Once On This Island The Musical on Granville Island

“The Godsquad” L-R: Yoo Ra Kang, Ricardo Pequenino, Alexandra Quispe, Sari Rosofsky
Photo: Tina Clelland

From Broadway to Granville Island, Once On This Island is now playing at Red Gate Review Stage.  The award winning musical, currently in a revival on Broadway, is making its Vancouver debut with Fabulist Theatre.

With book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and, music by Stephen Flaherty, Once On This Island is based on Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel My Love, My Love: or, The Peasant Girl.  Based in the French Antilles, the story is a tropical take on The Little Mermaid with a touch of Romeo and Juliet added to the tale.

Once On This Island: Michael Gnansounou and Brianna Clark
Photo: Tina Clellan

Once On This Island tells the story orphan peasant girl Ti Mourne, one of the villagers who worship the island’s four gods; earth, water, love & death. The gods are looked upon for guidance while they control life, love and death.  On the other side of the island the wealthy French grands hommes look down upon the peasants but Ti Mourne finds love and plans to unite the island with her love of Daniel Beauxhomme, the son of a grands homme who crashes his car near Ti Mourne’s village during a rainstorm.

A lively score and a mix of energetic and soulful island ballads fill the musical with a tropical feeling.  In this ambitious Fabulist Theatre production, directed by Damon Bradley Jang, has cast Brianna Clark as Ti Mourne.  The high school student is a standout amongst the large cast, possessing a charismatic, lovely voice and lights up the stage with her smile. In his stage debut, Michael Gnansounou makes a charming leading man as Daniel Beauxhomme.

The limitations of the smaller review stage created congestion onstage with the sets and large cast taking up precious space, resulting in ensemble members bumping into each other during the dance numbers and some rather clumsy looking scenery changes.  The size of the theatre also plays a hand in some of the other technical issues, the band sounds amazing but overwhelms the vocals a number of times, making the story hard to follow.  A few actors’ microphones slipped out of place as well making them only audible for those nearby.  In spite of those technical difficulties, which will surely be worked out over the run of the show, Fabulist Theatre presents an uplifting, sunny look at culture clashes, diversity, love and death.

Fabulist Theatre’s Once On This Island plays at the Red Gate Review Stage April 12, 13 & 14, 2018.  Tickets are available on brownpapertickets.com.

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