BWW Review: Stunning ONCE ON THIS ISLAND at Victoria Theatre Association's Schuster Center
Go. Now. Pick up the phone or your computer and get your tickets to see one of the five remaining performances of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND at the Schuster Center.
Only the second stop on this national tour, this production of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, includes several cast members straight from the Broadway production. Written by musical theatre powerhouses Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, the show just recently closed a very popular run on Broadway, where it was staged in the round with audience members intimately positioned around the action. This production reimagined for the traditional proscenium theatres, stages the show such that there are still audience members on stage, if you purchase the $25 stage tickets (if there are any left). I was not on the stage but still felt the intimacy of the production as the story was being told. More than just a show I was watching, I was transported to the French Antilles and taken on an amazing journey as the story was being told. I don't want to give away too many details about the story. You really need to experience it for yourself.
All of the actors were tremendous but there were a few that really stood out for me. Tamyra Gray (Papa Ge) was truly stunning. I couldn't get enough of her and looked forward to her every appearance. Courtnee Carter was mesmerizing as the young lady at the heart of the story Ti Moune. Just her presence on stage commanded your attention and her performance was flawless. I was also impressed by the Little Girl, played by Mimi Crossland, on opening night. She was fearless and fun and held her own with all of the adults. Often small children in shows are after thoughts and not part of the story from beginning to end. Philip Boykin was heartwarming as Tonton Julian. His love for his child, Ti Moune, was palpable and endearing. Kyle Ramar Freeman (Asaka) was fun and bigger than life with some great vocals, particularly on "Mama Will Provide".
All of the technical elements were also right on the money. Director Michael Arden's work took great material and made it better with the staging. The sounds, the lights, the costumes and the set (Peter Hylenski, Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, Clint Ramos, and Dane Laffrey, respectively) were stunning. Each element enhanced the next and made the experience richer. Choreographer Camille Brown made the most of set and the dancing was lively, spirited and joyful.
Five performances remain this weekend. Do yourself the biggest favor you can do this year and get yourself a ticket. And one for a friend. And your Mom. Call 937-228-3630 or go to www.ticketcenterstage.com. You won't regret it.