What's it about
Once on This Island is a play that tells a bittersweet love story that deals with racism and classism but also parallels with a story about life on Caribbean islands.
As a Caribbean kid, there was barely any mainstream representation for my culture in pretty much anything growing up except for like those small token Jamaicans in TV shows and movies. And it sucked because one, we are not all Jamaican and two, even if they weren’t Jamaican, they all had these horribly botched ass “Caribbean” accents and three, we didn’t really have any good roles. We were the comic reliefs and whatnot.
But fast forward to now and I get to see a show like Once on This Island and it is fantastic. I mean it felt like I was at home. Back in St. Kitts, back in the Dominican Republic, back in Belize. The scenery when you first walk in literally looks like my grandma's bathroom when we had a small campo in DR, little statues and spirits and spells sitting on shelves with Saints surrounding them. Shells hanging over the toilet and beds for good luck. It was so surreal.
And the storyline, for me, was the best part. Not just because it was probably the saddest love story ever, but because it showcased traditional polytheistic religions (I’m pretty sure it was Santeria but like… fictionized). I practice these kinds of religions and it was a damn good feeling to see it played out in a way that didn’t demonize it, but celebrated it.
OH AND THE DANCING! LORD HAVE HIS MERCY! When I tell you I was screaming to the high heavens!? I was lucky enough to have been able to take my grandma with me (thanks Patrick!) and we both were clutching our invisible damn pearls! The music was a tad bit “Sandals Caribbean Cruise”… but then Hailey Kilgore danced her whole entire ass off and it was so fierce. Like I literally wanted to get up and start dancing with her. And the scene where she dances in the hotel for Daniel’s family ohhhhhh my god I almost cried, it was so good. The way the other servants were kicking off their shoes and started dancing with her!? It was like the whole diaspora took over the show and I wanted to get up and be apart of it too. And when Alex Newell sang???? Jeeeesus I LIVED. Unfortunately the people next to me didn’t feel the same way so my grandma and I looked like two fools clapping and screaming “yasss” and “gyal yuh betta dance nuh” the whole show, but hey when a show is THAT good, foolery is bound to happen.
After the show, we went to Applebee’s and discussed how awesome the show was. After we got finished laughing at how incredibly sad the story was and how terrible the Haitian accents were (she tried to convince me the whole time that they were South African), she started to tell me how grateful she was to have seen a show like that. My grandma came to America from Belize for the arts and worked behind the scenes and on stage for Broadway and other music organizations since the 1980s. She told me that it meant the world to her that we’ve finally gotten a chance to show how eccentric and lively our West Indian culture is on Broadway and that warmed my heart. I think that goes to show that representation is necessary for all people, no matter the age because seeing those like you inspire you to follow your dreams like she did.
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