(HADDON TOWNSHIP, NJ) -- The Ritz Theatre Company presents the first show of its “Grand Reopening” season, Once on This Island, a Caribbean-set musical celebration of love, hope, and life from the Tony Award-winning team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. The production runs at The Ritz from September 17th through October 3rd.
“We knew we wanted a big, bright, and bold production for our Grand Reopening,” says Producing Artistic Director Bruce A. Curless. “We also wanted a production that displayed our commitment to our Diversity Statement and continued our commitment to our Mission Statement. Once on This Island connects the concepts of life, pain, grief, faith, and hope through Ti Moune’s journey of racial and social class differences. Two different worlds, struggling to come together, or at least to hear and listen to each other, much like our own society. The show touches many of these themes and others, and we knew we could create an engaging and entertaining piece of musical theatre for our patrons.”
Inspired by the famous Hans Christian Andersen children’s story The Little Mermaid, Once on This Island follows the story of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. When their divided cultures keep them apart, Ti Moune is guided by powerful island gods on a remarkable quest to reunite with the man who has captured her heart and to prove that love is indeed stronger than death.
“Once on This Island brings so much life and color to a story that we have all heard for ages, a play within a play that leads way for so much storytelling, so much exploration” says director and set co-designer Charlie Barney, a Philadelphia-based theatre visionary who returns to The Ritz after helming an original one-act as part of The Diner Plays this past February. “Not only does this story bring familiarity to the audience, but it also allows for a new lens to be put on it. This production allows you to see this story through its educational eyes, allowing the audience to learn the story along with Ti Moune.”
The original production of Once on This Island was staged Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizon in 1990. A Broadway engagement quickly followed, along with eight Tony Award nominations in 1991, including nods for Best Musical, Best Original Score, and Best Direction of a Musical. Winning the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical in 2018, the show has clearly proven its emotional and thematic staying power, captivating audiences of all ages with its stage-transcendent story that lives and thrives well beyond the threshold of the theater.
“Audiences should feel a sense of ‘home’ when they come to see Once on This Island,” says Barney. “Everyone has a story inside of their heads that has been passed down. Whether that be from friends, family, a teacher, or just a really good joke, we have all taken it, processed it, and used it in a time when we really needed to hear it.”
Playing the part of Ti Moune in this new, season-launching production of Once on This Island is DeSales University alum Alyssa Ramsey, who hails all the way from the Pocono Mountains to tackle what she considers to be her “dream role.” This will be her Ritz Theatre Company debut.
“Ti Moune is one of the only characters I’ve ever felt this deeply connected to,” says Ramsey. “She’s innocent, but strong-headed, two things I’ve always been labeled as. Her relationship with her parents, her need for change, her drive to not wanting to be confined to a box, they all resemble parts of me. I’m always discovering new things about her with every run of the show or deep dive into scene work and I continue to build it until my time with her is over.”
This Ritz production of Once on This Island endeavors to link the personal with the universal, utilizing a powerful blend of theatrical elements to advance and enhance a story that speaks to the very essence of the human condition. Joining Barney and Ramsey on this project are music director Benita Farmer, choreographer Omar-Frederick Pratt, costumer Briana Bailey, set co-designer Andrew Robinson, sound engineer Matthew Gallagher, and a highly dedicated company of performers. All are eager to deliver a show that leaves a vital, if not lasting, imprint on the viewing audience.
“I would love for audiences to love Ti Moune just as much as I do and also understand why she’s fighting to have the life she’s wanted,” concludes Ramsey. “This show and Ti Moune’s entire journey are like a mirror to not only my personal life, but to many other black boys and girls as well. It’s extremely symbolic and pulls from an authentic way of living. I’d love for everyone to leave the theater with this story in the back of their mind with an even stronger sense of curiosity and empathy than what they came in with. This show has changed me and it will change you too.”
The Ritz Theatre Company is located at 915 White Horse Pike in Haddon Township, New Jersey.
**Please be advised that, due to COVID-19, audience members over the age of 12 will be required to show proof that they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when entering The Ritz Theatre. Exceptions will be made for people with a medical or religious exemption to vaccination. These guests must show proof of a negative PCR test taken within 36 hours of the performance time or a negative antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance time. Children under the age of 12 will be exempt from all aforementioned requirements. All guests, regardless of age or vaccination status, will be required to wear masks while inside the theatre building.**
The Ritz Theatre Company Presents Once On This Island, directed by Charlie Barney, from September 17 to October 3, 2021
Cast of "Once On This Island" - Alyssa Ramsey as Ti Moune; Kyle Smith as Daniel; Daisha Davis as Asaka; Alexander Brown as Agwe; Mia Rae Sanchez as Erzulie; Daio Fumilayo as Papa Ge; Nikki Cohen as Mama Euralie; Terrance T. Hart as Tonton Julian; Audrey Floyd as Andrea; Evan Hairston as Armand; Adriana Williams as The Little Girl; Storytellers: Eric Acierto, Samantha Crittenden, Salma Elwy, Zoe Holmes, Marcell McKenzie, Imani Redman, Tyler Williams
Production Team - Bruce A. Curless — Producing Artistic Director; Matthew Weil — Associate Artistic Director; AJ Klein — Technical Director; Dorothy Trusty — Stage Manager; Benita Farmer — Music Director; Omar-Frederick Pratt — Choreographer ; Charlie Barney & Andrew Robinson — Set Design; Briana Bailey — Costume Design; Chris Miller — Lighting Design; Matthew Gallagher — Sound Design