Mia Williamson, Alex Newell, Hailey Kilgore and the cast of Once On This Island. Photo by Joan Marcus
The reviews are in for Michael Arden’s first-ever Broadway revival of Ahrens and Flaherty’s Olivier-winning Caribbean musical.
Circle in the Square Theatre, 235 W. 50th St.
Book and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy
Orchestrations by Michael Starobin and AnnMarie Milazzo
Choreographed by Camille A. Brown
Directed by Michael Arden
Cast: Lea Salonga, Alex Newell, Merle Dandridge, Quentin Earl Darrington, Hailey Kilgore, Phillip Boykin, Darlesia Cearcy, Rodrick Covington, Emerson Davis, Alysha Deslorieux, Tyler Hardwick, Cassondra James, David Jennings, Grasan Kingsberry, Loren Lott, Kenita R. Miller, Isaac Powell, T. Oliver Reid, Aurelia Williams, Mia Williamson
Jesse Green – New York Times
But then it did, and all I can say is that after a dismal theatrical fall, in which even the highlights seemed ashen, what a delight it is to enter the world of “Once on This Island.” The musical, first seen on Broadway in 1990, opened on Sunday in a ravishing revival directed by Michael Arden.
Marilyn Stasio – Variety
The ungainly in-the-round stage of Broadway’s Circle in the Square is put to imaginative use in director Michael Arden’s inspired revival of “Once On This Island,” the 1990 musical by Lynn Ahrens (book & lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (music). The imaginative physical design extends to the auditorium, where colorful laundry hangs on the side walls and luxurious vegetation blooms. Everything about Dane Laffrey’s immersive set design welcomes the audience to the little island in the French Antilles where this pretty but sad fable is set.
Jeremy Gerard – Deadline
A joyful noise thunders through Circle in the Square theater, as Broadway welcomes a smashing revival of Once On This Island. Michael Arden’s exuberant staging of this 1990 musical fairy tale set on a Caribbean island conjures a spell that is devastatingly timely yet affectingly timeless in its evocation of how love goes when the indifferent, capricious whims of gods and nature intervene in the deepest yearnings of the human heart.
Breanne L. Heldman – Entertainment Weekly
Just as the colorful Caribbean musical (from Ragtime and Anastasia duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty) straddles two time periods and “two different worlds never meant to meet,” the show itself does too — feeling fresh, but also a little bit retro. Once on This Island‘s original Broadway run lasted from 1990 to 1994 and the West End production earned an Olivier for best new musical in 1995. The new production marks its first Broadway revival, and while the music isn’t dated, the new orchestrations by original orchestrator Michael Starobin and AnnMarie Milazzo certainly follow some of the trends set 25 years ago.
David Rooney – The Hollywood Reporter
Walking into Broadway’s Circle in the Square and taking in the environmental staging of the lovingly crafted Once on This Island revival — with an upturned boat on the edge of a sandbagged pool of water, ensemble members milling barefoot around a steel-drum fire, shoes and clothing hung out to dry all over the theater, medics tending to the sick and a live goat weaving its way among the cast — the visual association hits you instantly. The vivid scene is impossible to separate from recent news footage of storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, or going further back, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake; the reference would be clear even without director Michael Arden’s program note.
Chris Jones – Chicago Tribune
The closing number of “Once on This Island,” the justly loved one-act musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens now in a Broadway revival at the Circle in the Square Theatre, ends with a number called “We Tell the Story.” It’s a song filled with reasons as to why every community must pass on tall tales, in some form or another, to its young: life, pain, love, grief, hope, faith, the protection of those in need. But its final and most important reason is simple. It’s just “you.”
Joe Dziemianowicz – NY Daily News
Director Michael Arden’s smart and timely concept underscores the elemental and emotional tempests at work in the musical fable that celebrates love, resilience and the spirit of hope.
Howard Miller – Talkin’ Broadway
Michael Arden showed us all what it looks like to breathe new life into a revived musical when he brought Spring Awakening back to Broadway in 2015 just six years after its original and highly successful run closed. His reimagined production was revelatory in its full integration of deaf and hearing actors (and another in a wheelchair) in ways that truly enhanced the experience for the audience. Now he’s done it again, this time gloriously integrating the art of theater magic with the even older art of story telling, resulting in the nigh unto perfect revival of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Caribbean-flavored musical Once On This Island that opened today at the Circle in the Square.
Robert Hofler – The Wrap
The hurricane early in the show, with wind machines blowing at your back, is truly thrilling. But overall that environmental set by Dane Laffrey is perhaps a little too authentic. It recalls one of those erstwhile island paradises you travel thousands of miles to visit only to wish you’d gone to the Jersey shore instead.
Roma Torre – NY 1
Theatre-in-the-round is always a big challenge to stage, but the dazzling revival of “Once On This Island,” currently ensconced in the Circle in the Square Theatre, feels right at home — and long may it live.
Matt Windman – AM New York
Since it premiered in 1990, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Caribbean-flavored fairy-tale musical “Once On This Island” has been performed by numerous schools and amateur groups, but there has probably never been a production quite like the stunning new Broadway revival at Circle in the Square.