Once on this Island
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens
Stage Right Performing Arts | Summer 2016
A group of peasant storytellers recount a tale of unconditional love in the face of death to a young girl terrified during the heart of a storm. The story takes the audience on a journey through two different worlds on the same island, separated by economic inequality and racial tension. It takes the courage of one to end the hatred and suffering of generations.
Once on this Island was the first production at Stage Right Performing Arts to be performed by a cast of only middle-school students. Ward guided the large cast and production team through the arcs of this timeless musical by insisting on simplicity in production and complexity in movement. This was likely one of the most actor-heavy production of this musical, and for that the cast was able to create larger objects on stage; walls, trees, monsoons to name a few. In the end, the ensemble lifted their arms to the heavens and became stars glittering in the night sky. This production was about love and beauty, and the young actors nailed it.
Photo by Suzy Haas
Photo by Aly Brooke
Photo by Aly Brooke
Photo by Suzy Haas
See more production photos in Gallery.
*Due to the young ages of the performers, their names will not listed here and they will not be tagged in photos.
Artistic Director: Donna West
Executive Director: Scott West
Director: Mitchell J. Ward
Musical Director: Darrington Clark
Costume Design: Austin Skibbie
Scenic Design: Dani Mader
Lighting Design: Evan Brittain
Sound Design: Evan Brittain, Mitchell J. Ward
Choreography: Reuben E. Hoyle, Tyler Eisenreich
Stage Manager: Lucy McDonald
Technical Director: Olivia West
Assistant Director: Kylie Ledford
Assisant Music Dir.: Alec Walberg
Assistant Costumer: Aly Brooke
Assistant LD: Rachael Carney
Assistant SM: Michael Moore
Sound Engineer: Sean Weston
"Once on this Island gave me the chance to observe his directing method thoroughly, and the quality product delivered at the end was a result of Mitchell's strong ability." -Darrington Clark | Stage Actor
Mitchell J. Ward & Darrington Clark
Our favorite line from This Island is actually not a line at all but the final stage direction after the final line in the play. It reads, "The stars come out. The storm ends." This is some much needed relief after a play that doesn't just rain, but pours.
There is sure to be a blend of audience members at this performance; from those who remember this musical from it's Broadway run from 1990-1991 or had seen one of the rare regional productions, to those who first heard of this play when they signed their child up for this summer's camp. The musical, for many, feels like a discovery; Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty's forgotten gem.
What you need to know about Once on this Island:
This is foremost a play about the strength of unconditional love, but it is also a race play. The Peasant roles in the full script are intended to be played by black, Haitian islanders. Their economically advantaged neighbors, the Grands Hommes, are lighter skinned French colonialists who generations earlier invaded their home. However, the economic struggles and conflict of the characters serve as a decent placeholder for the real underlying issues. In effect, we are doing the show in a way that makes sense for us, but may not be the truest This Island that's out there. The greatest injustice to this play would be to hide from the true story; we are simply telling the beautiful story the best we can.
The young people in these two casts have been exceptional in the creation of this story. This simple musical is incredibly and unexpectedly complex. On our island the kids tell the story using virtually only themselves. If they need a car, they become one. If a giant gate needs to appear, they stand together arm in arm.
We think you will find that this nearly empty stage will soon take you places you never could have imagined, that you are amazed at the abilities of these children to transform the space into a completely different world, and that you will be singing some new songs in your shower for the next few months.
We would like to thank Scott and Donna for taking a chance on this show. Stage Right's season history is full of blockbuster hit shows - Les Mis, West Side Story, Annie, Grease, the list goes on. Once on this Island is not in that category of shows. In our opinion, it's better; It can be done with the grandest set, most beautiful costumes on the most prolific stage or done in black box with t-shirts and the message can be just as strong. There is no hiding - the show rests on the moving music and powerful story, and that is the heart of what musical theatre is to us. Further, this story is the heart of our program: unconditional love. Hopefully the kids you see on stage today will have had a wonderful time and put on an impressive, beautiful show. What we hope for more, though, is that they now know a lesson that many adults still need to understand: love is the strongest force on earth. It can cross the earth, and withstand the storm, it can conquer even death.
-MW & DC
"Once on this island and Stage Right have taught me so much about loving people and obviously all of my singing and dancing skills."