Currently enjoying a revival on Broadway, Vancouver audiences will not have to travel across the continent to see Once On This Island, as Fabulist Theatre stages a production of the musical on Granville Island this April.
First seen on Broadway nearly thirty years ago, the one-act musical is based on Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel, My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl.
Set on an island in the French Antilles, it is the story of Ti Maune, an orphaned peasant girl who is guided by the island’s four gods in a bid to be reunited with the wealthy boy she once cared for after he was injured. With the god’s assistance, she not only embarks on a quest for love, but helps unite the peoples of the island.
“As a character, Ti Moune represents the true power love has over all elements of life, and the beauty that can be seen in the world if one is appreciative enough to notice it,” says Brianna Clark, who plays Ti Maune in the upcoming production.
Playing the young man Ti Moune falls in love with, Michael Gnansounou plays the role of Daniel Beauxhomme.
“Daniel serves as a love interest and a hope that love can truly prevail over all else in the story, which is why he is such a delight to play,” says Gnansounou.
Taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, it is a story about love, culture, and the social classes that divide us.
“The show touches on just how strong the hold that social systems have over citizens, and reminds us to believe in equality, and to embrace each other for our differences,” says Clark. “Above all, it also reminds people that love can conquer all as long as we believe in it.”
“The story is a classic, and who doesn’t love a good story,” says Gnansounou. “It’s full of all kinds of emotion; anger, love, amusement and more. It would surprise me if the audience didn’t relate to most of the characters.”
In the middle of rehearsals for their April opening, for Clark the biggest challenge she has faced is in finding the internal motivations that drives her character and her quest.
“It’s easy to feel the need to busy myself with movement or activities on stage, but I aim to find those few quiet moments too, where it comes across just how unique her way of thinking is,” she says.
Clark also points to the show’s African inspired choreography, from Marion Landers, as another of this show’s challenges.
“I’m not exactly a trained dancer, most of the dance I’ve done has been through other shows or random performances, but I love learning any new form I can,” she says. “I love how expressive it is, and getting to see and hear all about the meaning behind the moves that we adapt.”
Gnansounou is a little more pragmatic when it comes to his rehearsals, largely because of his limited experience performing in musicals.
“I don’t have much experience with musicals so learning where to breath, how to hold long notes while moving and still make everything sound amazing [are challenges],” he says.
Challenges aside, Gnansounou says the rehearsal process has also a wonderful experience.
“I love working with all members of the cast. All of them are so kind, fun to be around, and just lovely,” he says. “I think rehearsal is my favorite part of my day.”
A highlight for Clark has been working on a show with impactful messages.
“Especially for fellow youth that are about to embark on their own journeys throughout the world,” she says. “I’m definitely no stranger to Ti Moune’s hunger for a fresh start, and I think many others can also relate to this urge for something new.”
Once On This Island plays the Redgate Revue Stage on Granville Island April 6-14. Tickets are available online at Brown Paper Tickets.