The Brass Ring Center for the Performing Arts’ production of Once on this Island explores more serious, heartfelt topics through soulful music and captivating dance.

Directors and choreographers Elizabeth and Nick Gelona are fantastic at setting the scene throughout the production. The first scene opens with a flash of thunder, followed by young Ti Moune’s (Lila Chapman) scream.

After the storm passes, the island that the story is centered around comes alive with vibrant music and well choreographed dance. Every member in the production contributes to creating captivating scenes that truly draw you into the performance from scene one.

And rightfully so, as the story of Once on this Island itself is a tale of how one girl brought two groups of people from different worlds together— as told by the islanders.

The fantastically cast Tau’Jeeai Roberts as Mama Euralie and Joshua Credle as Tonton Julian find the young Ti Moune washed ashore and decide to take her in as their own. As Ti Moune grows, however, they have a harder time controlling her seemingly wild nature.

The older Ti Moune’s nature is perfectly captured by Jade Russell’s boisterous voice, which is also gentle and soothing at times. When Ti Moune asks the gods for love they decide they need to “knock some sense into her head” and paint her a path of trials and journeys.

When she falls for a French boy named Daniel (Dawson Royse), she receives a great deal of backlash. A long history of segregation between the islanders and the French is narrated through a remarkable scene using shadow figures.

This scene leaves us with the striking line “they despise us for our blackness,” digging into some more serious undertones of the production.

But Ti Moune seems unshaken by their differences and believes she can heal him after he is in a car crash. And to her parents’ reluctance she leaves to be with him. “Go,” they tell her, bringing a sorrowful stiffness to your chest.

Ti Moune manages to find Daniel after he is transported back to France and though they fall in love, they are chastised by the townsfolk who state that “they’ll never stand before a priest.”

Her differences from the French people are beautifully highlighted by symbolic moments such as when she tries to dance at a cocktail party. Ti Moune’s heel breaks and they laugh at her, but once she takes her heels off, she dances freely and stunningly.

But, unfortunately, we discover that the townsfolk were ultimately right. “Some girls you marry and some you love,” Daniel tells Ti Moune.

The production really tests how well you can hold back your tears as Russel does a great job of displaying Ti Moune’s heartbreak through much of the end. But, the islander’s remind us that this story is told for a reason. Because of Ti Moune’s love, the gates between the people are symbolically never closed now.

The cast captures the story of Once on this Island in such an intriguing, heart-pulling way that you might forget you’re in a theatre for a moment. The story has a powerful message that will make you want to get up and dance at times and make you want to reach for the tissues at others.

Showings will be held Thursday July 18, Friday July 19 and Saturday July 20 at 6:30 p.m. As well as Sunday July 21 at 2 p.m. at the Brass Ring Center for the Performing Arts.

Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at https://brassringardmore.com/.