Musical about love, hope and grief at Baxter

The cast of Once On This Island. Picture: Kwame Bright

The Tony-award-winning musical, Once On This Island, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, based on a Caribbean interpretation of Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, opens at the Baxter Flipside today, Friday July 8.

After a run at the Guild Theatre in East London, Wela Kapela Productions brings a vibrant all-Eastern Cape cast to Cape Town, transporting audiences to a magical island “where rivers run deep” and where everyone is “at the mercy of the wind and the sea, praying constantly to the gods”.

Producer and director, Amanda Bothma directs the cast and live band of 14 performers with musical direction by Nathan Johannisen, choral direction by Akhona Zizipho Nkinti and choreography by Sonwa Sakuba

The hit musical follows the journey of Ti Moune, a young peasant girl who fearlessly pursues love across racial and class barriers, while contesting the power of death. It is a story of love, life, pain, hope, grief and faith as it holds a mirror to society and allows a safe space to re-evaluate one’s own thinking.

On a stormy night a terrible thunder booms, making a young girl cry in fear. To comfort her, the villagers tell her the story of Ti Moune (performed by Bathandwa Diniso), who falls in love with the aristocrat, Daniel Beauxhomme (Daniel Anderson). In this story, the four gods Asaka: Mother of the Earth (Dikelo Mamiala), Agwe: God of Water (Mava Gqeba), Erzulie: Goddess of Love (Kerry Hiles), and Papa Ge: Demon of Death (Alison Hillstead) rule an island of two different worlds.

“Working on this production was invigorating, each actor had to mine his or her own creativity, working together as an ensemble, yet creating strong individual characters,” says Bothma.

“There is simply nowhere to hide: all the characters are on stage all of the time, singing, dancing, telling a story within a story – really pushing the boundaries of theatre work. We have really brought the best talent – on and off stage. Be ready to be amazed by one incredible set – literally bringing a whole island to life.”

The show has countless surprises, bright shweshwe fabrics and shadow puppetry. Audience members are invited to be transported to a magical island of community, love, hope and family, making it perfect entertainment for the whole family during the school holidays.

Once On This Island runs at the Baxter Flipside from Friday July 8 to Saturday July 16 at 7pm with Saturday matinees at 2pm. Tickets are R180 and R140 for seniors and students or block bookings of 10 or more. Book through Webtickets or at Pick n Pay stores.