Once On This Island: Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London
20th May 2023
The hit Olivier and Tony Award winning Broadway show, Once On This Island is brought to life at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and sets out to immerse the audience with the colourful, calypso-flavoured retelling of the Little Mermaid fairy tale. Set on a Caribbean island the show follows the romance between Ti Moune, a peasant girl, and the rich boy whose life she saves. However the Island Gods have a different path for her story…
Georgia Lowe’s simple set works well and utilises the four elements, Earth, Wind, Fire and Water, in an unique way. The set remains the same throughout with set pieces and props creating the different scenes. In this production the ensemble play a wide range of characters throughout the show and their different costumes, designed by Melissa Simon-Hartman, really help to distinguish between the parts in the show. The Beauxhommes’ costumes in particular are very glamorous, perfect for highlighting the difference between the villagers, or peasants as they are referred to. The Gods themselves start with humble headpieces but soon develop into full costumes which show off their power and authority.
Gabrielle Brooks is outstanding as Ti Moune. She is mesmerising to watch and gives a performance full of heart. Vocally, she is able to tell a story with each note and her voice is powerful and strong throughout. ‘Waiting for Life‘ is stunning to listen to. Unfortunately, Stephenson Ardern-Sodje’s vocals are overpowered at times and his presence doesn’t match that of some of the other cast members. However, the four Gods are excellently cast with Emilie Louise Israel’s ‘The Human Heart‘ being emotive and touching whilst Lejaun Sheppard fully embodies Death. Anelisa Lamola’s vocals could blow the roof of, if there was one, and Ashley Samuels’ ‘Rain‘ is brilliant. As mentioned before, the production relies heavily on the ensemble cast and they are all excellent throughout.
The original songs by Stephen Flaherty are uplifting and joyful. The Caribbean flavour comes through with each song. The contrast of the songs is also brilliant and helps to keep the pace of the story. Each song is performed excellently by the cast, they help to transport the audience to the Caribbean and beyond, into a world of legends and Gods. It is hard not to come out of the show humming along. The choreography, by Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy, is contemporary, lively and energetic. Drawing influences from different styles, including tribal dances, each move is executed well by the cast.
Once On This Island is a fun, joyful and yet emotional take on a classic tale. With superb vocals, clever storytelling, and tonnes of talent this show should definitely be on your must see list this summer.
Once On This Island is playing until the 10th June 2023. For information and tickets click here.
Photo Credit: Marc Benner
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