March 16, 2004 > Once On This Island
Once On This Island
by Christopher Cobb
While Hans Christian Anderson's body of work rarely inspires images of the tropics, the musical "Once On This Island" does just that; immersing one of the writer's most prized tales in a Caribbean setting. Both the show itself, and the production currently running at Irvington High school, are successes.
With "The Little Mermaid" in mind, "Once On This Island," relies less on fairytale convention to tell the story of two star-crossed lovers, instead using the dissonance of two classes (one poor but content, the other rich but lacking in soul) to set the stage.
The poor girl Ti Moune encounters the injured Daniel, a rich son from the other side of the island, and nurses him back to health. She fosters a love for him, even pledging her soul to ensure his safe recovery.
And the quartet of island gods listens - eager to participate for their own gain and hers. As Daniel is taken back to his world, Ti Moune begins her odyssey to reunite with him. Needless to say, the going is not easy, and when the two worlds once again collide, the audience knows both lovers are stuck within an hourglass of borrowed time.
Hillary Hodsdon's Ti Moune has perfected the art of innocence. She throws herself completely into the vows her character has made. Further onstage experience will only help focus and strengthen her as a performer.
While the set is spare, it is deceptively textured and more than adequate for the movement and dance coordinated by artistic director/ choreographer Linda Jackson-Whitmore. Musical numbers are treated with a light humor that helps offset the gravity of a story so wrought with heartbreak. Along with the procession of colorful island-inspired costumes, the audience has more than enough to take in.
Yet this production's greatest asset is the sound the cast creates--both collectively and individually. Most of the plot and background are sung by storytelling villagers and the company executes this masterfully. The four gods, (played by Kyle Padilla, Vanessa Simmons, Austin Taylor, and Krishelle Torres), deserve special note for their vocal contribution.
As a production rarely performed on high school stages if anywhere, Irvington Conservatory Theatre's "Once On This Island" is a refreshing treat for audiences of all ages. While the story has been told a thousand different ways, the original music will remain in ears long after the cast has completed its curtain call.
Irvington Conservatory Theatre
Irvington High School Theater
41800 Blacow Rd., Fremont
March 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27: 7:30 p.m.
March 21: 2:00 p.m.
For tickets, call (510) 656-5711