“Once On This Island” feeds the soul at TheatreWorks
The first thing you’ll notice upon entering the Lucie Stern Theater is the beautiful stage decoration. Even the wall lights have been turned into overflowing fern pots. You are immediately immersed in a rainbow of rich island colors and no detail is left out. Sit down and get ready for a joyous 95 minute trip to the Caribbean.
Once On This Island tells a story of the people of Haiti, the “jewel of the Antilles.” After a terrible storm, a little girl is very afraid and the island people tell her a story to cheer her up. What follows is a magical, mythical fairytale set to bouncing happy music and tremendously invigorating dancing. It is the story of little orphaned Ti Moune (Salisha Thomas), blessed and cursed by the gods, who struggles to discover her place in the world and the meaning of her life. We are taken for the ride with her, meeting island gods, learning some of the French history of Haiti, and discovering the magic of music and dance. It’s a story of racism, classism and humanism. The cast is made up of beautiful, talented actors whose skin tones range from the darkest chocolate to the brightest cream, and that is integral to the story. It is a true ensemble cast, with no player more or less important the another, and they each bring something so special, individual and important to the story.
The stage is amazing, and the props, costumes and hair are equally fantastic. The flood is an aquatic beauty, the rain dance is a visual masterpiece, the set lighting is deep and saturated, and the costumes… well, I need one of those frog hats. Hair ranges from natural beauty to the most handsome braids, and it’s all very impressive.
But the magic is in the music, singing and dancing. We are treated to soaring ballads of love and loss, and joyous songs that make you want to jump out of your seat and move. At one point there is a graceful ballet, and then it is replaced by a soulful island dance of life and spirit, and you suddenly realize the island dance is the one you want to perform, every day and every night, for the rest of your life.
It’s a visual treat, it’s medicine for the soul, it makes you happy to be alive. And it will make you want to go home and dance, and dance, and dance.