An Exuberant Afternoon at LASALLE’s Once on This Island Musical

Once on This Island | The LASALLE Show 2024
Once on This Island | The LASALLE Show 2024
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In case you missed it, I previously posted about The LASALLE Show 2024, a diverse range of exhibitions and performances happening across April and May 2024.

A showcase of the talents of this year’s graduating cohort from LASALLE College of the Arts, this year’s lineup includes stage productions, a music festival, visual displays, and more. Almost all events are free and open to the public, and conveniently happening at LASALLE’s centrally located McNally Campus. (Which is like, crawling distance from Exit A of Rochor MRT Station) If you haven’t yet made plans, I strongly encourage you to visit at least one event.

In my case, I made time to attend the matinee performance of Once on This Island on Apr 20, a musical production that featured all three cohorts of students from the BA (Hons) Musical Theatre programme, in collaboration with the Diploma in Theatre Production and Management programme. Not familiar with the musical other than the story being a Caribbean retelling of Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, I confess I didn’t entirely know what to expect. Quite honestly, I was there out of curiosity. There to see how good the students are too.

It turned out to be an exuberant experience! One that kept me enthralled throughout and so glad that I went. First off, this was no simple “school” performance, in case I gave you that impression with what I wrote earlier. Every part of the production speaks professionalism, be it set design, costume, singing, or choreography. This interpretation of Lynn Ahrens’ award-winning musical could easily stand alongside any major art performance in Singapore.

Secondly, the scope of the production impresses. I’m no expert on musicals but I’m sure I’m not wrong to say Once on This Island cannot be an easy production. It’s a 90-minute one-act with a large cast that sweeps from scene to scene. A good number of songs involve the whole cast, too, with Stephen Flaherty’s catchy compositions hardly the sort of tracks you’d wanna attempt at karaoke without a lot of training.

But the LASALLE students handled it all with confidence and flair. Now, I wouldn’t say the performance was flawless but this is a case of what’s good is great enough to prop up the entire show and leave you satisfied.

What I loved: The “two-tiered” set design. It’s probably a kneecap nightmare during rehearsals because of the steps but the design effectively underscores the lofty statuses of the capricious Loas as well as hints at the insurmountable social hierarchies that are at the heart of the story.

The set pieces/songs that I enjoyed most: Pray and Mama Will Provide. The former was spectacularly executed with atmospheric lighting to complement the poignant lyrics. The latter was an absolute Caribbean fiesta with Beatrice Jaymes Pung’s Mama Asaka immediately reminding me of the genie from Disney’s Aladdin. You know, the classic zany but benevolent Disney magical patron persona that is so irresistibly uplifting?

Angeline Graciela as lead Ti Moune shines, too, her earnest renditions of the musical’s showpieces a constant reminder of the underlying tragedy of the story—a simple dream doomed by the viles of racial and social segregation.

Her vocals stand strong against the soulful declarations by Viljo Lim’s Daniel and the malicious goading by Odelia Ruth Poh Jia Lin’s Papa Ge. For me, this contrast reflects the tenacity of her character and invites your sympathy, even if you can’t help but frown at Ti Moune’s naivety.

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Lasalle Once on This Island Cast
The cast and LASALLE graduates involved with Once on This Island.

A Gathering of LASALLE Students and Alumni, and Industry Pros

Beyond what happened on stage, I think what’s further impressive about LASALLE’s Once on This Island lies in the programme booklet. Behind the scenes is a long list of industry professionals and LASALLE alumni, as well as a whole team of student operators, assistants, and supervisors working alongside them.

I believe this reflects a vibrant, fostering culture in LASALLE College of the Arts. It’s certainly a strong indication of the quality of LASALLE’s programmes too, yes? After all, which professional would want to involve himself or herself with students who may not live up to their expected standards?

LASALLE alumni returning to lead their juniors is surely also a sign of an empowering community, where students can benefit from the professional expertise of those before them.

Update May 15, 2024: Photos from Lasalle’s Once on This Island

I managed to request the following pictures from the Lasalle team. I’m sure all gives a great idea of the quality of the production. Photos courtesy of Hasyir Amin.

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An Exuberant Afternoon at LASALLE’s Once on This Island Musical
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An Exuberant Afternoon at LASALLE’s Once on This Island Musical
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LASALLE’s Once on This Island impresses with its professionalism and scope, and is an indication of the quality of the college’s programmes.
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