Once on This Island is a musical with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and music by Stephen Flaherty, based on the novel My Love, My Love (novel) by Rosa Guy, which is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid.
The musical opened at the Booth Theatre in Broadway on October 18, 1990, and played for 469 shows. The original cast was reunited on May 12, 2002, performing the show 2 more times for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund.
The show was nominated for 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book.
Set in the French Antilles, Once on This Island tells the story of a young peasant girl, Ti Moune. Orphaned at a young age by a storm sent by Agwe, the God of Water, she was spared by the gods and rescued by an unwilling Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian, who, being under the power of Erzulie, Goddess of Love, gladly adopt her. She lives with the peasants who work endlessly and worship the Gods: Agwe, God Of Water; Erzulie, Beautiful Goddess Of Love, Asaka, Mother Of The Earth and Papa Ge, Sly Demon Of Death. On the other side of the island, the wealthy upper crust live in a beautiful hotel. These people are called the Grande Homme and are descendents of the French.
After Ti Moune expresses a desire to meet a young Grande Homme named Daniel, the Gods send her on a journey which revolves around a competition between Pape Ge and Erzulie. When Erzulie tells Papa Ge that love can conquer anything, including death, Papa Ge vows to make Ti Moune choose between the two.
Agwe arranges for Daniel's car to crash during a storm so that Ti Moune may nurse him back to health. As planned, the two young people fall in love. When Papa Ge comes to claim Daniel's life, Ti Moune offers hers for his. Frustrated at being denied his 'kill', Pape Ge leaves.
Tonton goes on a difficult journey to seek Daniel's family at the hotel on the other side of the island, he returns with a tale. It is explained that Daniel's ancestor placed a curse on his son and their sons that their black blood will keep them forever on the island while their hearts yearn forever for France. Soon, Daniel's people come to Ti Moune's home and take the boy back to the hotel.
After a bitter fight with her parents, Ti Moune decides to pursue her love. When she reaches him, they consummate their affections. It is only after weeks of courtship and Ti Moune's appearance at a grand ball that she learns Daniel is engaged to be married. Papa Ge tells Ti Moune that if she kills Daniel, then she may keep her life although she promised hers in exchange for Daniel's. Ti Moune refuses, as she still loves him.
Daniel and his betrothed are married. Following a tradition of throwing coins at the peasants outside the hotel gates, Daniel places money in Ti Moune's hand. She dies, having lost all hope. The Gods mourn her loss. Soon, she is reincarnated as a tree, that cracks open the walls of the Hotel Beuxomme, and through which her legacy survives. Then, we see a young peasant girl and Daniel and Andrea's child play in the tree, and fall in love.
In the final number, the cast breaks the fourth wall and explains to the audience why they tell the story of Ti Moune and the triumph of love: "You are why we tell the story".
Original Cast Members