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The Tony Award-winning revival of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s captivating Caribbean musical fairy tale Once on This Island has announced a Jan. 6 closing date, ending a Broadway run of just over a year.
Staged by director Michael Arden and a gifted design team, the production relocated the mythic musical, set on a fictional isle in the French Antilles, to a community struck by the ravages of natural disasters. The setting vividly recalled the real-world devastation of places like Puerto Rico, Haiti or New Orleans, hit by hurricanes, earthquakes and floods.
While it was far smaller in scale and less star-driven than last season’s revivals of classics Carousel and My Fair Lady, the hymn to the resilience of the human spirit pulled off one of the major upsets of the Tony Awards in June, walking away with best musical revival honors. The win also represented a coup for the underdog producing team led by Ken Davenport and Hunter Arnold, who triumphed over Broadway powerhouses Scott Rudin and Lincoln Center Theater.
Awards attention provided a slight boost at the box office, though the modest $7.5 million production was never a major earner, surpassing 90 percent of its gross potential only once in its 55-week run, during last year’s busy Christmas week. Total sales to date stand at $27.5 million.
Producers last month announced that Destiny’s Child singer Michelle T. Williams would step into the role of Erzulie, the island’s goddess of love, beginning Nov. 30 and performing through June 2 next year. But disappointing sales over Thanksgiving and increased competition from new shows clearly prompted the decision to close earlier, thus avoiding the traditional post-holiday winter box office slump.
The production has not yet announced recoupment, but its backers may be hoping to cover any losses when a national tour launches in fall 2019, with cities, dates and venues to be announced closer to the kickoff.
By the time it closes at Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre, Once on This Island will have played 458 performances and 29 previews, outlasting by just a fraction the show’s original 1990 production.
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