It’s a cold hard fact in local theater circles that for every adventurous ticket-buyer out there who embraces new works and unfamiliar playwrights, there are many more people who enjoy theater but are reluctant to buy a ticket for a show they’re not familiar with. That leaves Ron Bright hoping that Paliku Theatre’s fall production of "Once On This Island" won’t be "a great show that nobody comes to because they don’t know it."
"I like to do shows that are a great expression of the human heart and that’s what this one is like," Bright said last Thursday, fielding a call moments before the start of rehearsals. "When we first saw it on Broadway, we were very, very moved by it."
"Once On This Island" opens tonight.
"The whole show is about the struggle of a girl for (the love of) a boy whose life she saves," Bright relays. "It kind of follows the story of the Little Mermaid, with the two worlds never being able to meet.
"It’s a very passionate kind of thing, and it’s a beautiful story."
The show was a hit on Broadway in the early ’90s and has been staged here by high school theater groups, but Bright says Paliku Theatre’s production is the first by a community theater group here.
PALIKU Theatre’s production of "Once On This Island" is designed to impress, Bright said, because choreographer Marcello Pacleb "is doing huge dances — it’s almost like a dance concert … and Sandy Riford has put together some spectacular lighting. It’s gorgeous."
‘Once On This Island’
Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College
The story, based on Rosa Guy’s novel, "My Love, My Love," parallels "The Little Mermaid" but with the would-be lovers separated by race and class in post-Revolutionary Haiti.
Ti Moune is the young Haitian woman who falls in love with a member of the "grandes hommes," light-skinned descendants of French planters and slave women, who became the new ruling class after the revolution of 1804.
Several powerful voodoo loas (spirits) become involved when Ti Moune prays for a chance to meet a grand homme; her innocent prayer leads to a bet between Erzulie, the loa of love, and Papa Ge, the loa of death.
Tori Anguay, who stole the show as Anita in Paliku’s production of "West Side Story" last fall, stars as Ti Moune.
Miles Wesley, who played Simba in a Los Angeles production of "Lion King," co-stars as wealthy Daniel Beauxhomme.
The supporting cast includes Niki Badua (Erzulie) and Christopher Lowe (Papa Ge), with Allison Maldonado and Len Villanueva as Ti Moune’s adoptive parents.
With all that talent on stage plus Pacleb’s choreography, Riford’s dramatic lighting, and Clarke Bright (Ron Bright’s son) directing the orchestra, Bright hopes Hawaii will turn out and support the show.
"It is a gorgeous story. We’re very excited about it."