“There is an island, where rivers run deep. Where the sea sparkling in the sun earns it the name, ‘jewel of the Antilles…'”
There are few lines that make my hair stand on end the way that that one does. When the chimes go and I’m transported from whatever theater I’m in to a beach in Haiti and told my favorite story.
I love Once On This Island. It’s my second favorite musical after Les Mis. I love the heart at this show, which is about tales spun and hearts healed and it has music that propels you from moment to moment.
OOTI was also the second show I produced and the one of my “babies” that’s dearest to my heart. (I know we’re not supposed to pick favorites…but well…) And, I’ve found it’s a kind of secret handshake for theater kids. We all did it, in high school or college, or have friends who did. We passed it around. We sang it’s songs in choirs and voice recitals. It’s ours in a way that few mainstream musicals are. The wider world never found it and watered it down.
What does this all mean for the rootsy new production hanging out on Broadway now? It means that I was going to enjoy myself immensely, and that if it wasn’t good, though I’d probably like it anyway, I’d have been disappointed.
It’s a beautiful production. Intimate, and intense in ways I never expected, and lovingly performed by an ensemble of actors you just know currently refer to themselves as “family.” Due to a story of our own (involving misread tickets and an ill-advised second round of drinks) we were seeing the Saturday evening performance rather than our planned matinee (which meant understudies for Erzulie and Asaka…which just means I have to go back to see Lea Solanga and Alex Newell.) And while I cried through a lot of it, I also couldn’t imagine a better moment than seat dancing and whooping it up with my brother and sister. (At appropriate moments, obviously!)
Stay tuned for more musical theater gushing this week when I write about Jesus Christ Superstar Live on Wednesday. (Spoiler alet: WELL SHIT)