Originally staged at off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons, the Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Graciela Daniele and starring LaChanze as Ti Moune, opened on October 18 1990 at the Booth Theatre, where it ran for 469 performances. In 2002, the original cast was reunited with special guest Lillias White to perform the show for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund.
One stormy night, thunder booms, making a small girl cry in fear. To comfort her, four storytellers tell her the story of Ti Moune.
In this story, four gods (Asaka, Mother of the Earth; Agwe, god of Water; Erzulie, goddess of Love; and Papa Ge, Demon of Death) rule an island in the Antilles, where poor Peasants worship them (Prologue/"We Dance"). One day, Agwe unleashes a terrible storm upon the island, which in turn causes a terrible flood, wiping out many villages. However, the gods save the life of little Ti Moune, an orphan, by placing her in a tree, above the flood's waves. She is found and subsequently adopted by the peasants Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian ("One Small Girl"). The peasants live on the left side of the island, and the Grandes Hommes, lighter skinned descendants of the original French planters and their slaves, live on the other.
Years after, Ti Moune, grown up, prays to the gods to let her meet a grand homme ("Waiting for Life"). Hearing her plea, the Gods laugh at her. However, Erzulie says to give her love, because it is stronger than any of the other elements. Papa Ge, offended, bets to prove which is stronger: love or death. Agwe arranges for the car of Daniel Beauxhomme, a young Grande Homme, to crash during a storm so that Ti Moune may meet him and restore him to health ("And The Gods Heard Her Prayer/Rain"). Despite the objections of the other peasants, including her own parents, Ti Moune helps the intruder to recover ("Pray"). As destined, the two young people fall in love. When Papa Ge comes to take Daniel's life, Ti Moune offers her life in exchange for his so that he will not die ("Forever Yours"). Papa Ge is angry but leaves, hinting he will return – sooner or later, as her life now belongs to him.
Tonton travels to the other side of the Island to seek Daniel's family at the Hotel Beauxhomme. When Tonton returns, he brings with him the story of Daniel's people ("The Sad Tale of the Beauxhommes") as well as some of Daniel's people to take the boy back. Ti Moune is tearfully separated from Daniel and tells her parents that she will go after him to marry him. Ti Moune's parents reluctantly let her go ("Ti Moune"). During her travels, she encounters the goddess Asaka, who tells her not to fear, as the Earth will give her everything she needs on her journey ("Mama Will Provide"). When she reaches the other side of the island, gossips comment on the kind of journey it must have been ("Some Say"). Ti Moune finds Daniel's bed, where he is lying ill. As she lies with him, Erzulie sings over them ("Human Heart"). Daniel ignores the townspeople's gossiping ("Pray" - Reprise 1) over the unlikely relationship of a rich Beauxhomme and a poor peasant. He knows that Ti Moune is different from other girls like the rich French ("Some Girls").
At a ball held at the hotel, Ti Moune is confronted by Daniel Beauxhomme and Andrea Deveraux, a daughter of family friends. Andrea asks Ti Moune to dance for them (her ulterior motive is to see if Ti Moune is really in love with Daniel and make her look bad in front of the Grand Hommes). Daniel encourages her to dance as she has in the past for him ("Ti Moune's Dance"). Afterwards, Ti Moune learns that Daniel is engaged to be married to Andrea ("When We Are Wed"). Reminded of his responsibilities and forced by the pressure of society, Daniel must go through with the arranged marriage. Ti Moune is very hurt. Papa Ge reappears and reminds Ti Moune of her promise to exchange her life for Daniel's – but says she can revoke the bargain and encourages her to kill Daniel, as he has killed their love and marriage (Promises/Forever Yours Reprise). Ti Moune enters Daniel's room with a knife, as he sleeps, but she cannot kill him. However, Daniel wakes up and finds Ti moune trying to kill him with a knife. Because Ti Moune could not kill him, she proves that love is stronger than death. As a result of the attempted killing, however, Ti Moune is thrown out of the hotel and waits for days to meet Daniel at the gate, as Daniel and Andrea are married. Following an old tradition of throwing coins to the peasants outside the hotel gates, Daniel places a silver coin in Ti Moune's hand. Out of her obligation to Papa Ge, she dies, and the Gods mourn her loss ("A Part Of Us").
Papa Ge allows Ti Moune to be reincarnated as a tree that cracks open the gates of the hotel. Her legacy survives and brings together a peasant girl and a young Grande Homme, Daniel's son, as they play in her branches. They are all united in song and dance giving thanks to the sun and the moon and stars which shelter grand hommes and peasants alike ("Why We Tell The Story").