Bedell Stage to Transform into Tropical Production of ‘Once On This Island’



Sept. 15, 2010 – The Department of Theatre and Dance at Southeast Missouri State University will kick off its 2010-2011 performance season with “Once On This Island” at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29-30, Oct. 1 and 2 and at 2 p.m. Oct. 3 in the Donald C. Bedell Performance Hall at the River Campus.

This original and theatrical Caribbean adaptation of the popular fairy tale “The Little Mermaid” garnered eight Tony Award nominations for its Broadway run. It features ongoing song and dance that makes its audiences feel as if they were at the beach.  Dr. Kenn Stilson, professor of theatre and dance, will direct the performance.

Winner of the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical, “‘Once on This Island’ is the visually stunning retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Little Mermaid,’ with elements of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ set in the French Antilles in the Caribbean Sea,” Stilson said.

“‘Once on This Island’ will appeal to people of all ages, but this family musical rises above a children’s “cartoon-like retelling of a tale we’ve all heard many times before,” he said. “The story is filled with great Caribbean music, joy, despair, passion, forbidden love, humor, unexpected moments of complexity, and dance — lots of passionate dance. It’s the kind of musical that makes theatre great. From the tropical storm in the beginning to the spectacular finale, ‘Once On This Island’ will leave the audience cheering for more.

“Buy your tickets early for this one, as you’ll probably want to see it more than once,” Stilson said.

Transformed from the novel My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy, “Once On This Island,” written by Lynn Ahrens, takes place in the French Antilles in the Caribbean and follows the forbidden love story between Ti Moune, a poor peasant girl, and Daniel, a young man from a prominent island family.  The two meet when Ti Moune rescues Daniel from a car crash and nurses him back to health.  Despite their different backgrounds, they fall in love.

Once Daniel heals, his family takes him back to his home on the other side of the island.  Distraught by the absence of her lover, Ti Moune decides to search for Daniel and crosses the island with the guidance of the fantastical gods who rule the island.  When Ti Moune reunites with Daniel, she must overcome the powerful forces of prejudice, hatred and death testing the strength of her love. 

With music and lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Ahrens, “Once On This Island” is driven by dance and catchy, contemporary, tropical-flavored songs mixed between tender ballads and rousing celebratory numbers.  The strong movements on stage leave little need for more than minimal, yet colorful, sets and costumes. 

The production has received eight Tony nominations for its stretch on Broadway, including Best Musical, Book and Score.

Rhodes 101 Stops is the sponsor of this year’s Theatre and Dance Series.


Tickets may be purchased at the River Campus Box Office, located in the Cultural Arts Center, 518 S. Fountain St., weekdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. or by calling (573) 651-2265.  Tickets also may be purchased at any MetroTix outlet, online at, keyword “Once,” or by calling toll-free: (800) 293-5949.