Photos by Stephen Thorburn
Once on This Island at Spring Mountain Ranch
Just when you think you know what to expect- or not to expect – from a production, one comes along to knock you out of your seat. Super Summer Theatre’s latest offering, “Once on This Island” is a veritable tidal wave of excellence. Here is a story so sumptuous and exuberant, it fairly leaps off of the stage in an exciting rhythm that grabs the audience in a powerful, poignant and bittersweet embrace.
The Broadway-caliber show features an ensemble cast that, to a person, wows and impresses with vivacious talent, lively dance sequences, and pure, clear vocals that fill the night air with their grace.
Beginning with a wordless, activity-filled pantomime, which can seem confusing for a while, peasants converge on the island’s shore carrying equipment and supplies, united by an urgency that escapes the audience until a loud clap of thunder commands attention. The crowd is preparing for a violent storm, and to comfort a frightened young girl, the assembled crowd tells her the story of Ti Moune, (pronounced Tea Moon) a fanciful fable that’s woven into the island’s history.
Set on a mythical Caribbean island, the story focuses on the life of a little storm-tossed girl, Ti Moune, found in a tree and adopted by an elderly couple. As the young girl grows into a young woman, she yearns to find true love. When she discovers Daniel, an injured young man on the beach one day, she instinctively knows that she is the only one that can save him. The island gods and peasants disapprove, for Daniel is a mulatto (Beauxhommes) from the other side, who, they say, can never find happiness with a native girl.
It is an island of two different worlds, half of it belonging to the dark-skinned peasants and the other half inhabited by the lighter skinned, affluent mulattos (Beauxhommes) who look down on their poorer countrymen.
Ti Moune sacrifices everything to be with Daniel, only to realize that he has been promised to a Beauxhommes girl named Andrea. Despite this sad fact, the ending manages to be uplifting and filled with hope, both masterfully conveyed by the gifted cast.
Special standout scenes (though they are all superb) feature a red god of death who appears on stylized stilts. Another god in a large swing provides a billowy backdrop for a provocative shadow dance between lovers. Ti Moune’s Dance is a lively rendering of her passion. One Small Girl features the voices of the entire village. The plaintive Some Girls sung by Daniel, who has been promised to another but whose heart belongs to Ti Moune has the wistful line, “some girls you marry, some girls you love.”
The actors enable you to feel their emotions through song, dance, and an enthusiasm that is natural and passionate. Malia Blunt as the little girl Ti Moune can carry a tune or a scene with power and presence that make you shake your head in wonder. Casondra Davis Brett as the young woman Ti Moune fills the stage with dance and a palpable yearning. Audrei Kairen as Mama Euralie provides a wisdom and comfort for Ti Moune, and Carnell Johnson as Tonton is her caring male counterpart.
Keith Dotson as Daniel, is also the play’s Musical Director, and along with Choreographer Shannon Winkel, and Director Steve Huntsman, (who designed the costumes, as well) form the creative trio from Signature Productions who have managed to harness an astoundingly professional performance from every single cast member that is truly astonishing in scope and strength.
The ensemble cast does double duty, each playing a peasant and a second role (a god, Beauxhommes, etc.) They include Buffie Lucas, Tai Lewis, Rachale Marie, Primrose Martin, Rodney Arnett, Evan Walker, and Don Bellamy. Each one brings an outstanding dual performance to the production.
The stage backdrop features its own moon and stars vying for attention with the actual night sky, full of inquisitive bats and dragonflies. With vibrant costumes and lighting in hues of blue, orange, violet and fuchsia, vivid colors can be said to be their own characters, enveloping the stage with a riveting brilliance that can be mesmerizing.
The actors sing to a sumptuous soundtrack, and voices are uniformly magnificent in solo, duet and ensemble variations. Birds, trees, and water come to life on stage, with an originality that enchants as much as it engages the audience.
It is a magnificent, creative and inventive undertaking, with performances so splendid, and scenes so beguiling, you won’t want the mountains to obscure them. Instead, you’ll want to run out and tell everyone you know to see director Steve Huntsman’s magnificent production of “Once On This Island.”
Come to think of it, once might not be enough.
About Super Summer Theater ’09:
Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the gate, and can be purchased at the UNLV Box Office, Prestige Travel at Lake Mead and Rampart, or online at unlvtickets.com. Children 5 and younger are free.
Guests are encouraged to bring a blanket or chair for use in general-admission grass seating, suitable for enjoying a picnic or treats from the concession stand.
Gates open at 6 p.m. Performances run Thursday through Saturday beginning at 8 p.m. Spring Mountain Ranch is located 10 miles west of the Charleston/215 exit. The final show for the 2009 Season is Studs Terkel’s Working, which will run from September 12-26.
For further information:
(702) 594-PLAY (7529).