Review: ONCE ON THIS ISLAND at Blackfriars Theatre

Now through April 8th

Review: CINDERELLA at Geva Theatre

While Rochester may still be immersed in the cold and blustery late-winter climate, one need only head to East Main Street for reprieve, as Blackfriars Theatre's "Once on this Island" will transport you to the warm tropics of the Caribbean and tell the story of love, resilience, and the spirit of hope.

"Once on this Island", with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, debuted on Broadway in 1990 and is based on the 1985 novel "My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl" by Rosa Guy, a Caribbean-set retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale The Little Mermaid. From Stage Agent: "Once on this Island" is the story of the peasant girl Ti Moune (Daniyah Jezel), an orphan chosen by the Gods who is taken into a simple and loving family; though content, she feels like she was destined for something more. After a terrible accident caused by a wicked storm, Ti Moune falls for a handsome, ailing stranger named Daniel (Ian Cannioto) whom she tries desperately to nurse back to health. She bargains with the Gods for his life, but to do so she must make the ultimate sacrifice. This sets our young peasant girl on the ultimate quest to answer the age-old question, can love conquer death?"

OOTI is no easy undertaking. While fun and energetic throughout, it also tackles themes of colonialism and class. It calls for a very large ensemble cast featuring almost entirely BIPOC performers of all ages, and with a runtime of only 95 minutes and no intermission, it moves with a lightning-fast pace. Blackfriars is well up to the task, pulling together a cast featuring familiar faces as well as folks new to the BT stage, all of whom shine individually and collectively. Special shoutout to Alvis Green, Jr. (Asaka), a familiar face to Rochester theatregoers whose Asaka is funny, radiant, and energetic.

By far the most vibrant and riveting aspect of Blackfriars' OOTI is the choreography, under the direction of Jayme Bermudez, Assistant Artistic Director of Borinquen Dance Theater who also serves as a cultural consultant on the production. Dance is such a pivotal component of this show, as it's infused from top to bottom with the movement, sights and sounds of the Caribbean. Bermudez brings authenticity and island flair to OOTI.

Blackfriars' production of "Once on this Island" is colorful and full of life, and is playing until April 8th; for tickets and more information, Click Here.

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From This Author - Colin Fleming-Stumpf

Colin Fleming-Stumpf is a lover of all things theatre and performing arts. A native of Rochester, Colin has acted on stages across Western New York and is active in the local theatre community as a pe... (read more about this author)


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