top of page

The Beck Center’s ‘Once On This Island’ is an engaging trip to paradise

TOTALLY AND ABSOLUTELY AWESOME...and that is just the stage set that you see when you first enter the Beck Center for the Arts Senney Theater for their last production of the 2022-23 season. I am talking about Lynn Ahrens’ “Once On This Island” with music by Stephen Flaherty.

The stage extends past the wings encompassing the entire front of the theater and consists of a huge island scene complete with beach, little grass shack, psychedelic palm trees and mountains. It is a marvel of design and engineering.

The show begins on a stormy night on a Caribbean island in the Antilles archipelago. As the storm rages on, a small girl cries in fear. The village storytellers gather to tell her the story of Ti Moune in order to comfort her.

The tale begins with the four gods of the island: Asaka, Mother of the Earth (Danielle Grays), Agwe, the water god (Carlos Antonio Cruz), Erzulie, the love goddess (Alexix Prewitt) and Papa Ge, the god of death (Isaiah Blue). These gods who also live on “The Jewel of the Antilles” are worshiped by the “black as night” peasants who live on one side of the island. On the other side are the grands hommes who are lighter skinned descendants of the original French planters and their slaves and who live in extravagant luxury.

In the story, Agwe unleashes a terrible storm causing a flood that in turn wipes out a number of villages. The gods work together to save young Ti Moune (Edith Foley) by placing her in a tall palm tree above the flood. The next day, peasants Mama Euralie (Tina D. Stump) and Tonton Julian (Jason Eno) find the poor orphan and in spite of misgivings take her home to raise.

The youngster soon grows up to be a beautiful young woman (Israeljah Reign) and is a great joy to her adoptive parents. One night Ti Moune prays to the gods to let her know what her purpose in life should be. The gods laugh among themselves until Erzulie convinces them to give her love since it is even stronger than any of the elements...even death. This angers Papa Ge who proposes a bet to prove which is stronger, love or death.

Agwe sees to it that a car driven by a young grand homme, Daniel Beauxhomme (JT Snow) wrecks during a storm (it seems to storm a lot on this particular island). Ti Moune finds his broken body and convinces her family to let her take him in until he recovers. Over the course of the next few days, Ti Moune falls in love with the unconscious boy and imagines that he loves her also. Papa Ge arrives to take the boys life but Ti Moune offers her life instead in exchange. Papa Ge leaves in anger but promises that he will return.

Mean while, Ton Ton travels to the other side of the island and arriving at the Hotel Beauxhomme tells of the young man’s accident and where he is being taken care of. Ton Ton then guides some of Daniel’s people and they take the lad back to the hotel. Ti Moune is devastated with Daniel’s departure and vows to reunite with him. The goddess Asaka tells Ti Moune that she will be given everything she needs for her journey the other side of the island. After a long and arduous trip on foot Ti Moune arrives at the locked gates of the hotel. Erzulie puts a spell on the gate keeper and Ti Moune is allowed to go to Daniel’s room where she finds her true love still ill and unable to walk and worse yet does not remember her until she is able to describe a half moon shaped scar on his chest. The two spend weeks together as Ti Moune’s healing magic begins to work and Daniel’s leg gets strong enough for him to walk once more. After some time goes by, the towns people and family begin to gossip as Daniel points out to them that “some girls you marry, some you love.”

At a grand ball held at the hotel, Andrea Devereaux (Brooke Jai) convinces Ti Moune to dance for the guests thinking that she will look foolish. Instead, the rich society members join in along with the peasant servants in the traditional dance. Andrea then lets Ti Moune know that Daniel is engaged to her alone.

This cast is simply exceptional in their performance as they weave a wonderful tale of love winning over death through music and dance. Kudos to Director/Choreographer Christopher Chase Carter for bringing this wonderful show to life. Cheri DeVol gets a huge hug for her stage design that goes beyond anything seen in Cleveland theater to date. Inda Blatch-Geib has out done herself with the costume design that sparkles. Emma Hansen’s lighting design is an integral part of the story as she highlights certain aspects of the tale through her use of light and shadow. Carlton Guc’s sound design has conquered the Senney Theater once and for all. Of great importance is the work by Larry Goodpaster and his orchestra that takes the twenty songs and dance numbers and has them come alive with an island feel.

Combine vibrant calypso and island music with bright costuming, an unbelievable stage set, an engaging story line and exceptional dance numbers and you have a sure hit at the Beck Center for the Arts. You will be rocking in your seats as this captivating tale unfolds Come take a vacation to the islands. This is must see theater!

The Beck Center for the Arts production of “Once On This Island” will be on stage in the Senney Theater Main Stage located at 17801 Detriot Avenue, Lakewood, Ohio through August 6, 2023. For more information and tickets go to or call (216) 521-2540.


  • Facebook B&W
  • Twitter B&W
Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

bottom of page