Alex Newell, A Glee Alum, and powerhouse singer/performer, is lending his pipes to the new musical revival of Once On This Island, coming to Broadway for previews November 9th, with an official open December 3rd 2017 at the Circle In The Square Theatre.
Newell was joined by the entire cast of the show Wednesday to answer questions and give a sneak peak of select songs.
According to the press release: Once On This Island is the storytelling of “Ti Moune” (played by Hailey Kilgore), a peasant girl who falls for a wealthy boy from the other side of the islands. The two are divided by their cultures, but Ti Mourne enlists the help of the Island Gods played by Newell, Merle Dandridge, from OWN’s Greenleaf, as well as Quentin Earl Darrington, and Lea Solanga to reunite her with the man of her dreams.
Newell is not a stranger to the stage or Hollywood having starred as Wade “Unique” Adams, on Fox’s hit show Glee, as well as appearing on Broadway in several productions including HairSpray, Cinderella, Saturday NIght Fever. Newell is also a recording artist with Atlantic Records.
The cast performed songs using all trash instruments, like wooden sticks, spoons, frying pans and bottles. Newell was easily the breakout star with his booming voice and grandiose style. He owned the room as he walked with a large fan that worked as both costume and appendage.
The original version of the musical premiered at Playwrights Horizon in 1990. The Broadway Production soon followed in October of the same year. The show had 469 performances and earned eight Tony Nominations.
When casting the Gods, director Michael Ardon played with gender roles by having Dandridge play “Papa Ge,” and Newell play “Asaka”, mother Earth. Ardon leaned into the idea of “seeing God in our own image.” That image being a man or a woman.
For Newell the role of “Asaka” was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
“It was my dream role,” Newell said with a laugh. “it was either Effie or this. So this came.”
“I like to sing things that have lots of heart. This role is demanding in the sense that you have to have that light. You have to really look at that child and convince her that you’re here to help her and give her whatever she needs. And that mom’s here to help her.”
The opportunity defines motherhood in a more expansive way, is not lost on Newell as well.
“I think I bring this non-binary gender kind of a thing that your mother isn’t just defined by the word female,” Newell said. “I know when I have kids I know I’m going to be the mom and provide the boo-boo kisses. There a lot of women who weren’t mothers but raised children. It’s not about who is the person that birthed you. It’s about who loved you and nursed you.”
For more information about Once On This Island check out the website at onceonthisisland.com