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.)
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.