Music by Stephen Flaherty
Based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy
Directed & Choreographed by David H. Bell
Music Direction by Ryan T. Nelson
At Marriott Theatre, Lincolnshire
Operatic version of Once on the Island overwhelms the intimate charm of the show.
Director/choreographer David H. Bell has mounted an ambitious production of Flaherty & Ahrens’ chamber reggae/calypso operetta Once On This Island moving it from a charmingly warm intimate piece into a soaring large-scale operetta. This over-produced work features most of the cast of 15 singing or producing harmonies for most of the songs. With the use of strong West Indies accents in the songs, much of the lyrics became unintelligible so much of the fairy tale storytelling became lost or difficult to follow.
The reggae/calypso music and the large coral singing almost overwhelmed the show. Add the screaming by several singers and the show comes off as trying too hard to please. Lacking charm and warmth, Once On this Island takes too long to win our hearts but the terrific, heartfelt and honest work from Chasten Harmon as Ti Moune saves the show. Melody Betts’ stirring “Mama Will Provide” stops the show which finally sizzles in the last third. Brandon Koller needs to kick up his “Some Girls” number a notch or two.
I think the opening night audience enjoyed this show more than I did. (Sometimes seeing more scaled-down versions of a show like Apple Tree and Porchlight’s did of Once On This Island hampers my take on this production.) Bell’s strong staging is valid and those who have never seen Once on This Island will be impressed. This production is pleasing, I think that a smaller, more intimate take would add more charm and innocence to the Island tale.
At Marriott Theatre, Rt 45 & Rt 22 in Linclonshire, IL, call 847-634-0220, www.marriotttheatre.com, tickets $35 – $48, Wednesdays at 1 & 8 pm, Thursdays & Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4:30 & 8 pm, Sundays at 1 & 5 pm, running time is 90 minutes without intermission.