Once on This Island – Review by Marlene S. Gaylinn

The original Broadway musical, “Once on this Island,” book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens with music by Stephen Flaherty, is set on a “once” French island in the Caribbean. These independent islands were “once” strictly divided by class and color. Now, some of these territories, Haiti, for example, are divided by class, instability and violent gangs.

The musical contains elements of Voodoo, which is a combination of African and Christian beliefs. Since dancing is a major part of Voodoo, at Summer Theatre of New Canaan (STONC), the exciting dancing of this lively show is choreographed by Tony Award winner, George Faison, who also directs the acting. The live music is directed by Damian Sneed, and the annual STONC productions, presented by Melody Libonati, take place under a tent at Waveny Park in New Canaan. This year, the entire audience is seated outdoors.

This mythical musical can be hard to follow unless you pay strict attention. It would be helpful to know in advance which gods control the individual elements that take place on Earth. These gods are also dressed in special costumes and colors – with yellow reserved for the more powerful.

In short, mythical, black gods get involved with humans and for their own amusement, bet among themselves whether love is stronger than death.

Baby orphan, “Ti Moune” (delightfully played and sung by Zurin Villanueva”) who comes from a very poor section of the island, and is selected by the gods to fall in love with “Daniel,” (a handsome, sensitive Xavier McKinnon) who comes from the forbidden, white section of town. How all this comes about, and which gods win the bet, is for the audience to discover.

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