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Asaka, grow me a garden,
Please Agwe, don't flood my garden.
Erzulie, who will my love be?
Papa Ge, don't come around me!
Once On This Island is a musical adaptation of Rosa Guy's book My Love, My Love, or The Peasant Girl. With music by Stephen Flaherty and a book by Lynn Ahrens, the musical debuted on Broadway in 1990. The show has been relatively successful, with three official cast recordings.
The story is a loose Caribbean retelling of The Little Mermaid tale. On an island in the French Antilles, there is a strong gap between the rich and poor. The peasants, alienated because of their darker skin, labor and pray to the Gods every day, while the Grand Hommes (great men) live a carefree life. The four gods (Asaka, mother of the Earth, Agwe, God of water, Erzulie, Goddess of love, and Papa Ge, demon of death) are temperamental and constantly cruel. However, during one of Agwe's greatest floods, he decides to spare a young orphan girl. She is found and taken in by two peasants - Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian.
Désirée Dieu Donne (known to everyone as Ti Moune) dreams of more than just peasant life, though. Her prayers to the gods are answered when Daniel Beauxhomme, son of one of the wealthiest men on the island, crashes his car in her village (courtesy of Agwe) and she must take care of him. Determined to pursue her sudden love for the boy, she leaves for the world of the rich. But not only did she make a deal with Papa Ge to let Daniel live, she is not welcome in this bright new world.
Most people might be more familiar with the Junior version - Once On This Island Jr. got its own book, with shortened songs and some of the more mature themes edited out. This version is still regularly performed by schools and youth theatre groups throughout the US and the UK.
Tropes in this show:
- Adaptation Distillation: Regarded by most to be this to My Love, My Love.
- Bittersweet Ending: Ti Moune is dead, and everyone is devastated, but hey, at least she came back as a cool tree! This was changed from the complete Downer Ending of the book.
- Bowdlerise: In order to make the junior version more accessable to middle and high school students, the racial divide between the But Not Too Black rich and the very dark-skinned poor is completely removed. The song relating to the history of Daniel's family is removed from the junior version because of this tension (he is the result of an affair between his father and a peasant woman). However, the "Some Girls" song is also cut, resulting to Daniel having virtually no singing at all.
- Broken Aesop: The storytellers tell you that the story is about how love can conquer death...when the real message is "Go after a boy who doesn't really care about you - you'll die, but it's still the power of love!"
- Yeah... Either that or, "Even if you are betrayed in the most horrible way possible, you should still continue to be a good person."
"So I hope that you will tell this tale tomorrow. It will help your heart remember and relive. It will help you feel the anger and the sorrow... and forgive.
- But Not Too Black: Daniel and the rest of the Grand Homme.
- Crowd Song: "We Dance", "Pray" and its reprise, "Why We Tell The Story".
- Dark Reprise: "Pray" is in itself something of a dark reprise (it's based in the melody of "We Dance" played in a minor key), and "Forever Yours" and "The Human Heart" both get dark reprises at the end.
- Arguably, the "Pray" reprise is slightly darker too.
- Deal with the Devil: Ti Moune's deal with Papa Ge.
- Disposable Fiance: Inverted with Andrea.
- Everyone Hates Hades: Papa Ge is portrayed here as a pretty unpleasant guy, to say the least.
- The Grim Reaper: Papa Ge
- The Ingenue: Ti Moune.
- "I Want" Song: "Waiting For Life", and technically "Some Girls" as well.
- Jerkass Gods: Erzulie messes around with innocent mortals' emotions in order to show up Papa Ge, who is just as eager to prove his superiority by forcing a girl to kill her lover. Agwe has a tendency to cause storms that kill people and ruin livelihoods just because he's in a bad mood. Asaka doesn't do much in the way of jerkassery, but seems perfectly content to take part in the others' petty disputes.
- Love Goddess: Erzulie is an interesting take on this trope, as she seems genuinely hoping for Ti Moune to succeed in winning Daniel's heart, but it's more to prove a point to Papa Ge-quinessentially, she and Papa Ge are in something of a pissing contest to prove if love or death is the stronger force, and she'll resort to messing with emotions to do so.
- Making a Splash: Agwe the water god frequently floods the island.
- Prince Charming: Daniel is this in Ti Moune's eyes.
- Shallow Love Interest: Daniel.
- Starbucks Skin Scale: In the song telling of Daniel's history, his skin is described as being similar to "coffee mixed with cream."
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Daniel and Ti Moune.