Arts & Culture

Journey to the Islands With UK's Theatre's 'Once on This Island'

Watch a sneak peek of Casey Shuler (Ti Moune) performing "Waiting for Life to Begin" at UK Theatre's rehearsals of "Once on This Island."


LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 19, 2017) — The University of Kentucky Department of Theatre and Dance will close the 2016-17 season with performances of the Laurence Olivier Award-winning and Tony nominated musical "Once on This Island." The tropical story of love and loss will run April 20-23, in the Guignol Theatre.

Based on Rosa Guy's novel "My Love, My Love," the musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty follows Ti Moune as she falls in love with a rich boy from the other side of the island after saving him from certain death. The island's arrogant gods place bets on the romance as it tries to survive a cultural divide. This darker Caribbean-style adaption of "The Little Mermaid" tells the legend of a fearless girl’s capacity to love that transcends social barriers.

Director Marianne Phelps feels "Once on This Island" is both relatable and fantastical. “This straightforward musical gives us a simple fable that helps us unlock complex facets of humanity, which allows for exploration of community, fear, life, hope, pain and love,” Phelps explained. “Our version of this production focuses heavily on two key points: fate and love's ability to persist, and even triumph, over death. The heart and joy of this musical is the realization that storytelling, while often perceived to be a benign pastime (and is increasingly rare — or, at the very least, truncated — in our digital world), can yield not just entertaining moments, but also human connectedness and healing.”

While the musical primarily showcases the talents of theatre and musical theatre students, a few special guests are part of the UK production. Alumnus Bradley Wehrle is set designer, transforming the Guignol Theatre into a Caribbean island paradise. Wehrle currently lives and works in New York City. Darian Sanders, Lexington-based actor and musician, joins the cast as Papa Ge, the Demon of Death and antagonist of the show. 

Graduating senior Casey Shuler, of Louisville, Kentucky, is thrilled to play the lead of Ti Moune.

"This show is so relevant, so important, so strong,” Shuler said. “It really stands as its own testament to the pain that comes with growth, but even more importantly, stands as a testament to beauty. Not only does it connect with the times in an interesting way, but also connects to me on a personal level. I'm so deeply in love with Ti Moune and what she stands for, as she not only connects with the beauty of innocence, but truly shows what it means to love on a level I'm not sure many understand. She's been a joy to uncover.”

Catch “Once on This Island” at UK before it returns to Broadway this November, 27 years after its successful debut.

"Once on This Island" will captivate Guignol audiences 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, April 20-22, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, April 22 and 23. A conversation with the artists will take place following the Sunday, April 23, matinee.

Tickets to the production are $20 for general admission and $15 for UK students with a valid ID through the Singletary Center box office. To purchase tickets, contact the box office at 859-257-4929, visit online at or purchase in person during operating hours. A processing fee will be added to the purchase on completion of transaction.

The UK Department of Theatre and Dance at UK College of Fine Arts has played an active role in the performance scene in Central Kentucky for more than 100 years. Students in the program get hands-on training and one-on-one mentorship from the renowned professional theatre faculty. The liberal arts focus of their bachelor's degree program is coupled with ongoing career counseling to ensure a successful transition from campus to professional life.

photo of "Once on This Island" artwork
UK Department of Theatre and Dance will close the 2016-17 season with performances of the Laurence Olivier Award-winning musical "Once on This Island." The production will run April 20-23, in the Guignol Theatre.

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: #uk4ky #seeblue