SHOWING : June 17, 2011 - June 26, 2011
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The rollicking musical is a nearly non-stop song-and-dance adaptation of the popular fairy tale, "The Little Mermaid", set in the Caribbean. The one-act play tells the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who rescues and falls in love with Daniel, a wealthy boy from the other side of her island. The gods who rule the island test the strength of Ti Moune's love against the powerful forces of prejudice, hate and even death. The musical received eight Tony Award nominations following its Broadway debut in 1990.
Friday, June 17, 8pm
Saturday, June 18, 8pm
Sunday, June 19, 3pm
Wednesday, June 22, 8pm
Thursday, June 23, 8pm
Friday, June 24, 8pm
Saturday, June 25, 8pm
Sunday, June 26, 3pm
Tickets at www.act3productions.org
$20 Adults/$15 Students & Seniors
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011 ||
It’s a familiar story. In fact, it’s a couple of familiar stories. Girl falls in love with boy from other side of the island, Gods bet on humans’ constancy, tragedy ensues, Gods engineer happy ending. It’s Romeo and Juliet, Ariel and her Prince, Tony and Maria, Buffy and Angel. And, no matter how many times it’s told, no matter how many settings it’s placed in, no matter how many hearts it breaks, what really matters is that it really matters.|
In “Once on This Island,” the peasant inhabitants of a small nameless island are watched over by the Gods of Love, of Earth, of Water, and of Death. They live in isolation from the others, the city-dwellers, the descendants of the original inhabitants and their slaves. The God of Water sends a storm and young Ti Moune survives, now an orphan. When she grows up, the antic God of Death wants to prove that death is stronger than love, so he sends the child-of-wealth Daniel to the peasant side, victim of a car crash. The rest of the play follows the expected story. Ti Moune follows Daniel to the city, nurses him back to health, and falls in love with him. But, societies isolated from each other have separate and contradictory traditions. Will death be stronger than love? Will tradition and duty?
This is a sweet little play, really an extended one-act. It’s filled with marvelous Caribbean-influenced songs by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Ragtime” and “Seussical”). If the archetypical story is familiar enough, the specific trappings are not. I really liked the transformative dénouement, the specifics of the Gods’ characters, and the unconditional devotion of Ti Moune to both Daniel and her own traditions. If Daniel’s embracement of his own traditions and commitments is a bit unexpected, he has the good graces to not like the choice he feels compelled to make.
Normally performed by an all-black cast, Act 3 Productions has chosen to populate the island with a diverse kaleidoscope of actors, covering many ethnic types and skin tones. This actually worked for me, focusing the conflict on the class and tradition divide, rather than what has always seemed to me a contrived racial divide. Maggie Taylor (as Ti Moune) drives this play, bringing a powerful voice and a soft naïve nature to her obsession with Daniel. Connor Crank brings a nice face and nice voice to Daniel, but, when all is said and done, this time his appeal is less apparent and his blind devotion to tradition makes him come across more weak and unattractive than previous versions I’ve seen. Erin Deebel brings a lithe sensuality to Andrea, Ti Moune’s rival for Daniel’s heart, making that conflict a bit sharper – it’s easy to see how one person can be torn between such attractive (and different) women. And cute-as-coconut Rosslyn Milne (as young Ti Moune) steals every scene she’s in.
As the Gods, Jennifer Loudermilk, Michelle Peck, Taylor Sorrel, and Quintez Rashad remain aloof and entertaining, making sharp distinctions in character and sublime waves of musical voice. I liked everything they did. The stage is filled with Act 3’s usual expanded chorus who find plenty of opportunity for individual stand-out moments and group ensemble blending. This was a beautiful sounding show and Musical Director Lyn Taylor is to be commended for making such a disparate group of voices sound unified and whole.
Act 3’s typical playing space was adjusted very little (a clothesline along the back is all that made it different from Anne Frank’s annex), but this had the strange effect of making the show seem like a group of people gathering at a familiar gathering place to tell their story. Theresa Dean’s Lighting Design soon had me imagining the bare wood walls and platforms were really a tropical island, adding to the illusion.
So the question remains, why is such a familiar, and oft-told tale so enjoyable, so compelling, so moving? Can it be something so simple that we are genetically programmed to believe love transcends death, tradition, and expectation? Can it be that we know love can be a two-edged sword, that it cuts both to the heart and through it? I suspect this latter may have something to do with it. We’ve all felt the pain of heart-break, the joy of requited love, the frustration of accommodating those loved-one quirks that drive us bananas. Simple tales of unconditional love reaffirm the choices we have made, the affections we have built, the ties we have chosen to knot.
And when things go south, as they inevitably do in small ways, as they too often do in large ways, it is comforting, moving to see a story that reassures us that even when things go completely wrong, we know that love can kick death’s butt anywhere anytime and in any tradition.
And that, my friends, is “Why We Tell the Story.”
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
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by David Shire (music), Richard Maltby, Jr. (lyrics)