The mortal and immortal inhabitants of a jewel-like island in the Antilles will come to life May 12 at the Winter Garden Theatre, where a benefit reunion concert of the 1990 Broadway musical, Once On This Island bursts forth.
The Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens Broadway musical, a Caribbean-set fairy-tale musical inspired by "The Little Mermaid," will play two performances, 3 PM and 8 PM May 12, as a benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Tony Award-nominated LaChanze heads the cast, reprising her 1990-1991 performance as Ti Moune, the scrappy, poor but hopeful island girl who leaves her home — and willingly battles the gods and the prejudices of class and race — for Daniel, a rich man she rescued when he crashed his car in her neck of the woods.
BC/EFA producer Andrew Kato told Playbill On-Line that Gerry McIntyre is staging the show based on director choreographer Graciela Daniele's original vision, and that Daniele is also involved.
It will be a concert experience with no costumes or sets, but that's to the show's advantage, Kato said. "It's all about storytelling: The original production was pretty simple," he said. "Graciela is working with Gerry McIntyre to create the memory of the piece instead of trying to recreate the piece." LaChanze first captured Broadway's attention as Ti Moune, the plucky but poor heroine of Once On This Island, which is set in the Antilles and based on Rosa Guy's novel, "My Love, My Love." Since 1991, LaChanze sang "Another Hundred People" in the Roundabout revival of Company and appeared in Ragtime and The Vagina Monologues.
In memory of Calvin Gooding, LaChanze's husband, who perished in the World Trade Center attacks, a portion of the concerts' proceeds will go to The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund.
Jerry Dixon of tick, tick...BOOM! and Five Guys Named Moe played Daniel in the original cast and reprises the role for the performances. Also in the cast are Sheila Gibbs, Kecia Lewis, Afi McClendon, Gerry McIntyre, Milton Craig Nealy, Nikki Rene, Eric Riley and Ellis E. Williams.
Lillias White, not in the original cast (she stepped into the show later), will play Asaka, the earth goddess. The actress is becoming a benefit concert regular — she also played Effie to much acclaim for the Actors Fund's recent Dreamgirls concert. White won a Tony for The Life. She recorded the Ahrens-Flaherty song, "Come Down From the Tree," cut from Once On This Island, for the "Lost in Boston" CD series.
A cast album of the intermissionless Once On This Island score exists. The show embarked on a national tour in 1991-92. On May 12, the original music director, Steve Marzulo, will conduct the original orchestrations by Michael Starobin.
Once on This Island opened October 18, 1990 at the Booth Theatre and ran there for 469 performances. Graciela Daniele directed and choreographed the musical, which garnered eight Tony nominations and was Ahrens and Flaherty's first score on Broadway. They also penned Off-Broadway's Lucky Stiff and Broadway's Ragtime, Seussical and My Favorite Year. Songs from the show include "Rain," "Mamma Will Provide," "Waiting for Life," "The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes," "One Small Girl," "Human Heart" and "Forever Yours."
Once On This Island began at Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons.
Tickets range $50-$1000. For reservations, call (212) 840-0770. For information on Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, visit http://www.broadwaycares.org.
— By Kenneth Jones