Why we tell the story – – Once on this Island


Once on this Island

Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens

Circle in the Square theatre, NYC, July 7th 2018


So many amazing things to talk about with this one that I will have to narrow it down.   This is the show we will be doing in March 2019 at school so I plan on stealing liberally.

Director Michael Arden has set his OOTI in a post-disaster Caribbean village and the design is amazing – debris everywhere, washing hung up around the theatre, a few chickens, a goat, a container truck, a lake and a sand covered performance space.   Circle in the Square is a small (900 seater) theater structured for in the round performances.   In addition, this is a semi-immersive performance as the cast slowly gathers in the space going about their business as islanders until the performance begins with a crack of thunder.   I had a front row seat, feet in the sand and right next to the table with the hot pot where Asaka (Alex Newell) was cooking Chicken and peppers.

Here are some pictures that show off the space and design a little.

An overview from Agwe’s side – note the truck in the. top right.
Agwe’s Lake was the primary entrance/exit – about 2 feet deep on the far side.


Here’s a great video of one of the songs filmed in a 360 format so you can look around the set.  (big showstopper sung by Alex Newell).  Mama Will Provide

There was so much about this that was so beautifully theatrical, it’s no surprise to me that it won the Tony for best revival.   The four Gods slowly build their costumes out of the trash littered around the set (plastic bags, mosquito nets, coke cans, tablecloths etc).   Amazing, beautiful little tricks of light and movement and clever staging made this really special.   If we can do half as well, I’ll be thrilled.

The Ensemble – ‘One Small Girl’
Brigadoon Rehearsal
Merle Dandridge as Papa Ge, the sly demon of death
Alex Newell as Asaka – the earth mother
All four Gods


Brigadoon Rehearsal
Agwe – the Water God

I loved this show.


Not just because we’re doing it but because it was proof positive of the magic of theatre – great score (90 minutes, sung through, no intermission), amazing performances, creative design.   I just wanted to see it over and over and over.

As part of the Broadway Teachers Workshop, we also had a talkback here and to our surprise we actually got two principal performers – Alex Newell and Merle Dandridge, who were very funny and gracious, taking a lot of time with us

Post show tan back with Alex Newell (third from left) and Merle Dandridge (4th from left)

See this show.

If you can’t see the broadway version, come see ours in Lagos.




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