Once On This Island

Jan 21 – Feb 9, 2014


Once On This Island

About the Show

Produced in association with Obsidian Theatre Company January 21 - February 9, 2013 Daniels Spectrum, Ada Slaight Hall

Set deep in the heart of the French Antilles, Once On This Island is a love story for all ages. When the dark skinned Ti Moune falls in love with Daniel, a lighter-skinned upper-class man, the gods send her on a journey which tests the power of love against the fear of death. With a joyful Caribbean infused score, dazzling choreography, and stunning theatrical staging, this Olivier award-winning musical will whisk you away on a journey you will not soon forget.

This event is part of TD’s Then and Now series, an inspiring and entertaining cultural showcase of one of Canada’s prominent communities. The lineup of events includes films, concerts, exhibitions, and performances by a host of Canadian and international artists. Visit for more information.

  • Production Sponsor band-logo12 09 28 Then and Now Concept
  • Leading Lights Don & Shirley Green


  • book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens music by Stephen Flaherty
  • directed by Nigel Shawn Williams
    music direction by Lily Ling choreographed by Marc Kimelman
  • starring
    Charles Azulay, Jewelle Blackman, Arlene Duncan,
    Daren A. Herbert, Alana Hibbert, Kaya Joubert Johnson, Nichola Lawrence, Tom Pickett,
    Sabryn Rock, Chris Sams, Jivaro Smith
  • set design Michael Gianfrancesco lighting design Bonnie Beecher
    costume design Alex Amini sound design Michael Laird assistant choreography Stephan Dickson
  • production manager Adrien Whan
    stage manager Robert Harding
    apprentice stage manager Alice Barnett
    assistant choreographer Stephan Dickson

Charles Azulay, Armand

Charles is pleased to be a part of Acting Up Stage Company’s production of Once On This Island. Other Stage Credits include: Cats, Paul in A Chorus Line (Theatre Aquarius), Marius in Les Miserables (Toronto, National Tour), Thuy in Miss Saigon (Toronto, U.S. National Tour, Netherlands Premiere), Rent (Toronto, Canadian National Tour), Mamma Mia (Toronto, U.S. National Tour), Bernardo in Westside Story (Stratford Festival), LunTha in The King & I (The Stratford Festival), Walt Dreary in The Threepenny Opera (The Stratford Festival), My Fair Lady (The Stratford Festival), Billy Boy Bill in Urinetown (CanStage), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (CanStage), Old Deuteronomy in Cats (Toronto Revival).

Jewelle Blackman, Ti Moune

Jewelle is excited to return to Acting Up Stage following a season at the Stratford Festival where she played the Acid Queen in Des McAnuff and Pete Towshends revival of The Who’s Tommy and Fruma-Sarah in Fiddler on the Roof. Select theatre credits include Caroline or Change (Acting Up Stage) Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living In Paris, As You Like It, Cabaret (Stratford Shakespeare Festival); We Will Rock You, The Lion King (Mirvish); Dreamgirls (The Grand Theatre/Stagewest) The Wizard of Oz (The Grand Theatre); Crowns (Canadian Stage/MTC/NAC); and Obeah Opera (bcurrent). Select TV credits include Copper, Wingin’ It, Degrassi, The Ron James Show, The Border, and the CW pilot Awakening. A graduate of Queen’s University and Berklee College of Music Performance Program, Jewelle is an accomplished singer/songwriter and classically trained violinist and her album Herstory is available on itunes. Much love and thanks to Sweet D and my family.

Arlene Duncan, Mama Euralie

Arlene is delighted to make a 2nd appearance with Acting Up Stage. Recent film & televison credits include: Degrassi: The Next Generation, Winging It, Silent Hill Revelation 3D, Flashpoint, Rookie Blue, The Ron James Show, Mr. D., Being Erica, and The Fighting Man. Theatre credits include: Sophisticated Ladies, the Dora Award-winning productions of Ain’t Misbehavin’, Nutmeg Princess, The Who’s Tommy and her Dora Mavor Moore & Toronto Theatre Critics Award-winning role of Caroline Thibodeaux in Caroline or Changee. She is also the winner of the 2012 African Canadian Achievement Award in the Arts category. Arlene appears as the voices of Officer Rabbit on the popular children’s cartoon Franklin the Turtle and as Mama Zungu in Bobo & Kipi but is probably best known for her six seasons as Fatima Dinssa in the CBC comedy Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Daren A. Herbert, Papa Ge

Born in Bermuda, Daren has worked, studied, and taught on stages, sets and in studios in the US, Canada, South Korea, the UK, Bermuda and Japan. He won an L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award and an NAACP Theatre Award nomination for his work in The Wild Party, and he’s a two time Dora Mavor Moore Award nominee for performances in The Toxic Avenger and Parade. Additional stage appearances include Glengarry Glen Ross, Dreamgirls, Lobby Hero, Intimate Apparel, The Music Man, Clybourne Park, A Craigslist Cantata, In the Heat of the Night and a Jessie Award winning production of The Light in the Piazza. On-screen appearances include Dreamgirls, 2012, Human Target, Breakout Kings, Fringe, Smallville,This Means War and CW’s Cult. Daren holds both a BFA Theatre Arts and an MFA Drama from The University of the Arts, Philadelphia and The University of California, Irvine respectively.

Alana Hibbert, Erzulie

Alana is delighted to once again be working with Acting Up Stage on Once on This Island having previously been involved past productions of Caroline or Change and Parade. Other recent credits include two seasons at the Shaw Festival, appearing in Ragtime, Major Barbara, Guys and Dolls and Trouble in Tahiti and four seasons with the Charlottetown Festival, performing in Anne of Green Gables, Hairspray, The Buddy Holly Story and The British invasion. Alana has also been seen in Hairspray (Arts Club), Doubt (Theatre Northwest), Legends (The Grand Theatre), Seussical (Western Canada Theatre Company), Little Shop of Horrors (Stagewest and Magnus Theatre), Dreamgirls (Stagewest), Hair (CanStage) and The Wizard of Earth Sea (CC Physical Theatre Projects). Alana is a graduate of Simon Fraser University and The Canadian College of Performing Arts.

Kaya Joubert Johnson, Young Girl

Kaya Joubert Johnson is an athletic 11 year old, triple threat performer who loves the arts! Raised in an artistic family, she has been honing her natural talents, performing professionally since the age of 5. She has done numerous commercials and television appearances. Her theatrical debut was in the award winning musical Caroline or Change. Her training includes Randolph Academy Triple Threat, Broadway Bound Theatre Academy, dance classes, ongoing private coaching in acting, dance and vocals. She plays the piano, drums, guitar and loves acting, dancing, singing, sports, traveling, spending time with her friends.

Nichola Lawrence, Asaka

SHAW FESTIVAL: Sarah’s Friend (Ragtime), Ensemble (Trouble in Tahiti), Agatha (Guys and Dolls), Lady Stufield (Lady Windemere’s Fan). DRAYTON ENTERTAINMENT Motormouth Maybelle (Hairspray) YPT: Sour Kangaroo (Seussical) Training: Sheridan College Performing Arts Preparation and Music Theatre Program. Nicky currently vocalizes with The Mercenaries in venues around Toronto and is recoding upcoming solo material. For my Family, the MOMS, Claire Sharon and River, my heartbeat is your collective greatness.

Tom Pickett, Tonton Julian

Tom Pickett made his professional theater debut in Vancouver, BC in several local theatre productions. until portraying “Eat Moe” in the Clarke Peters production of Five Guys Named Moe, leading to a national/international tour of the Hal Prince production of Showboat. Tom’s recent theatre credits include The Buddy Holly Story and Dream Girls both at The Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage; The Arts Club Theatre. His film credit highlights working with Chris Columbus (Director: Harry Potter) in Percy Jackson: Lightening Thief. “I am truly blessed to be a part of this production.”

Sabryn Rock, Andrea

The Merchant of Venice, The Three Musketeers, Romeo and Juliet (Stratford Festival), Emmie in Caroline, or Change (Acting Up Stage/Obsidian Theatre); Ruined (Obsidian/Nightwood Theatre); Dutchman (director, lemonTree Creations at SummerWorks); The Passion of Adele Hugo (Eastern Front Theatre);The Comedy of Errors, King Lear(Driftwood Theatre); Dead Ahead, El Numero Uno (YPT); Little Shop of Horrors (Persephone Theatre); HONK!, Just So (Globe Theatre). Film/TV: The Story of Luke (feature film); guest appearances onThe Listener, Degrassi, Flashpoint, Against the Wall, InSAYSHAble Training: The Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre, the National Theatre School of Canada. Awards: Dora nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female in a Musical for Caroline, or Change. Etc: Thank you to Mitchell, Nigel and everyone at AUS for this wonderful opportunity.

Chris Sams, Daniel

Chris is thrilled to be working with such a fantastic cast and crew on Once On This Island. Some past credits include The Songs of Sinatra, Big Band Legends, Legends of Harmony (Drayton Entertainment) Two Hit Wonders (Stage West Calgary) Hair (The Grand Theatre) The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Romeo and Juliet, Twelfth Night (Classical Theatre Project) Hairspray (The Capitol theatre) Chris would like to thank everyone at Acting Up Stage and Obsidian for this opportunity. Also a big thanks to my Talent House family. And finally a huge thank you to Mom, Dad and Cody.

Jivaro Smith, Agwe

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jivaro started singing at the age of 4. He is a former member of the “Hallelujah Praise Choir,” and left Nova Scotia in 2001 to pursue his singing and acting career in The Lion King in Toronto. In 2005 his musical talents led him to Quebec City as a cast member of Generation Motown. In 2007 he was a member of the original North American cast of Dirty Dancing in Toronto. He was last seen in Motown Gold at StageWest and at the Shaw Festival in Ragtime, His Girl Friday and Love Train also at StageWest. Jivaro thanks God for the opportunity and blessing to be making his debut appearance with Acting Up Stage in the production Once On This Island. He dedicates his performances to his beautiful wife Mary and their beautiful children Alondrea, Cherei, Jaieya, Jaiven and Cheilyn.

Nigel Shawn Williams, Director

Nigel Shawn Williams is the Co-Artistic Director of the Factory Theatre. He is a 4 time Dora Mavor Moore Award winner as an actor and director. His theatre credits include four seasons each at the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, as well as performing in Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Montreal. His theatre career includes credits of over 20 years as an artist. As a director, his productions have garnered critical and artistic success, including the award-winning Brothel #9 and Tomasso’s Party at Factory Theatre. He continues to work actively as an actor and director collaborating not only at the Factory Theatre, but with theatre companies throughout Canada. Nigel is also heavily active in new play development and has helped develop over 40 new plays either working as an actor, director or a dramaturge. He is also an educator, having taught courses at both York University and the University of Windsor. He has been, and continues to mentor young and emerging artist through the difficult transition from training schools to professional life.

Lily Ling, Music Director

Lily is thrilled to return to the Acting Upstage family where she had the pleasure of working on The Light in the Piazza and Parade. Other credits include: The Fantasticks (Soulpepper); Canadian premieres of I Love You, Because (Angelwalk), Jerry Springer, The Opera and Reefer Madness (Hart House Theatre); World premiere of The Passion of Adele Hugo (Eastern Front - Merritt Award for Best Musical Direction); Little One (Tarragon/Theatre Crisis); Our Class (Studio 180/Canadian Stage); and Tout Comme Elle (Neccesary Angel/Luminato). Lily became the first woman to conduct a mainstage production at the Shaw Festival when she served as intern musical director for Kurt Weill’s One Touch of Venus. Lily holds a Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing an MFA in Music Directing in Musical Theatre at Penn State University.

Marc Kimelman, Choreographer

Marc is thrilled to be returning to the Acting Up Stage family. Choreographer: A New Brain, Jon & Jen (Acting Up Stage), Snow White, Wizard of Oz, The Little Mermaid (Ross Petty Productions), Mary Poppins (Rainbow Stage), Off-Broadway’s Play It Cool, Degrassi: The Next Generation, Broadway Bares 22 & 23, Vogue magazine. Assistant choreographer: Queen’s We Will Rock You (US National Tour), Broadway revival of Tony-nominated Jesus Christ Superstar. Associate choreographer: Once On ThisIsland (Paper Mill Playhouse), Hands on a Hardbody (Broadway workshop), CBS’ hit show Elementary. Marc has worked with Katy Perry, Chaka Kahn, Neil Young, Patti Lupone, Charlize Theron and NYC Ballet. Upcoming: Stratford Festival’s Man Of La Mancha. Big thanks to Mitchell, Nigel, Lily, cast, crew, universe.

Michael Gianfrancesco, Set Design

Michael has designed sets and/or costumes for companies across Canada, including the Stratford Festival, Shaw Festival, National Ballet of Canada, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal, Canadian Opera Company, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Citadel Theatre, Young People’s Theatre, Canadian Stage Company, Grand Theatre, Ross Petty Productions, Studio 180, Against the Grain, Royal Conservatory of Music, Segal Centre, Tarragon Theatre, Sheridan College. Neptune Theatre, Opera Ontario, Pleiades Theatre, Theatre Aquarius and Theatre New Brunswick. Michael has designed several productions for Queen of Puddings Music Theatre, two of which have gone on to be presented at Opera Philadelphia and The Royal Opera House at Covent Garden. This season, the new ballet Rodin/Claudel he designed for choreographer Peter Quanz will be presented by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and by Les Grands Ballets Canadiens at the National Arts Centre. AWARDS: Virginia and Myrtle Cooper Award in costume design - Ontario Arts Foundation, Brian Jackson Award - Stratford Festival.

Bonnie Beecher, Lighting Design

Bonnie has designed over 200 productions for theatre, opera and dance in Canada and internationally. Canadian companies include Stratford, Shaw, Canadian Opera, National Ballet, Canadian Stage, Factory theatre, Opera Atelier, Ballet B.C., Tarragon and Soulpepper. International work includes productions for The Dutch National Ballet, The New Zealand Opera, The Royal Shakespeare Company, The Pacific Northwest Ballet. The Mannheim Opera, and The Dortmund Ballet. Bonnie has also designed over 20 world premieres for The Kevin O’Day Ballet - Mannheim in germany and six world premieres for The Stuttgart Ballet in Germany. Bonnie has received 13 Dora nominations and has won the award twice.

Michael Laird, Sound Design

Selected Sound Design Credits: Cinderella, A Year with Frog and Toad, The Princess and the Handmaiden, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, The Wizard of Oz (YPT); Seussical (YPT/Citadel Theatre); Spamalot!, Sound of Music, Little Women (Citadel Theatre); Great Expectations, Barber of Seville (Soulpepper); God of Carnage, Clybourne Park, Stuff Happens (Studio 180/Mirvish Productions); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Canadian Stage); 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Thousand Islands Playhouse); Our Class, The Overwhelming, Blackbird (Studio 180); Speaking in Tongues, Through the Leaves, Festen, Marion Bridge (Company Theatre); Evil Dead: The Musical (Off B’way); A Beautiful View (da da kamera)

Stephan Dickson, Assistant Choreographer

Stephan is very excited to be working with this amazing cast and creative team here at Acting Up Stage. Choreographer Credits include: Titanic, Peter Pan (CCMP), Tweed- The Musical (IANA Prod.), The Rocky Horror Show (The LOT), Booming Aunty (Kodak/Spy Films), and Hit that Jive Jack (H&S Foundation). Associate Choreographer: Forever Plaid (Rose Theatre), Ragtime (CCMP), and TIFF thanks you (Cineplex Theatres). Thanks to Marc, TH, and The Acting Up Stage team. Love to my Family and Little L.

Adrien Whan, Production Manager

Adrien has been working professionally as a technical artist for the past 20 years. He is currently the Technical Director for Buddies In Bad Times Theatre. Other selected credits include: Site Production Manager for Ontario Place Corporation, Assistant Technical Director for Young People’s Theatre. Sound and Video Operator for touring productions of Our Brief Eternity and Circa (The Holy Body Tattoo). Lighting Designer for Under The Mink and Who’s your Dada (The Scandelles), Real Live Girl (Buddies In Bad Times Theatre), The Beauty Salon (Buddies In Bad Times Theatre), The First LP and Shifting Edges (Alias Dance). Stage Manager for Fluency by Peter Chin (Tribal Crackling Wind). Technical Director for The Normal Heart and Clybourne Park remount 2013 (Studio 180).

Robert Harding, Stage Manager

Selected Credits: Parade (Acting Up Stage Company / Studio 180), Past Perfect, How It Works, A Beautiful View, Communion, The Best Brothers (Tarragon),The Barber of Seville (Soulpepper), Stuff Happens, Clybourne Park (Studio 180 / Mirvish), Our Class, Blackbird (Studio 180 / Canadian Stage), The Normal Heart (Studio 180 / Buddies in Bad Times), Divisidero, This Is What Happens Next (Necessary Angel), A Whistle in the Dark, Marion Bridge, Festen (The Company Theatre).


Charming! Warm-Hearted! Arlene Duncan is radiance itself… Alana Hibbert is pure joy!

— Globe and Mail

Flawless… I recommend this musical immensely!

— Xtra

Arlene Duncan shows again that she is a woman of electric presence!

- The Toronto Star


A rich tropical tapestry… brought tears to the eyes on more than one occasion.

— BroadwayWorld

A highly entertaining and thought provoking evening… Acting Up Stage continues to be one of the leading voices in Toronto’s vibrant theatre community.

— Charlesbois Post

**** (out of 5). Vibrant! Colorful, imaginative, and moving all at once. Jewelle Blackman gives one of her best-ever performances

— Stage Door

This is an incredible production featuring an immensely talented cast.

— Mooney on Theatre

**** (out of 5). Strong performances from a multi-talented cast. Leave the theatre joyous and heartbroken

— Theatromania

Passionate music and awesome choreography. Sheer joy!

— BlogUT

Everyone is likely to emerge from the theatre ready to dance down the street!

— The New York Times


Vivacious, exotic and scored to a Calypso-Reggae beat, Once On This Island is a Carribean cruise of a musical that offers audiences many sunny ports of call.

— LA Times

Once On This Island is a flavorful charmer suitable for the whole family.


It’s easy to enjoy the calypso sounds and tropical setting of Once On This Island [...] One must revel in the energetic music, lively choreography, bright costumes and exotic stories.

— Variety


Interact With Us

This season we’re focusing on continuing the conversation outside the performance with some exciting activities and opportunities for our audiences. These include:

Post Show Chats

Want to talk to cast members about their personal experiences? Interested in engaging with experts on show-related topics?

Join us for a 21st century post show chat after every Saturday Matinee of Once On This Island. We will offer three choices of talks immediately following that afternoon’s performance. Choose which discussion most interests you based on your experience.

Jan 25: Exploring Once On This Island’s Roots and Shadeism Today

Feb 1: Working with Ahrens and Flaherty and Shadeism Today

Feb 8: Exploring Once On This Island’s Roots and Shadeism Today

Free Art Making Workshops

Have you ever wanted to experience the process of mounting a full-scale musical production? Now’s your chance!

Join Music Director Lily Ling immediately following the performances of Once On This Island on on January 26 and February 2 and learn a piece of music from the show! As well, Lily will share insights into her rehearsal process and her musical rearrangement of the score to enhance the Caribbean authenticity of this rousing musical.


Discuss Your Thoughts

Want to hear what everyone else is saying/asking about the show? Visit our interactive forum, or email [email protected] with your questions and then visit the board to see our answer!




Jon Kaplan interview Sabryn Rock, who play Andrea - the girl who rents Ti Moune and Daniel apart More>

Toronto Star

Richard Ouzounian previews our 10th Anniversary season, including the rousing Once On This Island More>

Untitled-1 profiles Nichola Lawrence, who plays Asaka in Once On This Island More>