Once on This Island
Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London, until June 10
If there are any old snobs out there who still take the view that proper, grown-up theatre can’t be performed outdoors, I suggest they get along sharpish to Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre to experience their revival of the 1990 musical Once on This Island.
The director Ola Ince has created an exuberant, colourful and handsomely-mounted production set on the Caribbean island of Haiti where a peasant girl named Ti Moune – Gabrielle Brooks on barnstorming form – begins a relationship with Stephenson Ardern-Sodjie’s Daniel who was born very much on the right side of the tracks.
Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel My Love, My Love may not have aged all that well – a lot of its themes now seem outdated – but Ince has made it feel a lot more than the sum of its parts. She sees to it no expense is spared – at one point the borders of the stage are enveloped in flames, an especially welcome development on a chilly May night – and Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty – respectively, the composer and writer – invest it with much wit and melody.
Melissa Simon-Hartman’s costumes are nothing short of sensational, and, while the romance of its star-cross’d lovers occasionally flat, the show’s good looks, joyous music and energetic cast make the evening a resounding triumph all the same.
This is a great start to the season at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – my favourite summer venue, bar none – and sets the bar high for the productions that follow.