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Once on This Island is a one-act musical with a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. Based on the 1985 novel My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl by Rosa Guy, it is set in the French Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. The show includes elements of the Romeo and Juliet story and elements of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Little Mermaid. It concerns a peasant girl on a tropical island, who uses the power of love to bring together people of different social classes.

The original Broadway production ran from 1990 to 1991, and the West End production opened in 1994, where it won the 1995 Olivier Award for Best New Musical. The musical is currently being revived on Broadway in a production that opened on December 3, 2017 after being in previews since November 9, 2017 at the Circle in the Square Theatre.

Production History

Once on This Island was originally staged at Off-Broadway’s Playwrights Horizons, running from May 6, 1990 through May 27, 1990. The Broadway production opened on October 18, 1990 at the Booth Theatre and closed on December 1, 1991, after 469 performances and 19 previews. With direction and choreography by Graciela Daniele, the musical featured LaChanze as Ti Moune, Jerry Dixon as Daniel, Andrea Frierson as Erzulie, Sheila Gibbs as Mama Euralie, Kecia Lewis as Asaka, Gerry McIntyre as Armand, Milton Craig Nealy as Agwe, Eric Riley as Papa Ge, Ellis E. Williams as Tonton Julian and Afi McClendon as Little Ti Moune. In 2002, the original Broadway cast was reunited with special guest Lillias White to perform the show for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund.

The European premiere took place in 1994, hosted by the Birmingham Rep, and then transferred to the West End Royalty Theatre (now the Peaco*ck Theatre) in September 1994. The production won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.[1]

The musical was revived in the UK in 2009 at Birmingham Rep, Nottingham Playhouse, and the Hackney Empire Theatre in London. Susie McKenna directed, with Sharon D. Clarke reprising her 1994 role as Asaka.[1][2][3][4] In June 2012, the Paper Mill Playhouse presented a production directed by Thomas Kail,[5] Syesha Mercado as Ti Moune[6] and Darius de Haas as Agwe.[7]

The first Broadway revival of Once on This Island, planned by producer Ken Davenport and directed by Michael Arden, began previews on November 9, 2017 and officially opened on December 3 at the Circle in the Square Theatre. The choreographer is Camille A. Brown. The opening night cast included Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune, Isaac Powell as Daniel, Alysha Deslorieux as Andrea, Phillip Boykin as Tonton Julian, Kenita R. Miller as Mama Euralie, Alex Newell as Asaka, Merle Dandridge as Papa Ge, Quentin Earl Darrington as Agwe, Lea Salonga as Erzulie and David Jennings as Armand.[8]


One stormy night in theAntillesarchipelago, thunder booms, making a small girl cry in fear. To comfort her, the villagestorytellerstell her the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who falls in love with agrand homme, Daniel Beauxhomme – a story of life, pain, love, grief, faith, and hope. In this story, four gods (consisting ofAsaka: Mother of the Earth,Agwé: god of Water,Erzulie: goddess of Love, andPapa Ge:demonof Death) rule an island known as theJewel of the Antilleswhere poorpeasantsworship them (Prologue/”We Dance”). The peasants, “black as night”, live on one side of the island, and thegrands hommes, lighter-skinned descendants of the original French planters and their slaves, live on the other. One day, Agwe unleashes a terrible storm upon the island, which in turn causes a disastrous flood, wiping out many villages. However, the gods save the life of a little orphan named Ti Moune by placing her in a tree above the flood’s waves. She is found and subsequently adopted by the peasants Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian (“One Small Girl”).

Years afterwards, a grown-up Ti Moune prays to the gods to let her know her purpose, and to let her be like the fast-driving strangers on the roads near her village – thegrands hommes(“Waiting for Life”). Hearing her plea, the gods laugh at her. However, Erzulie says to give her love, because it is stronger than any of the other elements. Offended, Papa Ge proposes a bet to prove which is stronger: love or death. Agwe arranges for the car of Daniel Beauxhomme, a younggrande homme, to crash during a storm so that Ti Moune may meet Daniel and restore him to health (“And The Gods Heard Her Prayer/Rain”). Despite the objections of the other peasants including her own parents, Ti Moune helps the intruder recover (“Pray”). Ti Moune falls in love with the stranger and as she cares for the unconscious boy, she imagines he loves her too. When Papa Ge comes to take Daniel’s life, Ti Moune offers her life in exchange for Daniel’s so that he will not die (“Forever Yours”). Papa Ge is angry but leaves, hinting he will return – sooner or later, as her life now belongs to him.

Tonton travels to the other side of the Island to seek Daniel’s family at the Hotel Beauxhomme. When Tonton returns, he brings with him the story of Daniel’s people: Four generations ago, during the Napoleonic era, a French aristocrat named Armand colonised the island. Although Armand had a wife, he had affairs with several natives, one of which bore him a son, named Beauxhomme. When Beauxhomme grew up, war broke out between the peasant locals and the French. The peasants won the war with Beauxhomme’s help. Beauxhomme banishes Armand back to France, but before leaving, Armand curses Beauxhomme and his descendents saying their “black blood will keep them forever on the island, while their hearts yearn forever for France.” To this day the curse causes future Beauxhommes to alienate the peasants for reminding them of their homeland (“The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes”) as well as some of Daniel’s people to take the boy back. Ti Moune is tearfully separated from Daniel and tells her parents that she will go after Daniel to marry him. Ti Moune’s parents reluctantly let her go (“Ti Moune”). During her travels, she encounters the goddess Asaka who tells her not to fear as the Earth will give her everything she needs on her journey to Daniel (“Mama Will Provide”). Ti Moune travels across the island (“Waiting For Life (Reprise)”). The storytellers then relate the story of her difficult journey to the city (including being forced to wear too-tight shoes) through the hotel gates and finding Daniel’s room (“Some Say”). Daniel, still ill and unable to walk, does not remember her but believes her after she describes the scar on his chest. As they stay together, Erzulie gives them the gift of love (“Human Heart”). Daniel ignores the townspeople’s gossiping (“Pray (Reprise)”) over the unlikely relationship of a rich Beauxhomme and a poor peasant. Daniel delights in Ti Moune’s differences from the rich girls in his life, nothing that “some girls you marry, some you love” (“Some Girls”).

At a ball held at the hotel, Andrea Deveraux, a daughter of Daniel’s family friends, cajoles Ti Moune to dance for them (her ulterior motive being to make her look bad in front of thegrande hommes). Ti Moune does dance and gains the admiration of the rich society members. Afterwards, Ti Moune learns that Daniel is engaged to be married to Andrea (“When We Are Wed”). Daniel, reminded of his responsibilities, must go through with the arranged marriage, although he insists they can be lovers forever. Ti Moune is crushed. Papa Ge reappears and reminds Ti Moune of her promise to exchange her life for Daniel’s – but says she can revoke the bargain if she kills Daniel (“Promises/Forever Yours (Reprise)”). Ti Moune enters Daniel’s room with a knife, but she still loves him too much to kill him – proving love is stronger than death. However, Daniel finds Ti Moune with the knife. Appalled at the attempted murder, the Beauxhommes throw her out of the hotel grounds.

She waits for days to meet Daniel at the gate. As Daniel and Andrea are married, they follow an old tradition of throwing coins to the peasants outside the hotel gates. Ti Moune calls to Daniel who places a silver coin in Ti Moune’s hand and leaves. The storytellers tell how Erzulie took her by the hand and led her to the ocean where Agwé allowed her to drown peacefully. Papa Ge received her gently and brought her back to shore where Asaka transformed her into a tree (“A Part Of Us”).

The tree becomes a celebration of life and love that cracks open the gates of the hotel, allowing those of all social statuses to become one. Her legacy brings together another peasant girl and a new younggrande homme, Daniel’s son, as they play in her branches. The storytellers share with them a retelling of the story how a peasant girl proved the power of love could bring together the people of the island. It helps us to remember, to forgive – and out of what we live and we believe, our lives become the stories that we weave. As the musical ends, the little girl who was frightened by the storm begins to retell the story herself (“Why We Tell The Story”).



Type & Version


1. Oct 18, 1990 – Dec 01, 1991Musical OriginalBooth Theatre
2. May 12, 2002 – May 12, 2002Musical RevivalCadillac Theatre
3. Dec 03, 2017 – Jan 06, 2019Musical RevivalCircle in the Square
  1. 19 Previews and 469 Performances
  2. 2 Performances
  3. 29 Previews and 457Performances


Ti Moune – A peasant girl.
Little Ti Moune – Ti Moune as a child.
Daniel Beauxhomme – A grand homme (French for “upper class”); Ti Moune’s love interest; Beauxhomme is French for “beautiful man”
Papa Ge – The sly Demon of Death who is the main antagonist of the show. He tricks the main character into giving her life for another. He is seen as a skeleton and is very sneaky. The people on the island fear him because of what he represents: the unknown that is death.
Erzulie – Beautiful Goddess of Love; the foil to Papa Ge
Agwe – God of Water
Asaka – Mother of the Earth
Mama Euralie – Ti Moune’s adoptive mother
Tonton Julian – Ti Moune’s adoptive father
Andrea Deveraux – Daniel’s promised wife; also “Madame Armand”
Armand Beauxhomme – Daniel’s stern father.
“Armand” – The ancestor of Armand Beauxhomme.
Gatekeeper – The Hotel Beauxhomme’s fierce guard (commonly played by Armand).
The Little Girl – A young girl who is told the story of Ti Moune.
Daniel’s Son – Daniel’s young son (commonly played by Daniel’s actor).
Storytellers/Gossips – Various Grands Hommes and peasants (in most productions, the storytellers are shown as also playing the parts of the Gods).
Note: The original cast was chosen along racial lines with darker-skinned actors portraying the peasants and lighter-skinned actors portraying the upper-class landowners. In the script, the writers provide small line changes that can be used to remove references to skin color to accommodate multi-ethnic productions, while preserving the storyline about differences between the upper and lower classes.[9]


CharacterPlaywrights HorizonsCast[10]
OriginalWest EndCast[12]
Broadway Revival Cast[13][14][15]
Ti MouneLaChanzeLorna BrownHailey Kilgore
Daniel BeauxhommeJerry DixonAnthony CorrieteIsaac Cole Powell
AsakaKecia Lewis-EvansSharon D. ClarkeAlex Newell
AgweMilton Craig NealyTrevor Michael GeorgesQuentin Earl Darrington
ErzulieAndrea Frierson-ToneyP. P. ArnoldLea Salonga
Papa GeEric RileyClive RoweMerle Dandridge
Mama EuralieSheila GibbsShezwae PowellKenita R. Miller
Tonton JulianEllis WilliamsJohnny WorthyPhillip Boykin
Andrea DeverauxNikki ReneSuzanne PackerAlysha Deslorieux
Armand BeauxhommeGerry McIntyreMark VincentDavid Jennings
Little Ti MouneAfi BijouMonique Mason1Emerson Davis
Mia Williamson
  1. Elizabeth Kerr originated the role but Mason replaced her during the Birmingham Repertory run and subsequently transferred to the West End.

Notable Replacements in the Original Broadway cast

  • Lillias Whiteas Asaka
  • James Stovallas Tonton Julian

Notable Replacements in the 2017 Broadway revival cast

  • Norm Lewistemporarily replacedQuentin Earl Darringtonas Agwe from January 8 to March 7, 2018.[16][17]
  • Tamyra GrayreplacedMerle Dandridgeas Papa Ge starting January 8, 2018. Dandridge reprised the role for a limited run from June 18 to August 20, 2018 before Gray returned.[16][18]
  • Darlesia Cearcy replacedLea Salongaas Erzulie, as of June 24, 2018.
  • Anna Uzele replaced Alysha Deslorieux as Andrea Deveraux, as of June 20, 2018.
  • Loren Lott replacedHailey Kilgoreon her medical leave, as Ti Moune, from July 16, 2018 to September 3, 2018. Kilgore returned to the role on September 4, 2018.
  • Boise Holmes replacedPhillip Boykinas Tonton Julian, as of August 7, 2018.
  • Michelle Williamswill replace Darlesia Cearcy as Erzulie on November 30, 2018.[19]
  • Juliet Benn joined the cast as Little Girl from August 27, 2018 to September 9, 2018

Musical Numbers

Note: This is the song list from the original Broadway production[20]

  • Prologue/”We Dance” – Storytellers
  • “One Small Girl” – Mama Euralie, Tonton Julian, Little Ti Moune, and Storytellers
  • “Waiting for Life” – Ti Moune and Storytellers
  • “And the Gods Heard Her Prayer” – Asaka, Agwe, Erzulie, and Papa Ge
  • “Rain” – Agwe and Storytellers
  • “Pray” – Ti Moune, Mama Euralie, Tonton Julian, Guard and Storytellers
  • “Forever Yours” – Ti Moune, Daniel and Papa Ge
  • “The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes” – Armand and Storytellers
  • “Ti Moune”- Ti Moune, Mama Euralie, Tonton Julian
  • “Mama Will Provide” – Asaka and Storytellers
  • “Waiting for Life” (Reprise)”† – Ti Moune
  • “Some Say” – Storytellers
  • “The Human Heart” – Erzulie and Storytellers
  • “Pray” (Reprise)* – Storytellers
  • “Some Girls” – Daniel
  • “The Ball” – Andrea, Daniel, Ti Moune, and Storytellers
  • “Ti Moune’s Dance” – Erzulie, Asaka, Agwe, Papa Ge, and Storytellers
  • “When We Are Wed” – Andrea, Daniel and Ti Moune
  • “Forever Yours” (Reprise) – Papa Ge, Ti Moune, Erzulie, and Storytellers
  • “A Part of Us” – Mama Euralie, Tonton Julian, Little Ti Moune, and Storytellers
  • “Why We Tell the Story” – Storytellers

†Not included on the Original Broadway or Revival Broadway Cast Recordings

*This song was changed to “Gossip” in the Broadway Revival

Cut songs include “Come Down From the Tree” and “When Daniel Marries”.[21][22]“Come Down From the Tree”, was a song for Mama Euralie; it is included in several recordings, including its first recording on Bruce Kimmel’s Lost in Boston CD, where it was sung by Lillias White – it was also included onAudra McDonald’sHow Glory Goes.[23]

Awards and Nominations

Original Broadway Production

1991Tony AwardBest MusicalNominated
Best Book of a MusicalLynn AhrensNominated
Best Original ScoreStephen FlahertyandLynn AhrensNominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a MusicalLaChanzeNominated
Best Direction of a MusicalGraciela DanieleNominated
Best ChoreographyNominated
Best Costume DesignJudy DearingNominated
Best Lighting DesignAllen Lee HughesNominated
Drama Desk AwardOutstanding Actress in a MusicalLaChanzeNominated
Theatre World AwardWon

Original London Production

1995Laurence Olivier AwardBest New MusicalWon
Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a MusicalSharon D. ClarkeNominated
Best Director of a MusicalDavid Toguriand Gwenda HughesNominated
Best Theatre ChoreographerDavid ToguriNominated

2017 Broadway Revival

2018Tony Awards[24]Best Revival of a MusicalWon
Best Actress in a MusicalHailey KilgoreNominated
Best Direction of a MusicalMichael ArdenNominated
Best Scenic Design in a MusicalDane LaffreyNominated
Best Costume Design in a MusicalClint RamosNominated
Best Lighting Design in a MusicalJules FisherandPeggy EisenhauerNominated
Best Sound DesignPeter HylenskiNominated
Best OrchestrationsAnnMarie Millazo andMichael StarobinNominated
Drama Desk Awards[25]Outstanding Revival of a MusicalNominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a MusicalKenita R. MillerNominated
Outstanding ChoreographyCamille A. BrownNominated
Outstanding OrchestrationsAnnMarie Milazzo and Michael Starobin (John Bertles and Bash the Trash, found instrument design)Nominated
Outstanding Set Design for a MusicalDane LaffreyNominated
Outstanding Costume Design for a MusicalClint RamosNominated
Outstanding Lighting Design for a MusicalJules FisherandPeggy EisenhauerWon
Theatre World Award [26]Hailey KilgoreHonoree


  1. Shenton, Mark.“Clarke to Star in U.K. Revival of Ahrens and Flaherty’s ‘Once on This Island’ “, Playbill.com, January 12, 2009.
  2. Once on This Islandlisting, nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk, 2009, retrieved January 10, 2010.
  3. Once on This Islandlisting, birmingham-rep.co.uk, 2009, retrieved January 10, 2010
  4. Bosanquet, Theo.“Review:Once on This Islandat Hackney, whatsonstage.com, July 29, 2009.
  5. “Goings on about Town: The Theatre”,The New Yorker
  6. “Theatre in Review: Once on This Island (Paper Mill Playhouse)”, L&S Online America, June 11, 2012
  7. “Stage Tube: Highlights from Paper Mill Playhouse’sOnce on this Island, broadway.com, June 11, 2012
  8. “Breaking: Lea Salonga, Merle Dandridge, Quentin Earl Darrington & Alex Newell JoinOnce on this Island, Broadway World, accessed August 8, 2017
  9. Ahrens, Lynn (1991).Libretto Vocal Book, Once on This Island. Hillsdale Music. p.vii.
  10. Rich, Frank (1990-05-07).“Review/Theater; ‘Once on This Island,’ Fairy Tale Bringing Caribbean to 42d Street”.The New York Times.ISSN0362-4331. Retrieved2017-08-05.
  11. “Person List”.Playbill. Retrieved2017-08-05.
  12. “Once On This Island Original West End Cast – 1994 West End”.www.broadwayworld.com. Retrieved2017-08-05.
  13. “Breaking News: Phillip Boykin, Alysha Deslorieux, Kenita R. Miller and More to Set Sail with Broadway’s ONCE ON THIS ISLAND”.BroadwayWorld.com. 2017-08-01. Retrieved2017-08-05.
  14. “Breaking: Lea Salonga, Merle Dandridge, Quentin Earl Darrington & Alex Newell Join ONCE ON THIS ISLAND”.BroadwayWorld.com. 2017-08-08. Retrieved2017-08-08.
  15. Rickwald, Bethany (2017-10-06).“Broadway’s Once on This Island Announces Complete Casting”.TheaterMania.com. Retrieved2017-10-19.
  16. Hetrick, Adam.“Norm Lewis and Tamyra Gray Join Cast of Broadway’s ‘Once on This Island’ January 8”Playbill, January 8, 2018
  17. Hetrick, Adam (2018-03-16).“Quentin Earl Darrington Returns to Broadway’s Once On This Island March 16”.Playbill. Retrieved2018-05-08.
  18. Hetrick, Adam.“Merle Dandridge Returns to Broadway’s Once on This Island”.Playbill. Retrieved19 June2018.
  19. “Destiny’sChild’sMichelleWilliamstoJointheCastofTony-WinningOnceOnThisIsland”.Broadway.com. Retrieved2018-10-26.
  20. IBDB.Once on This Island, 1980″, InternetBroadwayDatabase, accessed July 19, 2012
  21. “Discography, see p. 5,Lost in Bostonseries”ahrensandflaherty.com, accessed July 21, 2012
  22. Jones, Kenneth.“Playbill On-Line’s Brief Encounter with Lynn Ahrens”, Playbill.com, April 30, 2002
  23. How Glory Goes, nonesuch.com, accessed July 21, 2012
  24. “2018 Tony Award Nominations: SpongeBob SquarePants and Mean Girls Lead the Pack”.Playbill. 2018-05-01. Retrieved2018-05-01.
  25. “Breaking: CAROUSEL, SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS Lead the Pack with Drama Desk Awards Nominations; The Full List!”.BroadwayWorld.com. 2018-04-26. Retrieved2018-04-26.
  26. “Noma Dumezweni, Harry Hadden-Paton, and More to Receive Theatre World Awards”.BroadwayWorld.com. 2018-05-08. Retrieved2018-05-08.

External Links

Once on This Island | TheatreGold (2024)


What is the message of Once On This Island? ›

Set in the French Antilles, Once on This Island explores the concepts of life, pain, grief, faith, hope, and the power of love to bring people of different social classes together. Ti Moune, a peasant girl, rescues a wealthy boy from the other side of the island, Daniel, with whom she falls in love.

What happens at the end of the Once On This Island? ›

After the wedding of Daniel and Andrea, the newly married couple come to the front of the hotel and throw coins to the peasants. Daniel gives a coin to Ti Moune but she is dying. Her life and untimely death leave a positive ending to the story - the power of love conquers the fear of death.

Who is the god of death in Once On This Island? ›

Papa Ge - The sly Demon of Death who is the main antagonist of the show. He tricks the main character into giving her life for another. He is seen as a skeleton and is very sneaky. The people on the island fear him because of what he represents: the unknown that is death.

What is the story of Once On This Island Jr? ›

Through almost non-stop song and dance, this full-hearted musical 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.

What are the four gods in Once On This Island? ›

In this story, four Gods (Asaka: Mother of the Earth, Agwe: God of Water, Erzulie: Goddess of Love, and Papa Ge: Demon of Death) rule an island known as the Jewel of the Antilles where poor peasants wor- ship them.

Who is the goddess of earth in Once On This Island? ›

Once on a golden and verdant Caribbean island, a little girl is rescued from a disastrous storm by four gods—Asaka, Mother of the Earth; Agwé, god of Water; Erzulie, goddess of Love; and Papa Ge, demon of Death.

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