Glee star Alex Newell belts out his Once on This Island solo “Mama Will Provide” during a studio session for the Broadway show’s soundtrack in this exclusive behind-the-scenes look. The musical won Best Revival at this year’s Tony Awards.
In the musical, Newell plays Mother of the Earth Asaka. Asaka is one of four gods who run an island called the Jewel of the Antilles. They also help an orphan named Ti Moune (played by Best Actress nominee Hailey Kilgore) not only survive a flood as a child but also to find her purpose as an adult. Asaka sings “Mama Will Provide” to Ti Moune while reassuring her that she’ll get all the help she needs from the gods while traveling to the other side of the island to find her love. Newell’s gender-bending portrayal has been one of the showstoppers that wow audiences.
“It rarely ever happens that anyone gets a mid-show standing ovation ever on Broadway,” Newell explained after the show opened. “So to have that happen, it’s rewarding in a way, because it means everything else — the food poisoning, the flu, the not wanting to be there sometimes because I was really tired and had done 15 shows that one week and I hadn’t had a day off in two weeks — it reminds me that there’s a reason that I’m doing it.”
Newell and the cast members are seen in this video recording the tropical song in the studio before the video shifts to colorful footage of an ornately dressed Newell performing the number on stage during the actual show. Fitting for the Mother of the Earth, Asaka sports a headpiece full of flowers as well as a bright ensemble that matches the optimism of that particular moment in the show.
Once on This Island continues to run at Manhattan’s A Circle in the Square Theatre. The show recently celebrated 300 performances.