Broadway’s Circle in the Square Theatre has been transformed for the current revival of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s beloved Once On This Island. Tony-nominated director Michael Arden and Tony-nominated scenic designer Dane Laffrey collaborated to create an immersive set, transporting audiences to the titular island in Haiti. Complete with a flowing water feature and filled with five to six tons of sand, the theatre converts to a full 360-degree space where every seat lends a different audience experience. So, where should you sit for the story of young peasant girl Ti Moune, who goes on a journey guided by the Gods of Water, Love, Earth, and Death to reunite with the young boy who has captured her heart? Find out which spot is ideal for the type of night at the theatre you want, or go back again for a totally different experience in a new seat!
And no matter where your ticket puts you, be sure to come early and experience the pre-show environment of the island—it’s one more layer in the rendering this fable as it transfers from the mouths of island dwellers to storytellers to the powerful voices of the gods.
SEAT LOCATION: ORCHESTRA, ROW C, SEAT 101
Situated at the arc of the oval, this seat gives an overview of the full playing space from end to end. It may be the most traditional of the four sections: seeing the action from “the front” and center, because all of the entrances and exits (with the exception of those from the water feature) are in full view. Still, its position directly beside the water feature ensures the immersive feel. Plus, audiences here get a view of the band.
Highlights: You won’t see actors enter and exit from the pool, but its proximity to that pond creates a recurring sound of the water flowing next to you, which feels particularly special. It’s a consistent and singular reminder that you're on an island, and that water is a powerful character in this story. When the stage fills with fog, the water glistens with fog, too, for a beautiful and haunting image. Ti Moune sings much of her first big song, “Waiting for Life,” directly to these seats. Her eyes alight, she captures the closest audience members with her gaze.
Close-up moment: When Agwe shows Ti Moune the childlike wonder of catching a firefly, he first brings the firefly over to the seats on this left side of the water in an intimate, immersive moment. There are also moments where actors sit above the water, like Agwe fishing in the earliest scenes and interacting with nearby audience members.
Best for: Audiences who want the most traditional view and music-lovers who love to watch the pit orchestra play.
SEAT LOCATION: ORCHESTRA, ROW E, SEAT 201
Located at house left (from the main entrance), this seat puts audiences on the long side of the oval. This spot is on an aisle where the players traverse on their journey across the island at numerous moments in the show. Seated a little farther back from the playing space, audiences may interact less with the actors (no petting the chickens here), but enjoy a fuller view of the set, Camille A. Brown’s choreography, as well as the conductor and band on top of the truck. The extra height of this seat helps to see them in full.
Highlights: Tonton Julian uses this aisle on his voyage through the audience and the resonance of his voice booms up close. Towards the end of the show, Erzulie, Goddess of Love, sings directly to this section. (Or, if you choose a seat in the 220s of this same section, you’ll experience much of the show alongside Erzulie and her beautiful soprano.)
Close-up moment: Although viewers here won’t see Ti Moune’s face at the top of the finale scene (or in the final “picture” of the show before the blackout), she does parade down this aisle—just before that ultimate moment—in a gasp-worthy gown. You’ll get to feel her presence and see the costume up close like no one else.
Best for: Audiences who want a sweeping view of the playing space— including a side view of the water feature —with less interaction, and music-lovers who love to watch the conductor and band.
SEAT LOCATION: ORCHESTRA, ROW B, SEAT 202
Positioned at house right (from the main entrance), this seat is not just the mirror image of E201. This seat offers the best view of Laffrey’s fallen power pole, which also symbolizes the central tenet in voodoo temples and the tree that bridges the gap between the gods and man. In Once On This Island, the pole also plays a central role in the storytelling as the space Erzulie lives for much of the show, the path for Asaka Goddess of the Earth’s big number “Mama Will Provide,” and the focus of the finale’s climactic moment.
Highlights: As this seat is close to the pond, audiences have a front row seat for action around the water. As the storm brews in the early minutes of the show, you can hear and feel the strong wind blow in this section, too. This is one of the few seats viewers can see two extra singers—tucked away on a platform facing the truck!
Close-up moment: This spot is perfect for animal lovers, as the show’s livestock star, Sparky the goat—or Peapod, depending on your performance—makes his entrance via this staircase and saunters by this seat.
Best for: Audience members who want to feel swept up in the storm and have a prime view for the visual climax of the show.
SEAT LOCATION: ORCHESTRA, ROW B, SEAT 402
This seat is the most unconventional point of view, as this section was created for Once on This Island. The “backstage” area of previous shows at Circle in the Square has been converted to seating beside the truck, directly across from the water feature entrance. If you want to see Ti Moune’s first entrance from the mouth of the pond, this is the only spot to view it in full. Audiences here might feel a little farther from the action—Agwe has his perch across the way, Erzulie to the right, Asaka often to the right or left—and the rake of the seats is not as extreme as typical stadium seating. But, that also means theatregoers feel closer to the action around them.
Highlights: During the pre-show, ticketholders here can smell the food cooking in Asaka’s pan because of the proximity to the action. If the pond is Agwe’s base and the totem is Erzulie’s, this area is Papa Ge’s domain. Nowhere is the God of Death’s ominous presence felt more strongly, since she makes a majority of entrances and exits here. Aside from seeing inside the water feature, this is also the only section that sees a different view during the number “The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes.” A sheet drops and divides the playing space into two sections. No matter where you sit, you see the story unfold in shadows, but from this view audiences watch the shadows as they are created.
Close-up moment: This is the best seat in the house for the emotional climax of the show. Ti Moune’s face is towards this section in a moment of truth that leaves many in tears, and her face also shines towards this section in the poignant final image of the musical before the blackout.
Best for: Audiences who love to feel like they’re behind the scenes—witnessing the most entrances and exits—who don’t mind missing out on the visual of the band and who want to be on the same level (elevation-wise) as the actors.
Ruthie Fierberg is the Senior Features Editor of Playbill covering all things theatre and co-hosting the Opening Night Red Carpet livestreams on Playbill's Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @RuthiesATrain, on Instagram @ruthiefierceberg, or via her website.