A Teenager’s 7 Favorite Parts of Broadway’s Tony Award Winning Once On This Island

Broadway stage door autograph goals with Tony Award Winning Once On This Island Cast

A Teenager’s 7 Favorite Parts of Once On This Island

by Julie Bogle

*Dad here, real quick — Julie LOVES musicals (natch) and loved so many parts of “Once On This Island”. In fact, she forgot to list the thing that she said was her favorite part of the musical immediately after the show: the Coca-Cola aluminum can necklace which became dragon-like spikes on the storyteller character played brilliantly by American Idol’s Tamyra Gray! We recently won the in-person lottery for the Broadway musical and after Once On This Island went to get a great dinner near the theater at Hummus Kitchen.

Okay, now on with Julie’s article about her 7 favorite parts of “Once On This Island”!


Tamyra Gray in Once On This Island

The Live Animals

One of the coolest parts of “Once On This Island” for an animal lover like me was that there was a live goat and chicken involved. While they only made one appearance each in the musical itself, they were roaming around the stage before the show began (so get there early!) and if you are lucky enough to be sat in the front row, there’s a chance you’ll get to pet the chicken!

once on this island stage

The Tiny River and The Real Sand

The set of “Once On This Island” was absolutely amazing and what is so interesting about it is that there’s real sand on the oval stage extending all the way to the front row. The entire first row is in the sand! This means your feet are in the sand while watching the show, which is super awesome for people in the front row! Also, there was a small body of water on one side of the stage to show that they were on an island. I don’t think there are any other Broadway musicals with a river on stage!

Broadway stage door autograph goals with Tony Award Winning Once On This Island Cast

The Actors and Actresses On Stage Before the Show

As people began to enter the theater and find their seats, the cast was meandering about the stage, talking to one another, cleaning, walking the goat, picking up trash — there was even a woman cooking! Some of the actresses were even talking to the people in the audience. I believe that this was to show that you are as important to the show as the cast and how life on the island works even before the lights dim and the show begins. It was really cool to see something you wouldn’t witness at many other shows.

The Sudden Scene Change That Really Works

About halfway through “Once On This Island”, the setting has to change from a poor, peasant village on the edge of the island to a fancy hotel in the city. This seems like a very drastic change considering there is sand all over the stage but they pull it off flawlessly. In the center of the stage, the ground was pulled up to reveal an oriental carpet, and beneath that, a ballroom dance floor! The costumes changed too, from ripped jeans to colorful ballgowns as chandeliers descended from the ceiling. It really felt like you were suddenly at a fancy ball — pure Broadway magic!

Broadway stage door autograph goals with Tony Award Winning Once On This Island Cast

The Candles, Torches, and Chandeliers

I don’t think there are many musicals using torches that are actually burning, but that’s just another thing that makes “Once On This Island” stand out. There are also candelabras and chandeliers during the ballroom scene that had to be lit onstage by the actors which seems like it would take away from how it was supposed to look, but it being the amazing show that it is, the cast were able to light them without the audience even batting an eye.

The Circle in the Square Theater

The Circle in the Square is one of the only theaters that is ‘in the round’ on Broadway and this adds to the magic of the show — and makes sure there isn’t a bad seat in the house. While a part of the show that used light to project shadows onto a sheet was facing only one side of the theater, the people watching from behind were entertained by watching how the actors were making the shadows happen — kind of a behind the scene look at what the other 3/4 of the audience were witnessing. It felt special, as if you were backstage. As you may know, “Once On This Island” is a revival — a Tony Award Winning revival! — and the original theater was not ‘in the round’. I honestly can’t imagine what the show would be like if it wasn’t setup this way — but there’s no way it would be as immersive and magical.

Broadway stage door autograph goals with Tony Award Winning Once On This Island Cast

The Set Goes Beyond the Stage

The first thing I noticed when I walked into the theater was that there were clotheslines hanging all around the theater. There were shelves too, with strings of pearls, candles, and little nativity scenes that were missing some pieces. It felt like you had walked into someone’s very lived-in home, and you had, in a way. One of the corners of the theater looked like it had fallen apart and a tree was casting shade on the people in the back. The props and set pieces weren’t just on the stage, they were all over the theater and it made you feel like a part of the performance.

*Bonus: The Stage door!!

Another great thing about this show and the Circle in the Square theater, is that the stage door is right next to the regular door. As soon as you walk out of the theater you’ll see the metal barriers that separate you from the cast. It is also completely covered, so you don’t have to worry about you or your Playbill getting soaked while you wait for autographs and pictures with the actors. More than half the cast came out to sign on the Tuesday night performance I saw!

Broadway stage door autograph goals with Tony Award Winning Once On This Island Cast

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