Once on This Island, with a score by composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens (Ragtime) the Caribbean inspired retelling of The Little Mermaid, is a bright and vibrant story of a peasant girl who falls in love with a rich Beauxhomme. In Montgomery College’s colorful production, there is a lot of bright young talent and future names you will want to remember, particularly in the peasant girl, TiMoune, played with vocal force by Awa Sal-Secka. The fine young performer has a rich timbre to her voice that was showcased brightly in her tour de force number, “Waiting For Life,” and played the star crossed lover with a great sense of love and hope. In addition, a special mention to future star Rohey Colley, an energetic young actress making her stage debut as Little TiMoune.
In a musical that ends with “Why We Tell The Story,” the story of TiMoune and her beloved Daniel should have been more clearer, and with no fault to the fine actors on stage, the enigmatic staging left me confused and unsure of both TiMoune’s and Daniel’s motives. The actors were playing with great emotion and energy, but the unsmooth scene transitions diminished their momentum. Also, I understand the necessity of an intermission in an educational production, but the story could have been more cohesive without one.
But besides this drawback, the evening had a series of standout performances, particularly the strong voice of Christina Shields (Asaka), and her show-stopping “Mama Will Provide”. The always brilliant Michael Mainwaring as Papa Ge was distinctively playful. His sinister puppet master was just enough evil, and just enough mischief to make the character pop in a very unique way, plus his gorgeous voice shows why Signature Theatre rightfully cast him in their recent production of Dreamgirls.
But the greatest understated performance of the evening belongs to Mama Euralie, Grace Sicard. Mama is a part that could easily be forgotten, but Ms. Sicard played her with an endearing charm that brought light to the stage every time she walked on. (And Lynn Joslin’s vibrant lights were already perfect). Ms. Sicard had great nuances in her acting choices, and you can tell she is serious about her craft and is diligent about her preparation. Particularly fine was the moments between Mama and TiMoune and the two actresses had remarkable chemistry together.
In Director Devron Young’s notes he says: “TiMoune proves that she is willing to give everything for love. The story also demonstrates how stories are passed down through generations of families and communities in order to teach valuable lessons about pain, hope, life, and love.”
Once on This Island ends its run TODAY today – March 3rd at 2 PM, at the Robert. E Parilla Performing Arts Center at Montgomery College – 51 Mannakee Street, in Rockville, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 567-5301, or purchase them online.