Malden High’s Play Production members are rehearsing for their upcoming musical “Once on This Island.” They plan on performing this November on the 16th, 17th, and 18th. The lyrics and book were originally written in 1990 by Lynn Ahrens, with music by Stephen Flaherty. It also first appeared on Broadway in 1990 with over 460 performances.
This musical is based off of the novel written in 1985, “My Love, my love: or the Peasant Girl” by Rosa Guy. The storytelling musical takes place in Haiti with the main character being an orphan girl named Ti Moune who is rescued by the four Gods: the God of the earth, the God of water, the God of love, and the God of death. Ti Moune falls in love with a gentleman named Daniel, who is of a higher class and a different race from her, a relationship which everyone disapproves of. This love story turns into a bet between two Gods, Erzulie and Papa Ge about what is more powerful, love or death.
Sean Walsh, an English teacher here at Malden High who also runs Play Production says “it’s a popular musical and it’s being redone in broadway this fall.” Walsh says they have decided on this musical because of “the cultural connection to Malden in the Haitian community. [We] wanted to do a show that helped reach out to [them] and to have a better understanding of their culture. It’s definitely a show that’s unlike what [we’ve] done before where in the fact that it’s ninety minutes of non-stop song and dance which is as opposed to other musicals so it was a challenge for [us] as a directorial team.”
Walsh says he is excited about it even with the challenges and going through this big production. It is different from last year because now they have “lots of different parts and help from outside groups, community members helping [them] with costuming, set, and dance where it’s a very educational experience.” The group’s strength is mainly how passionate everyone is about the production and their focus on getting everything right since it is being based on culture.
Miranda Libkin, an English teacher here at Malden High, who also runs Play Production says that it is a total coincidence that they are doing this musical a week before Broadway announced they are going to be performing it, as well as on the same week. Libkin truly wants to make the show feel authentic and “[we] want the audience to feel like [they’re] in Haiti.”
Libkin also says that she is choreographing and that it is a challenge because she did not know anything about Haitian folk dance but now she has a better understanding and has learned a lot about it but making sure everyone’s “pushing [themselves] to learn as much as [they] can.”
Play Production has also reached out to the Haitian club here at Malden High as well as Haitian members of the community to help them out. “[They] actually have an expert in Haitian folk dance who [they’ve] worked with a few times and are going to continue to work with” says Libkin. There is also a Haitian woman who’s helping the cast with costumes and help educate them more about Haiti to make their show an amazing experience.
Nathalia Sousa, a senior here at Malden High who is playing the role as Erzulie, the Goddess of love, is looking forward to the show because she “personally [loves] the character that [she is] playing, a goddess and it’s something different and something [she has] never done before.”
Sousa is also “excited to see how [they are] going to do it because everyone’s version is kind of the same but they’re all different and [she] knows [they are] going to make it really authentic.”
Overall, the show is an uplifting experience to learn more about the Haitian community and everyone is looking forward to seeing this musical come alive in spectacular ways.