Once On This Island won the 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, so when it was announced to have a limited run at the Ordway, I had to see it. I love the Ordway, it’s a beautiful venue there are great sight lines in every seat in the theater. And for the limited run there were a few seats available on stage, so you could experience the show from a very unique angle. I wasn’t able to get one of the stage seats, which seemed to go very fast. But what a great idea and unique view of a play!
I had planned to get an early start and have plenty of time to have a leisurely stroll to the Theater and maybe check out the Rice Park lights. But I ended up working late and then the dog had an emergency outside trip, but once outside she was distracted by other dogs in the neighborhood and couldn’t concentrate on doing her business. So, I got a late start and the lot that I usually park in was full and I ended up getting to the Ordway just as the play started.
Instead of seeing a curtain or empty stage, audience members were greeted with a stage full of actors, actresses, the band and other audience members that bought stage seats. And instead of the canned message of no talking and to turn off your cell phone, the cast acted out what would happen if you were caught taking pictures with your phone and to be respectful – no talking and power off cell phones. The audience got a good laugh and it seemed to get people’s attention more than the usual canned message played over the sound system. The stage was set up as a beach and was bright and colorful as were the costumes.
The play begins with a young peasant girl (Ti Moune) who is orphaned because of a storm and found and adopted by an older childless couple. Ti Moune is raised on the poor side of the Island, where the rich reside behind gates on another side. Behind the gates is Daniel, a descendant from a Napoleonic-era French colonist, Armand. Armand fathered a son, Beauxhomme, with an island woman that rose against his father in a revolution, Armand fled to France, but only after cursing the children of Beauxhomme by saying, “Black blood will keep them forever on the island, while their hearts yearn forever for France.” A large white transparent curtain was lowered and the story of the Beauxhomme curse was presented as a shadow play.
On a dark and stormy night, Daniel has an auto accident and is discovered by Ti Moune. Ti Moune and her parents carry Daniel back to their house, where Ti Moune cares for him. Meanwhile Ti Moune’s father walks to the other side of the island to contact Daniel’s family. While caring for Daniel, Ti Moune falls in love with Daniel and makes a deal with the devil to exchange her life for Daniel’s. Daniel’s parents arrive and transport an unconscious Daniel back home. Ti Moune stays behind with her parents, but decides to travel to the other side of the island to be re-united with Daniel. Daniel is shocked at first, but soon falls in love with Ti Moune. But their future is doomed since Daniel is promised to another by an arrangement with his family. And the devil is getting impatient wanting either Ti Moune or Daniel and the sooner the better.
I can’t divulge the ending, but loved the play and it was a welcome retreat from the cold, windy Midwest winter. Once On This Island continues at the Ordway through February 9. Get tickets to this great show before the run ends!