The Caribbean Comes to Cerritos in “Once on This Island”


The Broadway musical adaptation of Once on This Island opens at Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Friday for a one-week residency (until March 5). The Center is located at 12700 Center Court Drive, Cerritos, California.

Caribbean rum will not be necessary to feel like one has escaped to the islands with the Tony Award-nominated musical “Once on This Island,” opening at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts on Friday.

Presented by 3-D Theatricals, the musical adaptation takes place in Haiti and has everything from African-inspired choreography, to flashy musical numbers, to a set that transports its audience to an island with natural weather elements – hurricanes and all. The production just finished a run at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center and will run in Cerritos through March 5.

With music by the Tony Award-winning songwriting duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (“Seussical” and “Ragtime”), musical numbers will include “One Small Girl,” “Rain” and “Forever Yours.” Director Rufus Bonds, Jr., who actually made his Broadway debut as a performer in the New York-run, added a musical number and other Haitian elements which he feels enhances the story.

“There’s a part in the beginning where the workers are working in the fields. I saw these amazing Haitian movements with one person playing violin, and that’s just a moment that I felt we had to create that speaks to the Haitians,” said Bonds.

The story follows a peasant girl named Ti Moune, played by actress Leah Stewart, who yearns to know what life is like on the wealthier side of the island. She prays to the gods through song – “Waiting for Life” – and although the god of love, death, water, earth and other mystic spirits hear her prayers, each one has a different interpretation of what she is asking for.

When the well-to-do Daniel, played by actor Cooper Howell, crashes his car on Ti Moune’s side of the island, she rescues and falls in love with him. However, the gods start a bet in her expense of what will conquer in the end: love or death? [. . .]

The tragic love story is a loose adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale “The Little Mermaid,” and based on the Rosa Guy novel “My Love, My Love.”

“It’s a love story that tells us that love will always conquer death, even if it’s tragic. Because even if one dies, their love has not died in us, we still feel and love them,” said Bond.

The contemporary set is staged to look like a photo frame, Bonds said, with vibrant flowers, fruit trees, and other elements such as storms and mountains that portray a luscious island. The usage of LED lighting and projections also help to tell the story and present a stunningly colorful set. [. . .]

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