A revival of the 1990 Broadway musical "Once On This Island" opened Sunday night at Circle in the Square Theatre. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
Theatre-in-the-round is always a big challenge to stage, but the dazzling revival of "Once On This Island," currently ensconced in the Circle in the Square Theatre, feels right at home — and long may it live.
The show that first graced Broadway in 1990 is back in a production that comes to life in a burst of creative energy courtesy director Michael Arden. His staging of the vibrant musical written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty sprawls with abandon across the entire playing space, up the aisles, and along the back walls.
The audience is immersed in the island story of a young peasant girl orphaned in a hurricane and taken in by an aging couple.
It's a Haitian folk tale about a population divided by race and privilege. The two worlds meet when Ti Moune, young and naive, falls instantly for a young man from the other side of the island who's mortally injured in a car crash. The gods, who rule the peasants, make a wager, pitting the powers of love and death.
Arden's vision weaves together island culture, the have-nots and the haves, with remarkably inventive artistry. From the set, complete with a body of water, to the phenomenal ensemble, every piece of this production pulses with an organic exuberance that's impossible to resist.
And if the story-telling gets a bit muddled, just let that wonderful score carry you away with its mix of gentle rhythms and pulsing beats.
I can't say enough about the cast. Everyone contributes mightily with multitudes of talent. Lea Salonga always delivers something special. Merle Dandridge stands out as the demonic god of death, and Hailey Kilgore is in a category all to herself; with a voice gifted by the gods and a glorious stage presence, Broadway has its newest star!
"Once On This Island" is exhilarating theatre. Once you enter that sacred space, it will wash over you with the power of the ocean and the embrace of an island breeze.