Disney+ Tackling Adaptation of Broadway Musical 'Once On This Island' (Exclusive)

Once on this Island Production 2017, with inset of Jocelyn Bioh-Wanuri Kahiu-Split-H 2020
John Lamparski/WireImage; Santiago Felipe/Getty Images; Courtesy of Bret Hartman
Playwright Jocelyn Bioh is set to write and Wanuri Kahiu on board to direct the adaptation of the award-winning musical that feature gods betting on love and death and an island girl trying to rise above her station.

With Hamilton on Disney+ being a runaway sensation, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that the streaming service is working to bring another Broadway musical to the screen.

Playwright Jocelyn Bioh and director Wanuri Kahiu are developing Once On This Island, a feature adaptation of the 1990 Broadway musical that is based on the Rosa Guy novel, My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl.

Marc Platt, the producer behind Broadway’s Wicked as well as movies ranging from Legally Blonde to La La Land, is producing.

As opposed to Hamilton, which was a recording of a stage performance, Island will be a more traditional adaptation. Disney's live-action division is running point on the project.

The story is set in the French Antilles in the Caribbean Sea and tells of a peasant girl who falls in love with an aristocrat. Against this backdrop, social class differences play out while the island gods wager a bet of what is stronger, love or death.

The one-act musical only ran a year but quickly developed an ardent following that continues to fan its flames today. A production in London’s West End in the mid-1990s garnered the Olivier Award for best new musical while a 2017 Broadway revival netted several Tony Award nominations and a win for best musical revival. Lynn Ahrens wrote the lyrics and the book while Stephen Flaherty composed the music.

Bioh is an accomplished playwright known for off-Broadway’s School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, as well as Nollywood Dreams. Her original musical Goddess is on track to receive its world premiere at Berkeley Rep in spring 2021 followed by a Broadway run. Bioh also recently co-founded the digital platform Black Women on Broadway, alongside Amber Iman and Danielle Brooks, and served as a writer and co-producer on the HBO Max upcoming limited series Americanah, starring Lupita Nyong’o. She previously wrote for Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It and the Netflix show Russian Doll.

Kahiu is the Kenyan filmmaker who wrote and directed the LGBTQ film Rafiki, which made history in 2018 as being the first Kenyan film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival even as the movie was banned in her home country due to its themes. Other credits include the African films From a Whisper and Pumzi. The filmmaker, who co-founded the African art collective Afrobubblegum, is developing an adaptation of YA novel The Thing About Jellyfish that has Millie Bobby Brown attached to star and is set up at Universal.

Bioh is repped by UTA and attorney Nina Shaw. Kahiu is repped by CAA and Gotham Group.