"Come Down from the Tree" - Surely This Was a Mistake?
Ocassionally, I hear a wonderful musical theatre song that hypnotizes me, only to find out that it was cut from the show it was written for. Maybe it wasn't the right fit, or maybe another song replaced the moment in the show. For whatever reason, my heart breaks over the fact that it was excised and I try to imagine how it may have figured into the show. Then I start thinking that maybe they could interpolate it into a revival of the show. Among these bewitching misfit songs, there is one that stands out in my mind that the show would be improved by the addition. That song is "Come Down from the Tree," cut from the magical Once on this Island.
The premise is that of a legend told to little girl during a hurricane as the elders try to occupy her through the storm. They act out the tale for her and become the characters. They tell her of Ti Moune, a girl who sets out on a journey to be with Daniel, a man she loves. Along the way, she is both helped and hindered by the gods and goddesses of the island. When it turns out that Daniel is set to marry another woman, she is turned into a tree outside of his home where she can forever watch over him. Composer Stephen Flaherty concocted a musical score with a Carribean flavor that is equal parts sweet rum and tropical breeze. Lynn Ahrens lyrics capture the traditions and the mythology passed along by the inhabitants of this island.
"Come Down From the Tree" is a song about finding the courage to come out of your shell and go looking for the love you want in life. It's a gentle, coaxing melody, tenderly sung to Tim Moune with words of encouragment and promises of better things, if she just takes the risk. The song aches to join the rest of the score, if only to foreshadow the irony of Tim Moune turning into a tree at the end of the story. Its addition would give Once on this Island a gravitas that would deepen the story's meaning and message.