Fresh off of the release of Hamilton, Disney+ is sticking with musicals and bringing an adaptation of Once On This Island to its platform! Jocelyn Bioh will pen the script and Wanuri Kahiu will direct. Marc Platt, producer of Wicked, is set to produce the film.
Disney’s live action division is reportedly running point on the project. It is expected to be a traditional live action film rather than Hamilton‘s filmed performance style.
Playwright Jocelyn Bioh is known for off-Broadway’s School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play. Her additional works include Nollywood Dreams—which was set to have opened at MCC Theater this past spring but was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her musical, Goddess, received a workshop presentation last year and will premiere next year at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in spring 2021 followed by a Broadway run. Bioh also recently co-founded the digital platform Black Women on Broadway, alongside Amber Iman and Danielle Brooks, and served as a writer and co-producer on the HBO Max upcoming limited series Americanah, starring Lupita Nyong’o. She previously wrote for Spike Lee’s Netflix series She’s Gotta Have It and the Netflix show Russian Doll.
Director Wanuri Kahiu is a Kenyan filmmaker who wrote and directed the history-making LGBTQ film Rafiki. The film was the first Kenyan film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival even as the movie was banned in her home country due to its themes. Her other credits include the African films From a Whisper and Pumzi. Kahiu is also developing an adaptation of YA novel The Thing About Jellyfish that has Millie Bobby Brown attached to star and is set up at Universal.
Featuring a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and a score by Stephen Flaherty, Once on this Island is based on Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl and follows Ti Moune, a peasant girl who falls in love with a boy from a wealthy family on the other side of their island.
The musical premiered Off-Broadway before a Broadway bow in 1990. It returned to Broadway in 2017 in a production directed by Michael Arden, which won the 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. The cast included Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune (earning a Tony nomination for her work, Merle Dandridge, Quentin Earl Darrington, Alex Newell, Isaac Cole Powell, and Lea Salonga.
There is no word yet on a production timeline or casting, but check back for updates!