The Wheel and Axle

Once Again On This Island

by on Oct.28, 2017, under Music & Theater

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Once On This Island will always be one of my favorite musicals, ever. It doesn’t get as much love as a lot of the bigger Broadway classics, but it has a very loyal following throughout the decades. In the Philippines, it’s been staged both professionally as well as in various schools. I can pretty much still sing it from start to finish.

So imagine my excitement when I heard they’re doing a revival on Broadway this year, with an out-of-the-box casting bonanza as well. Aside from having the Lea Salonga, a Filipina, as the goddess Erzulie and Quentin Earl Darrington as the god Agwe, we have some gender-bending casting choices with Glee’s Alex Newell portraying the goddess Asaka and actress Merle Dandridge portraying the psychopomp Papa Ge. These are, after all, deities, so perhaps interpreting them as not conforming to human ideas of gender and sexuality is a valid point of view.

Recently, a preview clip of the cast performing songs was released. Lea is great as well as most of the cast featured so far. Hailey Kilgore’s Ti Moune looks to be a force to reckon with.

However, I’m so far not feeling Alex’s Asaka yet: aside from not being intelligible with some of his lines, he has fallen into the trap of excessive vocal calisthentics just for the sake of showing off what he can do so. Nuance and subtlety are lost with this type of singing, especially on Broadway. That said, this is just a preview, so I hope he gets coached to improve on how he does the singing. This is theater and not his concert. I know he can do it; I have a couple of his prior song releases and they’re good. Someone just needs to tell him to apply temperance in his performance.

That said, the show still opens in a few weeeks, so there will surely be lots of changes and improvemets still. I only wish I could go there soon to watch it (along with dozens of other Broadway shows). At the very least, though, I hope they release a video down the line because I don’t think they were able to do that with the original.

Ah, well: waiting for Once to begin… again.

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