musical

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.

“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.

A Bronx Tale at Straz Center

This week I got a special treat as part of a partnership between Tampa Bay Bloggers and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, Florida. I received two tickets to see “A Bronx Tale” in exchange for this post.

“A Bronx Tale” started their national tour in fall 2018 and is currently in Tampa, Florida. But get your tickets fast! The show is only in town through February 3!

(And I know February sounds like it’s a long way off, but it’s tomorrow…)

The show’s book is an autobiographical tale by Academy Award nominee Chazz Palminteri (who has been in over 55 movies, so you know him from something), with music by Oscar, Grammy, and Tony Award winner Alan Menken (As in Disney’s Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, Aladdin, Little Shop of Horrors, Enchanted, etc…) and lyrics by Grammy Award winner and Oscar and Tony Award nominee Glenn Slater, directed by two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro (you know who he is!) and four-time Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks, with choreography by Tony nominee Sergio Trujillo.

I believe this was my first time going into a Straz show without knowing anything about the production, nor having seen the film. It was just date night with my husband and anything could happen. So imagine our surprise when this guy’s tale about being raised by a loving family in the home and the MOB outside the home told one of OUR stories in the middle of it!

The lead character, C, based on Chazz Palminteri, is told if he picks up a girl in a car and opens the door for her, she should unlock his door from the inside while he walks around to his side of the car – or she’s too selfish to bother with. Brian totally tested me that way on a date 22+ years ago! When we first started dating he was in college living in a dorm without a car, and I drove us around in my mom’s Toyota Camry, which had power locks. But when he was home on spring break or summer break, he’d have his dad’s car (Bessie) and she did not have power locks. So he used that test on me the first time he picked me up in the burgundy Pontiac.

“A Bronx Tale” is full of real life stuff like that – only the guy had mob ties, so for him that was also part of real life stuff. But so was learning about following his heart and passion from his dad, and standing up for what he believed in when he went against the status quo – natural parts of many lives.

The song was touching at many moments, racially charged, funny, relatable, shocking and sad at other moments. The singing ties everything together, although the dancing is athletic and wonderful when it pops up!

“A Bronx Tale” started as a one-man show, so this musical adaptation is guided heavily by C’s narration. This let’s audiences frequently know what was going on in his head. It is set in the 1960s, so the score is heavy on doo-wop style music. The show reminded me more of “Jersey Boys” than of my own time living in New York City because of the period it was set in. There are a couple of video clips on the backstory on the Straz’s website. You can also see more on the show’s YouTube channel, I like this one highlighting the kid who kicks off the production with chops. Frankie Leoni was great as young C, and another standout singer was Richard H. Blake as Lorenzo, C’s father.

I really did laugh and cry, I also was shocked into gasping a couple of times. It may not stick with me forever, but it was entertaining for a great date night! I found it very interesting that Oprah and Deepak Chopra taught me lessons about how to follow love vs. fear, but I could have learned that while watching “A Bronx Tale” in a plush velvet seat in Carol Morsani Hall for $65+ right here in Tampa!

Get tickets while the show is still around on the Straz’s website, here.

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