AUBURN – “Once on This Island” is an exceptional treat for the eye and the ear.

This musical currently in performance at Lewiston-Auburn Community Little Theatre tells the Caribbean legend of a star-crossed love doomed by conflicts of social class.

It’s the first time CLT has assembled an all African-American cast, and the production has all come together in just a few weeks.

A cast with several newcomers to the stage and a short rehearsal period could be excuses for shortcomings, but absolutely no excuses are needed.

This show is a tropical joy and the discovery of several wonderfully talented performers is good news for future productions.

The combined voices of the cast blend beautifully for the music of Stephen Flaherty and the lyrics of Lynn Ahrens. Solo vocalists also offer some lovely renditions of songs from this Tony-nominated show of a few years ago. It’s sort of a calypso-style retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson tale of “The Little Mermaid.”

Director Ron Bouffard deserves special acclamation for taking on this challenge. Not long ago, it wasn’t known who could be found to fill this cast of peasants and rich landowners on an island in the French Antilles. He must be delighted with the great performances that have been turned in.

The lead role of Ti Moune is played by Felicia Brown, a junior at Central Maine Community College. Her fine voice is well-suited for songs such as “Waiting for Life,” as well as duets (“Forever Yours”) and several songs with others.

One of Brown’s songs, “Discovering Daniel,” is a highly dramatic scene in which she displays excellent acting skills.

Pablo Barajas plays Daniel Beauxhomme, the light-skinned son of rich man. Ti Moune nurses Daniel after a car wreck, but their class differences mean they’ll never marry.

Barajas, a junior at St. Dominic’s Regional High School, gives a fine performance. His principal song, “Some Girls,” is very good.

Marylyn Scott and Glenn Atkins are excellent in their roles as Ti Moune’s adoptive parents. Their voices ring strong and true in both solo parts and with the ensemble.

Another standout performer is LaShaw Kelly as Papa Ge, god of death. His swagger and demonic laugh capture the right mood of darkness and doom that culminates in Ti Moune’s fulfillment of a promise of her life for Daniel’s.

Of all the performers, most memorable is Grace Adkins, a second-grader at Fairview Elementary School in Auburn. She is introduced as the young Ti Moune, an orphan found in a tree. In later scenes, she is one of the island children; and by the end, she is seen at center stage in the important final scene. There, with other island children, Leyla Davis and Ruthie Hurd, she helps make the final points in “A Part of Us” and “Why We Tell the Story.”

Megan Guynes, a Bates College student, does a fine job as Andrea, the upper-class girl who’s promised to Daniel.

The entire cast performs competent choreography in numbers, including “We Dance,” “Rain” and “Some Say.”

Tiffany Warren, Tamarick Peters and Rene Johnson handle their roles as the gods of earth, water and love with skill. Other performers have critical roles as storytellers and townspeople.

Costumes for “Once on This Island” are appropriate and authentic.

A tropical beach scene that is both sun-drenched and storm-tossed has been provided by the set design crew.

A nine-piece orchestra under the direction of Scott Powers offers excellent backing for the singers. And the flute accompaniment by Alicia Gamow for Ti Moune’s dance was very well done.


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