Musical fairy tale brings Caribbean warmth to Playhouse

Thursday 28th May 2009

Jubilant Caribbean rhythms form the perfect soundtrack to summer as Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company presents a major new production of the award-winning musical ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. Actress and singer Sharon D Clarke (Holby City) leads an ensemble cast of West End performers in this magical and uplifting fairy tale of love against the odds. Susie McKenna returns to the Playhouse to direct a show which will be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. Co-produced with Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company and the Hackney Empire, ONCE ON THIS ISLAND runs from Wednesday 24 June to Saturday 11 July (Box Office: 0115 941 9419 or www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk).

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is the highly acclaimed Broadway musical based on Rosa Guy’s novel My Love, My Love. Written by Tony-award winning composer Stephen Flaherty and playwright/lyricist Lynn Ahrens, the show received its European premiere at Birmingham Rep in 1994. It went on to win the Olivier Award for Best New Musical following a successful West End run.

This vibrant and warm-hearted musical tells the poignant love story of Ti Moune, a beautiful peasant girl who saves the life of a handsome and wealthy Creole planter and becomes utterly devoted to him. The course of true love, however, is put to the test as Ti Moune must prove to the island’s mythical gods that she is willing to give everything – if necessary, even her life – for the purest love she has ever known. Loosely modelled on Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of The Little Mermaid, the story unfolds on the tempest-tossed island of Haiti and pulsates to a stream of infectious reggae numbers, calypsos and ballads.

Sharon D Clarke is especially well known as Dr Lola Griffin in the BBC’s Holby City, and as a judge on last year’s prime-time BBC1 show Last Choir Standing. Sharon has also made numerous West End appearances including the roles of Mama Morton in Chicago, Killer Queen in the Queen / Ben Elton spectacular We Will Rock You and Rafiki in The Lion King. She played Asaka (Mother Earth) in the 1994 production of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND, for which she received an Olivier nomination, and reprises the role in this new production. 

Joining Sharon is a company with a raft of West End credits in such shows as The Lion King, Hairspray, Mary Poppins and The Harder They Come: Johnny Amobi (Agwe), Shyko Amos (Ti Moune), Mensah Bediako (Ton Ton), Lorna Brown (Euzulie), Melanie La Barrie (Mama Euralie), Robert Grose (Armand), Wayne Perrey (Daniel), Jo Servi (Papa Ge) and Yaa (Andrea). The role of Ti Moune as a young girl is shared between Saskia Hayman and Nicole Stoney, with Georgia Hinds as understudy.

Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty won the Tony Award, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards and received two Grammy nominations of their score of the Broadway musical Ragtime. They also garnered two Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for the songs and score of Twentieth Century Fox’s animated feature film, Anastasia (Gold Record and Number One Song). Their other collaborations include Seussical the Musical, presented at Nottingham Playhouse in 2007.

ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is directed by Susie McKenna, no stranger to Nottingham Playhouse where she took many leading roles earlier in her theatrical career, including Principal Boy in several of Kenneth Alan Taylor’s renowned pantomimes. Susie is now Associate Director at Hackney Empire and the mastermind behind its own hugely successful traditional panto.

Choreography for ONCE ON THIS ISLAND is by Deirdre Lovell, design by Lotte Collett, lighting by Philip Gladwell, musical direction by Ian MacGregor and sound by Paul Gavin. The production comes to Nottingham Playhouse following its Birmingham run and will play afterwards at Hackney Empire (Friday 24 July – Sunday 16 August).