THE HANGOVER REPORT — Ahrens and Flaherty’s ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is gloriously revived on Broadway in Michael Arden’s revelatory production

Hailey Kilgore in the revival of Ahrens and Flaherty’s “Once on this Island” at Circle in the Square Theatre.

Hailey Kilgore in the revival of Ahrens and Flaherty’s “Once on this Island” at the Circle in the Square Theatre.

Last night, Ahrens and Flaherty’s Once on this Island was gloriously revived on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre, thanks largely to Michael Arden’s bold, deeply-felt direction. Although the score and book remain intact, Mr. Arden has managed to bring urgency and moving vitality to a musical that can easily fall victim to saccharine sweetness and unearned joy. By setting the show in a world where natural disasters and socio-economic and racial inequality are tough realities (as opposed to suggestive plot drivers), Once on this Island’s Romeo and Juliet meets Cinderella story now reads less as a benign fairytale and more as a nuanced coming-of-age parable, fraught with pain, as well as the wonders of self-discovery.

The production is a revelation in many ways. Ahrens and Flaherty’s rich, unabashedly sentimental score has rarely sounded better, literally enveloping the audience in Circle in the Square’s in-the-round configuration (an effective visual metaphor for the musical’s island setting). There is simply too much to take in with just one viewing, as the plot unfolds all around the audience. The care and detail with which Mr. Arden and his design team have conjured this immersive world is a wonder to behold.

I hardly think the talented, multi-ethnic cast can be bettered. As Ti Moune, the musical’s central character, the open-faced Hailey Kilgore, in particular, is giving a joyous, star-making performance in her Main Stem debut. But really, the entire cast, which includes the sweet-voiced Broadway legend Lea Salonga as one of the gods, is just superlative. They dynamically and gorgeously walk the fine line between specificity and timelessness, completely in sync with Mr. Arden’s revelatory vision for this altogether ravishing Once on this Island.



Broadway, Musical
Circle in the Square Theatre
1 hour, 30 minutes (without an intermission)
Open run

Categories: Broadway, Theater

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