Once on This Island, directed by associate professor of theater design Clinton O’Dell, opens at Weber Theater on Thursday, April 4 and continues to run Thursdays through Saturdays until April 13. The musical features a cast of fifteen Wheaton students as well as Alivia Cross ‘19 as stage manager and Ian Hamilton ‘21 as assistant director. In total, more than forty students lent their skills to the production as musicians, performers and technicians with the help of Haas Visiting Artists and faculty from three different disciplines.
Originally premiering on Broadway in 1990, Once on This Island garnered eight Tony nominations and was revived in 2017, earning the award for Best Revival of a Musical. In Wheaton’s rendering, Krystal Ssonko ‘21 plays Ti Moune, an orphaned girl on a tropical island in the Caribbean Sea. Washed ashore in a storm, Ti Moune is adopted by a peasant couple, Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian. She appeals to the gods to find her purpose, and Erzulie, the goddess of love, sends her an injured grand homme (a wealthy French citizen of the island) named Daniel Beauxhomme to nurse back to health. Flouting tradition and the wishes of their families, Ti Moune falls in love with Daniel, beginning a journey to prove to the gods that love is stronger than death.
Wheaton’s production also features stunning sets, costume designs by Haas Visiting Artist Meagan Becker and beautiful choreography by Haas Visiting Artist Nina Pongratz, featuring dance captains Emma Girouard ‘21, Tori Mattie ‘22 and Allie Roth ‘21. In his director’s note, O’Dell acknowledges the widespread effort that went into the production, writing, “I feel much gratitude for the mighty talent and energy contributed by so many gifted individuals.” He encourages the audience, as well as the greater Wheaton community, to take inspiration from the musical to find a story, whether it be one’s own or someone else’s, that needs to be told.