Once on This Island

This is a production that truly deserved its opening-night standing ovation. This beautifully simple 90-minute musical, composed by Stephen Flaherty with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, eschews the popular mechanics that seem more important than performances in most Broadway musical fare. Instead, director Billy Porter and choreographer Bradley Rapier count on their brilliant cast to provide powerful singing, gorgeous dance and emotion-packed athleticism. Based on the novel by Rosa Guy (a young product of the Harlem Rennaissance) the story follows the plight of Ti Moune (Kristolyn Lloyd), a dark-skinned peasant in the French Antilles, who rescues noble mulatto Daniell (Jesse Nager), who’s half-descended from the island’s now-departed colonists. Taking its cue from The Little Mermaid, the musical has Ti Moune ingratiate herself into the ruling class with tragic results. The cast’s topflight skills are supported by a fine small orchestra, directed by Darryl Archibald. Anita Yavitch’s beautifully crafted Caribbean costumes provide visual flair — especially as they flow with the actors’ constant physical movement. John H, Binkley’s set design maintains the Reprise style of simplicity while creating its own magic — particularly the moving creation of a symbolic tree that allows the story to rise above its tragic conclusion.
Tuesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 & 7 p.m. Starts: Sept. 3. Continues through Sept. 14, 2008

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