TR Robertson –After 16 months of isolation and closing of live on-stage productions due to COVID restrictions, Moonlight Stage Productions is once again bringing entertainment to audiences at their large outdoor amphitheater. A four musical 40th Season will be offering a wide variety of stories and themes, beginning with a French West Indies folktale bordering on a PG-rated storyline featuring a wide range of emotions. The musical, taken from a 1985 novel by Trinidad born writer Rosa Guy, My Love, My Love; or The Peasant Girl, was developed by Lynn Ahrens, book/lyrics, and Stephen Flaherty, music. This Tony Award winning team produced the acclaimed musical Ragtime. Once on This Island takes the audience on an emotional roller coaster of hope, love, sex, grief, sacrifice, racism, despair, and death.
The musical ran on Broadway from 1990-91 at the Booth Theatre and was nominated for 7 Tony Awards, winning a Theatre World Award and a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Musical. It was revived on Broadway in 2017 at Circle in the Square Theatre, winning a 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
Photos by Adriana Zuniga and Ken Jacques
The Moonlight’s musical features 11 exceptionally talented actors and actresses. The theatre’s response, to a national cry for increased diversity in all aspects of the theatre world, brings together a performance with a diverse cast. Veteran actor, Choreographer and Director Paul David Bryant has incorporated a musical with amazing performances, beautiful background scenery, and a catchy musical score. The large screen in the background features a continual portrait of sky, storms, sunsets and sunrises, tropical jungle, beaches, and other scenes, all looking like images from paintings by French artist Paul Gauguin.
The story centers around villagers on the French Antilles Island in the Caribbean Sea, telling a folktale to a youngster; a tale about a young woman saved from a devastating storm and raised by a local family. She saves the life of the son of descendants of French plantation owners, becomes his mistress and falls in love only to have her dreams dashed by the person she saved when she runs directly into the racism of the plantation owners. All of this being somewhat guided by the destiny designed by the islander’s gods.
The cast for this musical features powerful, amazing voices led by a several Broadway and National tour performers. All the performer’s flow from portraying storytellers and villagers, several as the islander’s gods and goddesses and as members of the plantation group. Anise Ritchie as Erzulie Goddess of Love, Jodi Marks as Asaka Mother Earth, Nathan Andrew Riley as Agwe God of Water and Edred Utomi as Papa Ge Demon of Death are featured in several individual stand-out performances. Ritchie’s “The Human Heart” is a very lyrical and moving song. Edred Utomi will be returning to a National tour in Hamilton as Alexander Hamilton. Brooke Henderson plays Ti Moune, the young girl with a dream and hope for her future. Henderson presents beautiful performances in numbers like “Waiting for Life”, “Discovering Daniel” and “Forever Yours”. Her love interest is Daniel Beauxhomme, a young son of French descendant plantation owners, played by Ala Tiatia-Garaud. Ala has had a number of regional theatre performances, including Moonlight, and was in a National tour of Evita. His smooth voice compliments Henderson in the musical.
The other members of the cast include Patricia Jewel as Mama Euralie and Leo Ebanks as Tonton Julian the adoptive parents of Ti Moune, Kevin “Blax’ Burroughs as Armand, and Jocline Mixson as Andrea. All these performers have tremendous voices and extensive theatre backgrounds. Making her debut on the Moonlight Stage is Maya Washington as Little Ti Moune. Maya shows great stage presence, a beautiful voice and has a great performance in her professional stage debut.
The Moonlight Creative Team includes Scenic Designer Stephen Gifford, Lighting Designer Jennifer Edwards, Sound Designer Jim Zadi, Projection Designer Blake McCarty, Costume Coordinator Felicia Broschart, Properties Coordinator Gabrielle Tillinghast and Stage Manager Stanley D. Cohen. Paul David Bryant was both Director and Choreographer. The Musical Director and Conductor is Lyndon Pugeda who led the Moonlight Band consisting of Ariana Warren, PJ Bovee, Martin Martiarena, Kerianne Brennan and Mike Dooley.
Once on This Island will be on the Moonlight Stage until July 3rd, playing Wednesday thru Sunday at 8 pm. Tickets are priced from $17 to $59 and can be purchased at www.moonightstage.com or call 760-724-2110. The Moonlight Amphitheater is located at 1250 Valle Terrace Drive. New to Moonlight for dinner and snacks is Bread & Cheese Eatery, billed as the World’s Best Grilled Cheese. Next up for Moonlight will be Disney’s Beauty and the Beast beginning on July 21st.