Love, Grief, Hope, Pain, and Faith

Zoe Hammel, Guest Writer, Perry Hall

Love, Grief, Hope, Pain, and Faith. These are the trademarks of Notre Dame Preparatory School’s Once on This Island.

Once on This Island is based on the 1985 novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy and was adapted for the stage by Lynn Ahrens with music by Stephen Flaherty. The show ran on Broadway from 1990-1991 and was nominated for eight Tony Awards, including Best Musical. When revived on Broadway just last year it won a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. It is the story of of the young peasant Ti Moune (Serenity Holmes) who is sent on a journey by the gods to teach us all the power of love and the inevitability of death.

Serenity Holmes portrays the innocent yet fearless Ti Moune beautifully. She commands attention with her powerful dance skills and infuses each dance with a great deal of passion. From falling in love to dying of a broken heart, Holmes’ raw emotion takes the show to another level. Her chemistry with Lily O’Mara as Papage is compelling. Whenever the two shared the stage, the naïveté of Ti Moune was illuminated in contrast to the powerful malevolence of Papage.

Jasmin Edrington and Christien Wills as Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian, respectively, brought a certain depth to Ti Moune’s story. Their relationship with Ti Moune had the hearts of the audience aching along with them as their daughter left the safety of their home trying to discover her purpose in the world. Edrington and Wills showed incredible vocal ability, especially in the Act One finale, “Ti Moune.”

Among the multiple outstanding numbers is “Rain,” where Grace Oakey and crew used lighting, in addition to an incredible performance by the Featured Dancers, to simulate a rainstorm. Along with the vocals and powerful stage presence of Olivia Meyers as Agwe, “Rain” creates a stunning backdrop to the car crash that leads Daniel (Lucas Tudor) to Ti Moune. Following this crash, Ti Moune begins to fall for Daniel, who is near death, and as she heals him, Erzulie (Olivia Aubele) teaches her the power of love in “The Human Heart.” The song is central to the story and Aubele portrays Erzulie with clear resounding vocals and elegant stage presence, fitting for the god of Love.

The entire show is tied together by the consistent engagement of the ensemble members, embodying the island as trees, birds, and villagers as they tell Ti Mounes story. With the beautiful scenery designed by Keagan Plume, Sophie Peltzer, and Katie Norden, and the seamless scene changes by the NDP stage crews, the “Jewel Of The Antilles” is brought to life.

Once On This Island is more than a simple fairy tale, and Notre Dame Prep captures this expertly, leaving the audience truly understanding “Why We Tell The Story.”