'Revived and Ravishing,' Says the New York Times of 'Once on This Island' With Lea Salonga

Take a look at what the U.S. critics have to say about it.
IMAGE YOUTUBE/ Once On This Island

The hallmark ingenuity, warmth, and intensity bordering on excess that characterize Mr. Arden’s style is recapitulated everywhere within the production, writes New York Times’ Jesse Green of Michael Arden’s staging of Once on This Island, which has been named a New York Times Critic’s Pick.

It premiered at New York's Circle in the Square on December 3. 

The revival of the production originally staged in the ‘90s brings together an exceptional cast which includes Tony Award Winner Lea Salonga, Alex Newell of Glee fame, and Quentin Earl Darrington from Cats. The whole cast has been busy promoting the show, releasing clips of few song numbers and making appearances at the Thanksgiving Day Parade two weeks ago.

Now that the show has officially opened on Broadway, critics have weighed in on the musical.

Green was enchanted by "the panorama of village folk barbecuing on the beach, fishing in the lagoon and going about their daily business in a joyful preshow panorama on the theater’s lozenge-shaped stage."

He says, “Had the show never started, I would have been quite content. But then it did, and all I can say is that after a dismal theatrical fall, in which even the highlights seemed ashen, what a delight is it to enter the world of Once on This Island.”

The Chicago Tribune calls it “lovely, timely, touching one heart at a time,” and goes on to say “the sculpted live-ness of the conceit makes for a very au courant and youth-friendly staging at this most intimate of Broadway theaters.” Tribune’s Chris Jones says Salonga is “quite happy to fuse her singularity into a very successful and enjoyable whole.”

Entertainment Weekly commends it for the timely script, updated music, and winning set design. “Theatergoers step in from the cold to find a sand-covered stage populated with actors milling about and parading a live goat up and down the aisles (yes, a live goat),” says reviewer Breanne Heldman. She ends by adding, “You’ll almost wish you could kick off your shoes and go down to join them,” before grading it B+.


Deadline sings praises for each of the production’s notable numbers. “Much of the show’s charm derives from its seamless interweaving of narrative, song, and dance.” Critic Jeremy Gerard says highlights include “Salonga’s torchy account of “The Human Heart” and Dandridge’s sexy strutting and belting in the quartet “And The Gods Heard Her Prayer.” 

“More than anything else, this revival of Once on This Island provides an aesthetic experience unlike anything else on Broadway,” Christian Lewis writes for Huffington Post. He even goes so far as to call Salonga’s performance “queenly.” “In particular, Salonga and Newell were equally fierce and majestic in their queenly roles.”

Actor Jason Alexander—best known for his role as George in Seinfeld—likewise praised the musical. He tweets, “RUN to ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. This production will move you to laughter, joy, love, and tears.”

About The Author
Hannah Lazatin
Senior Staff Writer
Hannah is a communications graduate from Ateneo de Manila University. She’s originally from Pampanga and from a big, close-knit family who likes to find a reason to get together at the dinner table. Experiences inspire her. “Once, at a restaurant, I received an interpretation of my second name ‘Celina,’ and it meant 'someone who tries everything once' and that is me through and through,” she says. As for the job, she wants her “readers to be inspired by the stories of the people we feature and to move them to reach for greater things.”
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