Troika work in progress is magnificent
Wow! What a fabulous show!
Troikas opening night presentation of the award-winning musical Once on this Island was nothing short of magnificent.
The staging, lighting, sound, special effects, costumes, and set were all top shelf, making them the perfect backdrop for some truly special performances.
From the very first flash of lightning and crash of thunder that shook the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium on Thursday night, the near-capacity crowd knew that this would be an unforgettable experience. It was the start of a timeless tale; a tale of love conquering all odds, obstacles, and demons. It was the tale of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who refused to ignore what was in her heart, even in the face of death.
A young child (Markeisiyah Wilson-Deshields, who also played young Ti Moune) is frightened by the angry storm, so the simple peasant villagers gather round her and comfort her the best way they know how: with a story. They tell her the story of Ti Moune, a beautiful young orphan who came to the village on the branch of a tree. She was rescued and raised by Mama Euralie (Kristen Darrell) and Tonton Julian (Coy Millett), and became a darling of the village.
Before long Ti Moune (Shana Parker) had grown, and, such is the nature of human beings, she began to search for the purpose of her life. She prayed to the gods for guidance, meaning and purpose. Asaka, mother of the Earth; Agwé, god of water; Erzulie, goddess of love and Papa Ge, demon of death, convene to discuss Ti Mounes plea and decide to use her in a divine joust between the power of love and the power of death.
Papa Ge (Kioshi Burgess) pits his every wit and whim against Erzulie (Kimberly D Caines), while Agwé (CoShawn Evans), and Asaka (Shaloi Duncan) provide catalysts and support to make the challenge work.
Agwé creates a violent storm that forces Daniel Beauxhommes car off the road near Ti Mounes village, while Asaka watches over Ti Moune on her journey to be with Daniel (Dion Ming).
Papa Ge visits Ti Moune while Daniel is still in dire condition, offering the love-struck young girl a devilish deal. The sly demon of death convinces the naïve peasant girl to give her soul to the devil so that Daniel may live. Her now overwhelming love for Daniel leaves no room for hesitation, and her life becomes inextricably linked to his.
A major conflict of the story comes to the fore when the Beauxhommes, an upper class family of grand hommes, send servants to the village to retrieve Daniel. Ti Moune is distraught, and determined to pursue her love and, eventually, marry him.
Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian try to talk some sense into her in an emotionally-charged scene. The irrationality of Ti Mounes dream is vividly illustrated in Mama Euralies viscerally raw line: What can a peasant girl do for a grand homme but shine his shoes?
Ti Moune goes anyway. The gods guide her and she eventually finds herself face to face with her love, Daniel. The couple fall in love as Ti Moune resumes her healing care for Daniel under the vigilant eye of Erzulie in a magical scene employing dance, light, and staging to great effect.
Soon the class conflict intervenes again when Daniel, feeling true love for Ti Moune, tries to come to terms with the facts of his life in a heart-wrenching scene. The reality of the situation is summed up perfectly by the telling line: Some girls you marry; some girls you love.
Later, at the ball, Ti Moune dances and is adored by the curious grand hommes, but her world is crushed when Andrea Devereaux (Mia Williams) announces that she and Daniel are to be wed by parental arrangement; as is the custom of the grand hommes.
Papa Ge returns for his prize once it appears that love has been defeated, but he offers Ti Moune a way out of her deal. He tells her that she can reclaim her soul by taking Daniels life. Miss Parkers emotional range is evident as she tries to kill Daniel, but her love for him does not allow her to go through with it. Her attempt is discovered and she is cast out of the Hotel Beauxhomme forever.
The gods come for Ti Mounes life during an oddly triumphant scene in which each plays a role in her death. Once Papa Ge gently hands her over to Asaka, Ti Moune is reborn as a tree that grows through the gate that separates the two worlds she existed in during life, never allowing the gate to close again.
The story ends with love showing strength and defiance even beyond death. The class issue is dealt with as well, with Ti Mounes tree becoming a catalyst for future harmony between the islands two worlds.
The ensemble performance was awesome from start to finish. I once wrote about another production by a young Bermudian that it was the best thing I had ever seen on the City Hall stage; this production, Troikas fourth work in progress is, by some way, the best thing Ive seen on the Ruth Seaton James stage.
The show was produced by Eric Bean Jr, which can explain, in part, why Once on this Island was so good as he choreographed this amazing show. Stephen Huntsman, who has worked with this beloved material before, directed. Sandra Huntsman designed a mystical set and populated it with perfectly clad players. Troika produced, arranged, and delivered, and Bermuda has grown because of it. This show was a revelation; a watershed moment in local theatre. The bar has been comprehensively raised, and Troika will now have to produce the extraordinary to keep progressing.
Powerful singing, divine dancing, absorbing acting, and a thoroughly engaging cast bought this critically acclaimed work of performance art to life on opening night, and it was absolutely brilliant! Bravura performances by Shana Parker, Dion Ming, Kioshi Burgess, and Kristen Darrell warrant special mention, but should do nothing to take away from the many, many dazzling performances seen in this show.
The standing ovation was emphatic, and very appropriate indeed.
Tonight is closing night. If you havent been yet, you absolutely need to go. Wow! What a show!
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