Friday, August 20, 2010

Once on this Island at Marriott Theatre

Playing at the Marriott Theatre is a extraordinary production of Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty Tony Nominated musical "Once on this Island." The show is based on the wonderful book "My Love, Love" by Rosa Guy, which I had to track down at an old musty used book store because it is out of print. The one-act musical is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid that's set in the French Antilles in the Caribbean Sea and as a subtle hint of race relations. The show also includes elements of the Romeo and Juliet story.

The story unfolds as one stormy night, four storytellers tell her the story of a girl. Ti Moune, a peasant girl who falls in love with a grand homme, Daniel Beauxhomme. A story of life, pain, love, grief, faith, and hope.

In this story, four gods (Asaka, Mother of the Earth; Agwé, god of Water; Erzulie, goddess of Love; and Papa Ge, Demon of Death) rule an island, the Jewel of the Antilles, which in real life is Haiti, where poor Peasants worship them (Prologue/"We Dance"). One day, Agwe unleashes a terrible storm upon the island, which in turn causes a disastrous flood, wiping out many villages. However, the gods save the life of little Ti Moune, an orphan, by placing her in a tree, above the flood's waves. She is found and subsequently adopted by the peasants Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian ("One Small Girl"). The peasants, "black as night", live on one side of the island, and the Grandes Hommes, lighter skinned descendants of the original French planters and their slaves, live on the other.

Years later, Ti Moune, now a grown woman prays to the gods to let her explore what outside her village ("Waiting for Life"). Hearing her plea, the Gods laugh at her. However, the gods decided to have a little fun with her. Erzulie says to give her love, because it is stronger than any of the other elements. Papa Ge, offended, bets to prove which is stronger: love or death. Agwe arranges for the car of Daniel Beauxhomme, a young Grande Homme, to crash his car during a storm which Ti Moune meets Daniel and restores him to health ("And The Gods Heard Her Prayer/Rain"). Despite the objections of the other peasants, including her own parents, Ti Moune helps the intruder (Daniel) recover ("Pray") while they both fall in love with each other. When Papa Ge comes to claim his reward and take Daniel's life, Ti Moune offers her life in exchange for Daniel's so that he will not die ("Forever Yours"). Papa Ge is angry but leaves, hinting he will return – sooner or later, as her life now belongs to him.

Ti Moune is tearfully separated from Daniel and tells her parents that she will go after Daniel to marry him. Ti Moune's parents reluctantly let her go ("Ti Moune"). During her travels, she encounters the goddess Asaka, who tells her not to fear, as the Earth will give her everything she needs on her journey to Daniel ("Mama Will Provide"). On the other side of her journeys she reaches the other side of the island, gossips comment on the kind of journey it must have been ("Some Say"). Ti Moune finds Daniel's bed, where he is lying ill. Daniel does not remember her until she tells Daniel about the scar on Daniel's chest. As she lies with Daniel, Erzulie sings over them ("Human Heart"). Daniel ignores the townspeople's gossiping ("Pray" - Reprise) over the unlikely relationship of a rich Beauxhomme and a poor peasant. Daniel knows that Ti Moune is different from other girls like the rich French ("Some Girls").

At a ball held at the hotel, Ti Moune is confronted by Daniel Beauxhomme and Andrea Deveraux, a daughter of family friends. Andrea asks Ti Moune to dance for them (her ulterior motive is to see if Ti Moune is really in love with Daniel and make her look bad in front of the Grand Hommes). Daniel encourages her to dance as she has in the past for him ("Ti Moune's Dance"). Afterwards, Ti Moune learns that Daniel is engaged to be married to Andrea ("Andrea Sequence"). Daniel, reminded of his responsibilities, must go through with the arranged marriage. Ti Moune is very hurt. Papa Ge reappears and reminds Ti Moune of her promise to exchange her life for Daniel's – but says she can revoke the bargain and encourages her to kill Daniel, just as Daniel has killed their love and marriage (Promises/Forever Yours Reprise). Ti Moune enters Daniel's room with a knife, as he sleeps, but, strengthened by Erzulie and we will leave it there. Well I want you to see this production. I've seen many, many shows at Marriott and this has to be included with at least the top five productions that I've ever seen.

Part of the credit had to go to David H Bell. Who was able to craft a well told fable that made you care and feel something or all the characters. He also used someone wonderful clothes techniques that felt like is was a separation for the inside of the wealth to the outside. I though Patti Garwood was able to provide enchanting music while keeping up with the tricky rhythms of this music. As for the sets I thought they did some interesting things with pulling out the clothe to signify the party though I think that gate was a left of from their production of "Les Miseravles."

As for the performances Chaten Harmon as Ti Moune captured all the joy, pain, sadness, and most important hope that I hadn't seen before. I've seen several productions of this show and she is by far the single best Ti Mourne I ever saw. She had a voice that could cut there anything and she played her character as she was living it. If there is any justice (even though I gave up that a LONG time ago when the Jeff's passed awards) I think she should receive a Jeff Award for this. I thought Brandon Koller was up to the chance of supporting her. He was good the only problem was you didn't feel like he was torn between his two loves. I thought all of the gods were spectacular though they could have really done without the left over costumes from "Snow White" as it was distracting. I thought it was a wonderful yet subtle way for Daniel to dress both Ti Moune & Andrea is the same part dress to add suspense.

Overall I thought it was such a wonderful production if you get a chance please go see it I'm considering goingagiam and I've herd rhat Face Book has special deals for closing weekend so go back for a second stime.


No comments: