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Sun., Oct. 4
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Indian River Central staging “Once On This Island” musical March 21, 22


PHILADELPHIA — A tale of life on a tropical island featuring calypso music and nearly nonstop singing and dancing will offer a balmy escape for winter-weary audiences when the Indian River Central School District stages “Once On This Island” as its spring musical for three shows on Friday and Saturday.

“Once On This Island” takes place in the West Indies with a storyline reflecting the island’s gap between its peasants and aristocrats. It tells the story of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who rescues and falls in love with Daniel, a wealthy boy from the other side of the island.

“Ti Moune nurses Daniel back to life,” said Charles R. Heck, director and K-12 music coordinator at Indian River Central School. “They cannot marry because it’s forbidden.”

The musical, with book and lyrics by Lynn Aherns and music by Stephen Flaherty, is based on the book “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy. It ran on Broadway for 469 performances in 1990 and 1991.

The musical is presented as a play within a play: A cast of village storytellers, attempting to calm a frightened young child, tells the romantic tale of a peasant girl who saves a rich city boy from death.

A reviewer for the New York Times called the musical “a joyous marriage of the slick and the folkloric.”

Students at Indian River who weren’t familiar with the musical before it was selected by the music staff last spring now greatly admire it.

“I didn’t know what it really was,” said junior Misty L. Brown, who plays Ti Moune. “But the songs have really grown on me.”

Miss Brown said the songs in “Once On This Island” are challenging.

“But you get this amazing sense of accomplishment when you get to finally complete them and piece them together with the choreography and the setting of the show,” Miss Brown said. “You know you put so much work into it and you are at the top of your range the entire time. It sounds awesome when you have the group behind you.”

Senior Hura J. Minger plays Tonton, father of the adopted Ti Moune.

“It’s different. I haven’t done anything like this before,” said Mr. Minger, whose only other school musical experience came in elementary school with “Guys and Dolls” when he was in its ensemble.

“I’m more of a shy type,” Mr. Minger said. “This has opened me up more.”

Senior Xavier N. Ehresman, who plays Daniel, said that students are having fun with the music in “Once On This Island.”

“Some of the songs are really energetic that you can have fun with and some of them are slow, heart-touching songs,” Mr. Ehresman said. “You got to just sit back and listen to them.”

But Mr. Ehresman said the story behind the music — between the poor and rich — is important.

“I’m just hoping that the audience comes out with a feeling of ‘Wow! They had a lot of energy and they looked like they enjoyed it.’”

Mr. Heck said the stage set will include an island hut and a rented stage drop for background.

“The set will help create the image of being on a Caribbean island and will help tell the story,” he said. “That’s what this musical does — it’s a bunch of storytellers telling the story of Ti Moune.

Other main roles in the production are Abby Widrick as Mama, Joanna Hecker as Asaka, Nikki Marshall as Erzulie, Noah LaClair as Papa Ge and Sophia Russell as little Ti Moune.

The adult staff, in addition to Mr. Heck as producer: Kristie Fuller is stage director, Toni Zygadlo is music director, Lisa Smith is assistant music director, Kristina Dean is assistant stage director, Tricia Moore is choreographer and Lindsay Meyers is technical director.

The pit band: Toni Zygadlo is the conductor and also plays piano, Lisa Smith on keyboards, Jeff Miller on trumpet, Ashley Rowsam on flute and piccolo, Jim Wiley on reeds, Jim Oxenford on trombone, John Goloski on auxiliary percussion, Steve Martin on guitar, Mr. Heck on bass and Dan Hammond on percussion.

The details
WHAT: “Once On This Island” presented by the Indian River Central School District
WHEN/WHERE: 7 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday at Indian River Theatre of the Performing Arts, 32925 Route 11, Philadelphia
COST: $5 general admission. Advance tickets can be purchased from any cast member or by calling producer Charles Heck at 642-5127 or by emailing him at
OF NOTE: The 2 p.m. show will be interpreted for the hearing-impaired.
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