From the Tony-Award Winning Creators of Ragtime
The Original Broadway Cast Reunion
Sunday, May 12, 2002
The Winter Garden Theatre
ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is a jubilant and life-affirming Caribbean folktale written by the Tony Award-winning team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, originally directed and choreographed by Graciela Daniele. This beloved Broadway hit was the recipient of eight 1990 Tony Award nominations and the winner of London’s Olivier Award. Return with us as the original Broadway cast reminds us “why we tell the story.”
Members of the original Broadway cast and national tour of Once On This Island, the 1990 musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, sang to the gods and raised the roof of the Winter Garden Theatre for two performances on May 12. The sold-out reunion concerts were produced by Andrew Kato for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The concerts raised $200,000.
When LaChanze, the Tony Award nominated actress who originated the role of Ti Moune the island girl who goes on a journey of the heart to find her love sang ‘Waiting for Life’ center stage she was greeted with a thunderous standing ovation.
The show was stopped several times by knowing applause for the performers or moments that fans have come to cherish. The Caribbean-flavored musical began April 6, 1990 at Playwrights Horizons and transferred to Broadway for a run of more than 500 performances. It was nominated for eight Tony Awards in 1991. Its London staging earned the Olivier Award for Best Musical. Once On This Island’s reputation has grown over the years through the original cast album.
Based on Rosa Guy’s novel, ‘My Love, My Love,’ it is a variation on ‘The Little Mermaid,’ set on an island in the French Antilles. A group of peasant storytellers recounts the tale of Ti Moune to a child who is afraid of a rumbling tropical storm. As the storytellers assume all roles, the fairy tale bursts forth: The gods make a plan to test Ti Moune. Can love conquer death? Dark-skinned Ti Moune falls in love with a light-skinned handsome stranger whose car has crashed on her side of the island. After she nurses him, he is taken back to his rich family and she knows she must follow it’s what ‘The Human Heart’ dictates.
The company included Natalie Venetia Belcon (of the first national tour) as Erzulie, Goddess of Love; Monique Cintron (of the tour) as Andrea; and original Broadway cast members Jerry Dixon as Daniel; Sheila Gibbs as Mama Euralie; LaChanze as Ti Moune; Kecia Lewis as Asaka, Mother of the Earth; Gerry McIntyre (who also staged the concert) as Armand; Milton Craig Nealy as Agwe, God of Water; Eric Riley as Papa Ge, Demon of Death; and Ellis E. Williams as Tonton Julian. Melika Samuel, age 10, played Little Ti Moune.
Lillias White (who stepped into the Broadway production later) appeared at concert’s end to sing ‘Come Down from the Tree,’ a song cut from the musical but known on recordings.
Afi McClendon, who played the original Little Ti Moune, made an appearance all grown up at the curtain call. Niki Rene, who originated the role of Andrea on Broadway, had just given birth and was not able to appear in the concert.
The curtain call included Ira Weitzman, the Playwrights Horizons director of musical theatre who helped shepherd the work in 1989-90, plus Ahrens, Flaherty and the original director-choreographer, Graciela Daniele. Steve Marzullo conducted Michael Starobin’s original orchestrations. Emilio Sosa was costume coordinator (lots of bright island colors, with simple accessories such as necklaces and hats). Ed McCarthy designed lights. Craig Cassidy was sound consultant. Kimberly Russell was production stage manager.
In memory of LaChanze’s husband, Calvin Gooding, who died at the World Trade Center Sept. 11, a portion of the May 12 proceeds will be donated to The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund.
At the 8 PM curtain, LaChanze introduced two little Ti Mounes of her own daughters Celia Rose and Zaya LaChanze. The industry-filled audience at 8 PM included Rosie O’Donnell, Michael Hall and his fiancée Amy Spanger, Janine LaManna, Neil Patrick Harris and more.”
-Kenneth Jones, Playbill Online
Once on this Island is sponsored by:
In memory of Calvin Gooding and in honor of LaChanze, a portion of the proceeds will go to The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund.