Louis Consoli Reservoir
Oakland Mills High School Theatre Department brought a tropical display of talent and music to life with their colorful performance of Once On This Island. The talented students of Oakland Mills danced and sang the story of Ti Moune, the little girl with big friends and quite a love story.
Once On This Island is the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl on a tropical island. When her life is spared by the four gods of the island ,Asaka (mother of the earth), Erzulie (goddess of love), Aguwe (god of water), and Papa Ge (Demon of Death), they keep a close watch over her until one day she prays to them to let her know her purpose. In response, Aguwe washes up Daniel Beauxhommes, a young Frenchman who was driving along in his car. Ti Moune finds him and realizes her purpose is to nurse him back to health and falls in love with the rich young boy. The play go on to tell the story of her quest for love, through the music of the island and it’s storytellers.
The production, collectively, was very entertaining. The department provided powerful and spectacular lighting and set choices, a well-cast ensemble of students, and a pit orchestra that gave the play the tropical ambiance it deserves. The strong supporting chorus and completely engaged actors did justice to this wonderful story.
The show’s characters were captivating and quite musically gifted. One particularly entertaining character was Papa Ge, played by Adam Vaughn. Vaughn’s take on the role was believable, creepy, and always a pleasure to see on stage. The four gods played off of each other so well making funny banter and enjoyable characters all around. Kim Tang-Nian’s Ti Moune was a vulnerable, loving, and enjoyable character to follow. Her dancing, singing, and acting took the show right where it needed to be.
The interactions shared with Ti Moune and her parents, played by Madison Stevens and Jordan Stewart, were beautiful moments that popped. Stewart and Stevens both had some of the best voices in the show and had some of the best acting abilities to back it up. Also, Olivia Porter, who played a younger Ti Moune in the family, showed off her skills of voice and acting. This adorable child actress gave the audience a great performance and showed immense talent at her young age. The chorus that surrounded the characters was immensely talented. With a well-tuned vocal harmony, exquisite dance numbers and effective use of pantomime props and scenery, these actors brought an organic, smooth, and entertaining environment to the stage.
The tech aspects of the show were in large part in what made the show what it is. The set was well thought out and beautifully constructed, consisting of a mountain, a hut with two semi-transparent scrim windows, totem poles that told the story, and a tree platform for the gods. The lighting was colorful and animated; green leaf-shaped lighting and blue ocean movement lighting enhanced the performance greatly. The costumes also were well thought out and simple. Though the microphones did have some issues on more than one occasion, the sound was strong throughout most of the performance.
Oakland Mills put on a must see show for all ages that is beautiful, colorful and musically enthralling. Their show is like a children’s book come to life on stage and highly recommended.
Once on This Island
Some shows you see and forget, but this one, you’ll love and remember! Oakland Mill’s production Once on This Island becomes an unforgettable experience for all that attend!
Once on This Island, a musical based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy, is a story within a story told to a frightened child on a stormy night. In that story, a young girl, Ti Moune, is lost during a storm and found by a peasant couple, Tonton and Mama, who adopt her. She is eventually picked by the Gods of the island, Erzulie, Asaka, Aguwe, and Papa Ge, the gods of love, earth, water, and death respectively, to go on a special journey to find what she really wants in life as she grows into a beautiful young woman. She saves a boy, Daniel, from the other more privileged side of the island they all inhabit after he gets into a car accident, devotes herself to healing him, and eventually falls in love. Will her love for Daniel survive? Or do the Gods have another plan for her in store?
The overall production was grounded by the strong ensemble. Each number with the entire cast on stage was wonderful synchronization. The energy expended by each actor brought the musical to life, highlighted by orchestration and accompanying singing. Songs like “The Human Heart” and “Mama Will Provide” stood out with strong harmonies and vocals blending very nicely.
Kim Tang-Nian, who played Ti Moune, had a wonderful voice and presence that drew the audience to her every moment when present on stage. She was committed to her character and demonstrated true devotion in her care of Daniel (played by David Last). Erzulie, goddess of love played by Jenna Pekofsky, was also another stand-out performer. Her voice charmed the audience during “The Human Heart,”, and her understated mannerisms gradually made Tonton and Mama understand their desire to care for the child and led everyone to believe that she may actually possess some sort of magical powers.
Jordan Stewart and Madison Stevens played Tonton and Mama respectively. Stewart demonstrated a smooth and deep voice that made him a believable father figure. Stevens displayed a motherly character that truly resonated in her care of Ti Moune and her husband. The moments shared with Ti Moune exhibited a great chemistry and a lovely familial bond, especially during the song “Ti Moune”. Adam Vaughn played Papa Ge, the god of death. Vaughn exhibited an evil and conniving character bent on causing misery, walked around the stage with a powerful and menacing presence even when he wasn’t the focus of the scene.
The set (designed by Oakland Mills Stagecraft class and crew) and lighting (designed by Sam Andrews and Steven Cale) was aesthetically pleasing. Even before the show started, the opening appearance was bright and colorful and added to the tropical and island-oriented show’s motif. Totem-pole like set pieces added a nice touch to the stage, displaying painted pictures that followed the story. The costumes (designed by Gaby Castillo) were bright and colorful. Each ensemble member had their own unique look, with the richer residents of the privileged side of the island possessing more formal clothing and shoes in marked contrast to the barefoot peasants of the other side of the island. While there were some sound feedback issues, all actors could generally be heard throughout the entire show.
The audience definitely agreed that Oakland Mills did a lovely job of “telling the story” of Once on this Island, and “pray” that more come to see it!