The Little Mermaid Swims to a Caribbean Calypso

“The Gods are dancing for me, Mother.” 

Ti Moune

The Company (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Once on this Island  is a lively musical with a plot similar to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, updated and transported from Denmark to Haiti. 

This Haiti is a land where extremes of wealth and poverty have existed for centuries. The only pleasures of the oppressed Poor are to dance and tell the comforting tale of how orphan girl Ti Moune (Gabrielle Brooks) is rescued from a hurricane. She is reared by an initially reluctant but loving couple who accept their humble lot in life. 

But Ti Moune has a spirit that demands more from life and, nudged by local Deities as happy to meddle in the lives of mortal as their Olympian cousins, she finds her One True Love, Daniel (Stephenson Ardern-Sodje). He is sorely wounded, but she saves his life.

Stephenson Ardern-Sodje as Daniel and Gabrielle Brooks as Ti Moune. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

When he is reclaimed by his rich family she is determined to find him again and claim him for her own. Her journey defies parents, convention, fatigue, and basic ignorance of geography, but is accompanied by vigorous dance, singing and music by a cast that never stops.

All journeys must end and Ti Moune’s finishes at the gates of a luxury hotel where a wedding is being arranged. Education is for the privileged elite so she has never heard of The Little Mermaid. (Andersen’s, not Disney’s) But she does have the local Deities on her side…  now we are in the present day and Prince Charming may not share his saviour’s dreams.

Emila Louise Israel, Bernadette Bangura, Anelisa Lamola and Newton Matthews (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Aspects of the plot make it unsuitable for young children, who might find the Gods scary and ask just what are Ti Moune and Daniel doing under that large white sheet at their first reunion. “Stay the night and show me your powers,” says Daniel. Perhaps Ti Moune should think twice about her heart’s desire on hearing this cheesy line, but she is determined to a fault and has, after all, pledged her life for his to the God of Death. The dialogue is not exactly the strongest part of the show: “Oh Gods, let me fly! I’m waiting for life to begin.” “I have chosen – My dreams are there.” “Go and find your love. Go and swim your sea!” 

The Company. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

However this is a night of spectacle rather than words. With such a tight ensemble piece it would be unfair to single out individual performers. The dancing and singing are powerful and continuous. The staging makes the most of the minimal set. The costumes are dazzling as is the speed with which they are changed. The live band holds the piece together with music that is continuous and driving. However some of the songs are not quite the anthems they aspire to be. 

The pace only slackens for the History Lesson on early Haiti which attempts to explain how such a fertile land produced such poisonous social inequalities. But it is not very illuminating and feels like padding. Though at least it has a great puppet who disappears all too soon leaving us wanting more, even though he is a monster. It might be more helpful to understand the Haitian Voodoo deities who play an active part in the plot.

Advisory from the theatre: Please note that this production of Once On This Island contains scenes which some may find upsetting involving racism and racial trauma, colourism, death by suicide and sexual abuse.

The Company. (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Musical Numbers

We Dance

One Small Girl

Waiting For Life

And the Gods Heard her Prayer


Discovering Daniel


Forever Yours

The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes

Ti Moune

Mama will Provide

Waiting for Life (Reprise)

Some Say

The Human Heart

Pray (Reprise)


Some Girls

The Ball

Ti Moune’s Dance

When We Are Wed


Forever Yours (Reprise)

Wedding Sequence

A Part of Us

Why We Tell the Story


Production Notes

Once on This Island

Music by Stephen Flaherty 

Book and Lyrics by Lyn Ahrens

Author: Rosa Guy

Directed by Ola Ince



Ashley Samuels

Chris Jarman

Courtney-Mae Briggs

Gabrielle Brooks

Natasha Magigi

Anelisa Lamola

Stephenson Ardern-Sodje

Jonathon Grant

Emilie Louise Israel

Lejaun Sheppard


Director: Ola Ince


Kenrick ‘H20’ Sandy

Niquelle LaTouche

Musical Director: Chris Poon

Musical Supervisor: Philip Bateman

Lighting Designer: Jessica Hung Han Yun

Set Designer:  Georgia Lowe

Sound Designer: Nick Lidster for Autograph

Costume Designer:

Melissa Simon-Hartman

Fight Director: Philip d’Orléans


Running Time: One hour 30 minutes without an interval

Booking until 10th June 2023


Open Air Theatre

Inner Circle

Regents Park

London NW1 4NU

Box Office: 0333 400 3562

Tube: Baker Street

Reviewed by Brian Clover

at the Open Air Theatre, Regents Park on 17th May 2023