My church is performing Once Upon This Island Jr. It is a simplified version of the musical set on an island in the French Antilles at night during a storm.
Once On This Island ran from October 1990 to December 1991 (19 previews, 469 performances). It was Tony nominated for Best Musical; Book of a Musical; Original Score (Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, Music by Stephen Flaherty); Featured Actress in a Musical (LaChanze); Costume Design; Lighting Design; Choreography and Direction in a Musical, the latter two by Graciela Daniele.
Revived for one day, May 12, 2002, it was as a Benefit for Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS. In December 2017 to January 2019, it returned again for 29 previews and 457 shows. This time it was nominated for eight Tonys, winning as Best Revival of a Musical.
It toured nine months in 1992. The current tour started in October 2019 and runs through July 2020. It’ll be all over the country. The show we saw at Proctors in mid-January was very good. It featured Tamyra Gray, from the first season of American Idol, as Papa Ge, the demon of death.
The weather forecast was rather dodgy. My wife recommended that we take the bus to Schenectady and back. This notion did not appeal to either our daughter or myself. It would mean taking a bus home at 10:30 p.m. If we missed the last connecting bus, we’d be stuck downtown Albany in the cold. I suppose we could have taken an Uber or something that point, but would one come in such nasty weather?
The solution was absurdly extravagant. We left c 2:30 p.m., just as the snow began. We checked into a hotel in downtown Schenectady, only a few doors from Proctors, and hung out in the room for a couple of hours. Then we went out to dinner with one of our Jr. cast members and his parents at a newish restaurant called Grano. It was nice, and more importantly, it was within walking distance.
The next morning, we went down to breakfast. My wife was talking to a woman who had a young girl. It turns out the girl was Mari, who played the young Ti Moune in the production we saw the night before. Her mom left briefly and brought back a We Dance knit hat and gave it to our daughter. Then we drove directly to church, the nasty weather having passed.
The Once On This Island Jr. edition that our church is performing March 8 contains some alterations. It cuts some verses in songs and eliminates a couple of tunes altogether, notably The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes.
The production also alters dialogue to accommodate multi-ethnic productions. “The original cast was chosen along racial lines with darker-skinned actors portraying the peasants and lighter-skinned actors portraying the upper-class landowners.” The altered script preserves the differences about class distinctions.