Get Up Close With the Set and Props of Broadway’s Once On This Island

Photo Features   Get Up Close With the Set and Props of Broadway’s Once On This Island
We take a closer look at all of the intricate details that decorate the set at the Circle in the Square Theatre.
Andrew Kluger

The Tony-nominated revival of Once on This Island on Broadway unfolds as a group of storytellers—caught in the midst of an unrelenting storm—recount the tale of Ti Moune, a Caribbean island country girl in love with an aristocrat. The musical is based on the novella My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy. So how do you go about creating the show in the intimate space of the Circle in the Square Theare? Set designer Dane Laffrey, Tony-nominated for his work on the show this season, talks us through the design and the process behind it.

"At first, doing the show in the round was a dream of ours—the ideal way to tell the story. It was only later that we had the incredible good fortune to have our producers secure Circle in the Square for the show, which is the only Broadway theatre where this kind of staging would have been possible," Laffrey explains. "One of the profound advantages is that we were able to make something environmental and immersive. The design and the show itself are something you experience, not just something you see. There’s nothing else quite like it on Broadway."

Another big design element of the show was the use of found objects, congruent with the score, which was rebuilt through the use of multi-layered vocal orchestrations, along with instruments made out of found objects such as trash bins and flexible piping.

"It was definitely very important to me that we try and use real objects whenever possible (rather than just custom-building everything from scratch), but this commitment definitely complicated the design process. Take for example the truck and the scenic elements surrounding it. The truck was salvaged and not modified in terms of dimensions, so it wasn’t until we found the truck we liked that we knew exactly what size it would be. The scaffolding and broken wall that sits around it were then affected; the scaffolding itself was constructed mostly of salvaged steel pipe and lumber, which had its own kind of ripple effect. All of which to say, doing it this way required patience and plasticity, but then again, where would we be if we didn’t have the real elements? The sand, the water, the fire…the truck."

Flip through the gallery below to see the props up close and how they were created for the show:

The acclaimed Broadway revival of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Once on This Island, directed by Tony nominee Michael Arden, officially opened December 3 at Circle in the Square.

The show stars newcomer Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune, with Miss Saigon Tony Award winner Lea Salonga (Erzulie), Glee groundbreaker Alex Newell (Asaka), Merle Dandridge (Papa Ge), Quentin Earl Darrington (Agwe), Tony nominee Phillip Boykin (Tonton Julian), Kenita R. Miller (Mama Euralie), Isaac Powell (Daniel), Alysha Deslorieux (Andrea), and David Jennings (Armand).

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