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Book and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Produced in partnership with SummerStage
Directed by Joe Nolan
July 27 to August 19, 2012
Photos By Carroll Studios Of Photography
Volunteer of the Production
An Interview with the Paul and Samantha Burkard
Sponsored In Part By
WCT projects are supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin.
By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic
August 2, 2012
DELAFIELD- A perfect night for sitting outside under the moon and being entertained by a charming production of a tropical confection, SummerStage in Lapham State Peak Park was the venue in its offering of "Once On This Island."
This same show is scheduled to open at Waukesha Civic Theatre on Friday. In a rare collaboration, the Civic Theatre and SummerStage are both presenting the same show. This musical opened on Broadway in 1990 and was nominated for eight Tony awards and later won the Oliver Award for best new musical. It is, in fact, an unsung gem.
Based on the Hans Christian Anderson tale "The Little Mermaid," the story explores the age-old theme of the clash between different groups of people, whether the taboo be religion, ethnicity, or social class. The peasants against the French upper class - that represents the heart of this story. Two different cultures clash, one represented by Daniel and the other by Ti Moune, the orphan adopted by Tonton and Mama Euralie. It is a beautiful story but a sad one, as well.
The combination of children and adults, the flavor of island music and dance - all enhance the overall experience. Many talented actors and vocalists have been gathered to fill out the cast. Paul Burkard and his daughter Sallie play the father and daughter. Joe Nolan is both actor and director, with his wife, Jacalyn, serving as stage manager. Pete Lange fills out the male adult role as Agwe and musical director. Many served in multiple capacities.
The kids choir consisting of Evelyn Barta, Regan Carter, Elle Erato, Sidney and Tyler Johnson was amazingly harmonious. The adults who stood out in the cast were Samantha Burkard as Ti Moune, Amelia Kamholz as Asaka, Taylor Kass as Erzulie and Wendy Rightler as Mama Euralie, probably the loveliest voice in a cast of many lovely voices.
The ensemble numbers were beautifully rendered.
Choreographer Robb Smith did a fine job of arranging the characters in beautiful configurations, and costume designer Sallie Burkard was very creative in her choices, as well.
The numbers that were especially memorable included "And the Gods Heard Her Prayer," "Ti Mourne" and "Pray." I also loved "Ti Mourne’s Dance."
Humor, love, hope, loss - many elements comprise the show, along with some beautiful music and some inspiring ideas. It is definitely a musical worth seeing.
The production continues at the Waukesha Civic Theatre through Aug. 29. And check out SummerStage in Lapham State Peak Park. It is an experience to witness quality shows in the open air.
By Russ Bickerstaff
Posted: August 2,2012
Waukesha Civic Theatre collaborates with SummerStage of Delafield for the charming musical Once on This Island. The production tells the story of a peasant woman and an aristocratic young man who fall in love on a distant island.
The musical accompaniment to the well-harmonized ensemble is delivered almost entirely by synthesizer. The play debuted in 1990, and the music feels very much like light 1980s synth pop mixed with a Caribbean beat. For fans of this music, the experience is almost embarrassingly enjoyable.
The costuming is bright, the choreography is breezy and the story is a folk tale about love—tragic love. That's the beautiful thing about the source material for Once on This Island: It may feel like a happy fairy tale in spirit and delivery, but it's actually a refreshingly deep allegory for class relations. But rather than get bogged down in the depressing negativity of class disparities, it challenges its audiences to live in a world of mutual respect between socioeconomic classes.
The story is delivered with bright, upbeat energy. Young Samantha Burkard is charming as Ti Moune, the woman who catches a glimpse of a white-clad island aristocrat driving in a car. As chance would have it, the aristocrat gets into an accident and Ti Moune nurses him back to health. Once he regains his health, he returns to his life on the side of the island where the aristocrats live. When the woman follows him, the drama begins.
This pleasant, memorable play is a heartfelt allegory wrapped up in vibrant '80s synth pop.
By Marilyn Jozwik - WaukeshaNOW Theater Critic
Aug. 7, 2012
There are tropical breezes blowing through the area and they're emanating from Waukesha Civic Theatre as it presents "Once on This Island" as its summer musical.
The play is based on the 1985 book "The Peasant Girl," by Rosa Guy, set in the French Antilles in the Caribbean Sea, as well as on Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale "The Little Mermaid." With one of its themes being overcoming cultural differences, it is also remindful of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific."
Whatever its inspiration, WCT has infused this joyous celebration with a lightness and liveliness that are infectious.
From the opening number, the colorful costumes, simple effective set and Caribbean music create an island mood.
"Once on This Island" is the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl on an island who is saved from a devastating flood by hiding in a tree. She is adopted by Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian. Ti Moune prays to the gods to find a purpose in her life and they arrange to have Daniel, a wealthy islander from "the other side of the tracks," crash his car on her side of the island. Ti Moune nurtures the unconscious boy and imagines he loves her as much as she loves him. She makes a pact with Papa Ge, the peasant people's god of death, to spare his life. Papa Ge agrees - if he gets hers in exchange. Ti Moune insists on seeing Daniel after he's taken back to the elegant hotel his family of long-standing owns on the island, despite her parents' protests that she doesn't belong there. The gods guide her way to the other side of the island and she reunites with Daniel, who professes his love for her, but does not let her know he has been betrothed to another since he was a child.
The main theme - that love conquers death and can even bring together people of different cultures - is evident in the tunes' lyrics, but the songs also have wonderful, upbeat melodies.
Bookends to the First Act are two songs that are festive celebrations involving the show's storytellers - some who double as gods - in "We Dance" and "Mama Will Provide." We are introduced to the gods in "One Small Girl" - Asaka (Amelia Kamholz), Agwe (Peter Lange), Papa Ge (Joe Nolan) and Erzulie (Taylor Kass). Kamholz imbues her character, the equivalent of Mother Nature, with a big personality and voice, which command attention on stage. Lange (also the show's music director) as Agwe, the god of water, shows his considerable stage skills in "Rain," while Nolan (also the show's director) as Papa Ge is suitably stern with a strong tenor voice. While Kass doesn't have quite the vocal skills of the others, her lithe and lively Erzulie is a treat to watch, with her graceful, balletic moves combined with a bit of attitude. When they combine their voices, the gods and storytellers sound heavenly, and dance capably as well.
But the show is all about Ti Moune, and WCT turned to one of its veterans, 18-year-old Samantha Burkard, who has been in over 50 productions, to take on the role. Burkard handles the many elements of Ti Moune like a pro. She captures the essence of the peasant girl who believes in the power of love and conveys a wide range of emotions through song and dance. Her several-minute solo at the grand ball is a thing of beauty.
Ti Moune's offstage dad, Paul Burkard, who plays Ti Moune's adoptive father, and Wendy Rightler, who plays her adoptive mother, pair nicely and double as storytellers along with Melissa Pol and Owen Reynolds (who also plays Daniel). Pol does a nice job playing Andrea, Daniel's betrothed, too, and croons a lovely "Andrea's Sequence."
The dancing and music were sharp and crisp, although there were a few sound drops opening night at WCT last Friday. The show had been performed the previous weekend at SummerStage in Lapham Peak Park in Delafield.
Not to be overlooked are the seven kids in the show, who added some sweet sounds and a definite cute factor.
The show is very easy on the ears, which is a good thing since it is virtually all sung. A definite plus is Sallie Burkard's creative costuming, which helps give each character a distinct personality.
Owen played Daniel with a high level of professional conduct. He always exhibited grace and enthusiasm, and was consistently happy and fun to work with. He was always calm in times of stress, early to rehearsal, ready to work, and willing to jump in whenever and wherever needed. Congratulations, Owen!