Once On This Island
Book and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flahtery
Directed by Wade Hair
Musical Direction by Justin Scarlat
Starring Saige Love, Thomas Rivera and Jessica Barreto
Breakthrough Theatre, Winter Park FL
One small girl, one large island. Young Ti Moune (Sara Rintoul) washed up in a tree after a hurricane; Mommy and Daddy were taken by the water god Aqwe (Gilberto Rivera). She’s alone and hungry, but kindly Tonton Julian (Damany O. Riley) and Mama Euraile (Barreto) adopt her and raise her (Love) into a self sufficent, responsible and starry eyed young woman . One day a rich young Daniel (Rivera) wrecks his car in her front yard and is near death. Tonton and Mama and their friends fear helping him lest he die in their care and the wrath of old plantation money strike them down. But Ti Moune nurse him back to health, chases him to the big city, and like all poor country girls gets a bad deal from the rich city slickers. But she’s really in love and so she gets her revenge, although its bit more symbolic than what you’d expect in a great romance.
While the story is well constructed and executed with care, it’s the singing that makes this a worthwhile view. Director Hair crams 15 people on the stage tonight; they stay in constant motion and never trip over each other although I don’t see how. Ms. Love has a lovely voice; she really sparkled on “Pray” and showed true pathos in the dance number “The Ball”. Daniel had that earthy look leading ladies all fall for; his big number “Some Girls” stands out both for his voice and his playboy attitude. There was a 4 pack of gods in stage, beside the deep blue Agwe there were gods of Earth (YaDonna Russell), Love (Shannon N Davos) and a creepy god of death (Scarlat).No good love story is complete without a joker influenced god of death.
While Ti Moune lived in a fairy tale world bereft of supernatural powers and superstitions, she is always grounded and does the right thing in the face of rejection and contrary advice. The location of this story is unclear but I’m guessing modern day Haiti fits the French accent, dividing poverty and the long walk Ti Moune had to endure as she chased her reluctant lover. There’s just enough knowing dialog to let the parent know this is a real relation, but it’s so subtle little kids won’t catch it and teenagers will see themselves without getting any ideas they don’t already have. This show is a low key but fulfilling evening of love and rejection, song and dance and some pretty cool face painting.
For more information, please visit http://www.breakthroughtheatre.com or look them up on Facebook.