of a Musical for Christopher Ashley. 

It is only showing in Tampa through June 9, 2019! Get your tickets here. Watch a quick montage here.

View more photos on the show’s Facebook page here.

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