Once On This Island ★★★★ Regent's Park Open Air Theatre | May 10 - Jun 10, 2023

Once On This Island opens with a young girl being told the legend of Ti Moune whose tragic story ends with the triumph of love over the class and racial divisions on an island known as the Jewel of the Antilles. From the time of the French occupation, the island has been cursed by a separation between the upper class descendants of the occupiers and the lower class residents on the other side of the island. The narrative is an updating of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid and this version does a fine job maintaining the charm and wistful mood of the original. As Ti Moune, Gabrielle Brooks manages to embody the vulnerability and hopefulness of the waif-like heroine on a quest to prove the power of love, and she demonstrates a strong voice in songs like "Waiting For Life" and "Forever Yours." While on her journey Ti Moune is watched over by the four spirits: Ashley Samuels as Agwe, god of water, Lejaun Sheppard as Papa Ge, demon of death, Anelisa Lamola as Asaka, mother of the earth and Emilie Louise Israel as Erzulie, god of love. All four create wonderfully individual characters and we loved their musical numbers: "Rain," "Mama Will Provide" and "The Human Heart." Indeed, the music of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens' book and lyrics cleverly transform Andersen's tale giving a terrific Caribbean rhythm and heart to the show. Ti Moune's legend is a celebration of the triumph of love over death and division. The story is told to inspire the young inhabitants of the island, and this production beautifully captures both the fairy tale atmosphere and uplifting message. From the opening "We Dance" to the concluding "Why We Tell The Story," this is a simply enchanting production.

Rated: ★★★★

Reviewed by J.C.
Photo by Marc Brenner.

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