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Love conquers all in Tony Award-winning musical ‘Once on this Island’
Plays Belk Theater in November
 
Published Friday, October 4, 2019 12:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | JOAN MARCUS
Tamyra Gray as Papa Ge in the Broadway production of “Once on this Island. She continues the role in the musical revival Nov. 12-17 at Belk Theater.

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What can love conquer?


“Once on this Island” asks exactly that. The 2018 Tony Award winner for the Best Revival of a Musical heads to Belk Theater Nov. 12-17. Charlotte is one of 25 tour stops scheduled for the inaugural North American tour.  


The story follows the story of fearless peasant Ti Moune, played by Courtnee Carter, a 2017 cast member. She seeks love, and is led by the island gods on her quest to be reunited with the one who stole her heart.


Other members from the 2017 Broadway revival cast also take center stage with the national tour, including Tamyra Gray, who plays Papa Ge. The “American Idol” alumna performed in Charlotte with “If/Then” in 2016. Her role as Kate in “If/Then” vastly differs from the demon of Death in “Once on this Island.”


“I’ve never played a villain before in any of the shows that I’ve done,” Gray said. “It’s very interesting. It also comes with its own challenges. We’re daring to ask, ‘can death or hate or the darkness be transformed?’ All of its perceived ideas and imagery that you can conjure is kind of what we’re bringing. If someone is sensitive to that or has younger children, they might want to come and see the show first before bringing their young kids to the show, and then being upset seeing the things that they’ll see. Not that it is crude in any way, but it touches on some sensitive religious things for some people.”


The story is based on Rosa Guy’s “My Love, My Love; or The Little Peasant Girl,” which is loosely based on “The Little Mermaid,” which weaves in elements of a fairytale.


“We’re in a day and age where we are more welcoming of seeing more on stage,” Gray aid. “Even though there are aspects of a fairytale, the fact that the Loa of Haiti have this demon, which a lot of people could reference as the devil, can be alarming for some people, but I dare to say watch how this story unfolds, because there is a story within a story that benefits us all.”


“Once on this Island” captures the heart of the human spirit, just as emphatically as it inspires hope.


“Our beautiful writers—Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty—have captured a culture and the spirit of a people, and it gives you a glimpse into the sacred world of love, of seduction, of faith, of deceit and of devotion, and the storytelling is really the passing of wisdom through the generations,” Gray said.


Gray’s character explores the question of whether love can conquer death and hate.


“Speaking of 2020 [and the presidential election], can a community come together to ease the fears of a young girl who has become frightened over a storm, which is really how our story begins,” she said. “You’re taken on this girl, who has decided that she wants to explore life on her own terms. She’s not interested in following the path of her adopted parents.”


The show does not shy away from challenging traditional genders associated with specific roles.


“Papa Ge is usually played by a man,” Gray said of her role. “In today’s day and age, we’re fighting against divisiveness and division and we’re looking more at inclusion, this show really brings to light what colorism looks like within a culture and what racism looks like within a culture, and what responsibility looks like. How does a community come together to uplift its youngest members? How do they bring her to the place of belief to where she can be brave to face the storms of the night?”


The immersive set design allows audience members to become part of the show, as some will sit on stage during the performance.


“We will actually have some audience members who are on the stage with us, to create a more intimate atmosphere,” Gray said. “You feel as though you are sitting around this bonfire together with your family listening to this beautiful tale being told.”


On the Net:
www.blumenthalarts.org/events/detail/once-on-this-island

Comments

Saw her performance on Broadway. SUPERB performance. Must see!
Posted on October 7, 2019
 

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