As reported in the Citizen's News, Woodland Regional High School Drama decided to transport audiences to the tropics with Caribbean music and lots of choreographed dance when it chose to present the musical Once on this Island on March 30 and 31. I was able to attend the afternoon performance in their beautiful modern auditorium and got a great seat in the second row.
The story follows a peasant woman named Ti Moune as she saves a wealthy man from death and nurses him back to health. Moune begins to fall in love with him and believes they can overcome their differences in class to lead a happy life together. However, things start to become complicated as the gods interfere with Moune’s life and plans.
This is not an easy show to launch but these students were up for the challenge. The book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens (Schoolhouse Rock) and music by Stephen Flaherty are complex. Producer/director Sean Lewis, the Chamber and Choir teacher at the high school, has been involved with the play before and felt that it would be a good fit for veterans and newbies. He thanked Susan Cinoman (Theater Arts teacher) for helping with the show. In his thank you for joining us for this performance notes he writes: "Your support of Fine Arts and for education is essential to what we do every day." Well said.
The entire ensemble of actors/singers did a wonderful job, as did the small group of six musicians. Percussion player Rex Sturdevant was especially creative when he incorporated the metal grating behind him. The lighting was well-done and the storm scene very effective.
The four students who played the gods were so impressive. Eric Gomez, as Agwe the god of Water, and Robert Wiener as Papa Ge the god of death, both had strong voices and fine acting skills. Mr. Wiener was appropriately scary. and yet, likable. The female gods, Kasey Smith as Erzulie (Love) and Catherine Pelkey as Asaka (Earth), matched them in both singing and acting. Ms. Pelkey had a wonderful alto voice that filled the theatre.
Katie Steimbacher, who played the innocent Ti Moune, clearly enjoyed her character. Her (gray hair added) adoptive parents were well-played by Rebecca Grabowski and Zachary Belenchia, Daniel Lyons, another strong singer, played the part of Daniel and his suitor Andrea was played by Kiley Soulier. Little Ti Moune was an adorable little daughter of Mr. Lewis; she nailed her lines, her songs and the cuteness factor. She did not appear at all intimidated by the multitude of teens on stage with her. Alyssa Korzon, dance captain of the musical, worked with Jennifer Mazzeo to perfect the dances. And "perfect" is an excellent way to describe the challenging choreography. I really enjoyed watching the students move so well. The colorful costumes and set (designed by Ms. Cinoman) were very appropriate.
This was such a great show that I hope that the evening performances were better attended than the matinee. I look forward to seeing what this group presents in the future.