SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is thrilled to open its 24th season with “Once On This Island.” Set on a verdant Caribbean island, this Tony Award-winning musical tells the coming-of-age story of a peasant girl searching for love and her place in the world, while dealing with complicated social issues of race, class and affairs of the heart.
Based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy, this sweeping production showcases Afro-Caribbean rhythms and instruments, with music and lyrics by the Tony Award-winning musical team behind “Ragtime” (lyrics and book by Lynn Ahrens, music by Stephen Flaherty).
“Once on This Island” tells the story of Ti Moune, a young peasant girl who saves the life of a rich, aristocratic boy from the other side of the island after a car crash. She falls in love with him; unbeknownst to her, though, the same gods who saved her when she was lost and alone in a terrible storm years ago – Asaka, Mother of the Earth; Agwé, god of Water; Erzulie, goddess of Love; and Papa Ge, demon of Death – make a wager over which is stronger, love or death, the stakes being Ti Moune’s life.
Which will ultimately prevail? Audiences will have to wait to find out. The New York Daily News said “Once on This Island” is, “A bewitching musical that celebrates love, resilience and the spirit of hope.”
WBTT’s Education Director/Artistic Associate Jim Weaver will direct.
“This is a theatrical experience that leaves you feeling good and full of hope in the end – it stays with you. And the ultimate message that lingers long after the curtain has come down? Love conquers all!” said Weaver. “We also get to explore many interesting avenues of thought as we traverse the events unfolding before us. Events that we hope will generate some remarkably interesting conversations.”
Audiences will enjoy performances by numerous WBTT fan favorites, including Tarra Connor Jones – returning to the WBTT stage as Asaka after her recent success in the off-Broadway production, “White Girl in Danger” – well-loved Troupe members Leon S. Pitts II (Tonton Julian) and Raleigh Mosely II (Agwe) as well as newer faces to WBTT’s stage, including Ilexis Holmes (Ti Moune), Jermarcus Riggins (Daniel Beauxhomme), Jazzmin Carson (Erzulie), Lee Hollis Bussie (Papa Ge), Riley Aparicio-Jerro and Jaliyah Campbell (splitting the role of Little Ti Moune), Maicy Powell (Andrea) and Jacob Smith (Armand).
The performers will be backed by WBTT’s fantastic live band, led by music director Dan Sander-Wells. The band is: Sander-Wells, main keys; Christine Bruno, keys 2; Joe Bruno, bass; Dan Haedicke, guitar; John Walker, drums; and Richard Philbin, reeds.
Additionally, the gorgeous costumes were designed by Suwatana “Pla” Rockland, who is currently a resident costume designer, professor, and costume shop supervisor at The College of Wooster. She is a former professional dancer, actor, director and choreographer.
The show runs from October 11-November 19, 2023. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. matinees Saturdays-Sundays; all performances take place in WBTT’s Donelly Theatre (1012 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota).
Tickets are $40- $50/adults, $20/students or active military (prices include ticket fees). Visit westcoastblacktheatre.org.
About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe
The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe (WBTT) is to produce professional theatre that promotes and celebrates African American history and experience, engages a broad base of patrons and audiences, supports the development of a dynamic group of aspiring artists, and builds self-esteem in youth of color. Visit westcoastblacktheatre.org for more information.