PHOTO CALL: Once On This Island, With Syesha Mercado, Darius de Haas, Adam Jacobs, Opens at Paper Mill

By Matthew Blank
04 Jun 2012

The Paper Mill Playhouse's new production of Once On This Island, which features book and lyrics by Tony winners Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, officially opened June 3 at 7 PM following previews that began May 30.



More than 20 years after its premiere, Flaherty and Ahrens have reinvented their first musical with Tony-nominated director Thomas Kail (In the Heights, Lombardi, Magic/Bird) and choreographer Bradley Rapier ("So You Think You Can Dance").



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Syesha Mercado
Photo by Matthew Blank



The limited engagement continues through June 24 in Millburn, NJ.

"American Idol" finalist Syesha Mercado stars as Ti Moune with Darius de Haas as Agwe, Kevin R. Free as Tonton Julian, Adam Jacobs as Daniel, Kenita R. Miller as Mama Euralie, Alan Mingo, Jr. as Papa Ge, Courtney Reed as Andrea, Saycon Sengbloh as Erzulie, Jerold E. Solomon as Armand/Daniel's Father, Aurelia Williams as Asaka and Courtney Harris as Little Ti Moune.

"There have been many wonderful incarnations of Once On This Island over the years," stated lyricist Ahrens, "but we're really excited about Paper Mill's ... production, a re-imagining which we think will be extraordinary." Composer Flaherty added, "The multi-ethnic cast is stunning, the re-conceived orchestrations are gorgeous, and from what we've seen so far, the sets are a knockout. All in all, we can't wait!"

Lynne Shankel is the music director and orchestrator. She told Playbill.com, "The concept for the new orchestration is very earthy. You'll hear lots percussion — hand percussion, marimba and vibes as well as drum set. Also many different ethnic kinds of guitars. Stephen Flaherty really wanted to bring out all the Brazilian and Afro-Cuban influences in the score so you'll find a lot of rhythm."

The production also includes scenic design by Donyale Werle, costumes by Jessica Jahn, lighting design by Kenneth Posner, sound design by Randy Hansen and hair and wig design by Bettie O. Rogers. The production stage manager is Lisa Dawn Cave.

Once On This Island, a theatrical Caribbean adaptation of the popular fairy tale "The Little Mermaid," garnered eight Tony nominations in 1991 for its Broadway run, including Best Musical, Book and Score.

"In almost non-stop song and dance, the show tells the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who rescues and falls in love with Daniel, a wealthy boy from the other side of her island," according to Paper Mill. "When Daniel is returned to his people, the fantastical gods who rule the island guide Ti Moune on a quest to test the strength of her love against the powerful forces of prejudice, hatred and death."

Tickets may be purchased by calling (973) 376-4343, at the Paper Mill Playhouse Box Office at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, or online at papermill.org.