Sunday, 12 November 2017

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND at Circle in the Square

     I tend to get notes from press representatives when I review a show in previews although I firmly believe a show is fair game when it charges an audience money to see it. ONCE ON THIS ISLAND didn't to do well on its first Broadway outing in 1990, but musical aficionados love the Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Arenas score. The show is a kind of fairy tale set on a Caribbean island with a charming quasi-calypso score. The brilliant young director Michael Arden has cut the show to ninety minutes and made it more about storytelling as a group of islanders tell and enact the story for a young girl. The story is a romance of star-crossed lovers whose fates are sealed by the battling gods (goddesses, actually) of the island. It's a simple story but the telling couldn't be more inventively staged. Arden's production is an antidote to the impersonal Disney spectacles that have been the rage for the past twenty years. It would take a heart of stone not to be moved and charmed by Arden's production. The costumes here are clever but ragtag, the scene a few simple elements on a sandy beach. The show is performed in the Circle in the Square, a theatre-in-the round and Arden has used every inch of the space for his production. This is immersive theatre. The cast is uniformly excellent but I have to praise the amazingly talented Hailey Kilgore who plays the girl who is the central character in this romance. She's beautiful, she sings magnificently and is an amazing dancer. She's a star in the making but everyone is a joy to watch and hear.
     If I had kids, this is the Broadway show I would take them to. It's a celebration of the magic of theatre.

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