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West Springfield Basks on 'Once on This Island'

The West Springfield Theatre Department today announces the selection of the cast and technical crews for their spring musical, "Once on This Island." The show performances are Wednesday-Friday, April 28-30, and Friday-Saturday May 7- 8. "Once on This Island" (book and lyrics) by Lynn Ahrens' and Stephen Flaherty gave the playwrights and composers their first real taste of success. Based on the novel "My Love, My Love" by Rosa Guy, the show is a twist on the traditional Hans Christian Anderson "The Little Mermaid" tale, and tells the story of Ti Moune (Karen Carneal, Marilee Greene), a poor peasant girl who falls in love with Daniel (Jared Timmons, Bobby Hundemer), an upperclass boy whose life she saves after a car crash. Central to the story are four gods that the peasants believe rule their lives. The goddess of Love, Erzulie (Danielle Juarena, Catherine Seve); mother of Earth, Asaka (Missy Arbogast, Ashley Corum); god of Water, Agwe (Andrew Seve); and the Demon of Death, Papa Ge (Dan Plehal), cause the lives of the young lovers to intersect and send Ti Moune on the fateful journey that tests the strength of her love.

"ONCE ON THIS ISLAND" boasts a score that is reflective of its locale in the French Antilles. The musical includes enlightening, upbeat numbers such as "Mama Will Provide" and "Some Say," as well as poignant ballads like "The Human Heart" and "Forever Yours." While some of the numbers could merit themselves as hit singles, there can be no mistaking a song from "Once On This Island" for a song from any other show, because authors Ahrens and Flaherty made sure never to betray the story's Caribbean roots.

A dancing delight, "Once on This Island" features the music of Stephen Flaherty. West Springfield High choreographers Emily Levin and Sara Rogers are handling more than 70 cast members involved with the production.

Other West Springfield cast members include: Mama Euralie, Liz Howard and Jackie Wilson; Little Ti Moune, Adaire Jennings and Rachel Alba; Armand, Andrew Bentley and Mike Newman; Tonton Julian, Matt Tucker and Jesse Lambert.

Performances will run 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday during the week of April 28 and Friday and Saturday May 7 and 8 in West Springfield's Adolphus Coward Auditorium. Each evening will feature the school's top creative talents in acting, singing, dancing, and technical design.

THE PRODUCTION STAFF includes: Christy Denny and Court Eccles (student directors); Jack Powers (assistant student director); Emily Levin and Sara Rogers (choreographers); Mike Wines (technical director); Helen McCarthy (set and artistic design); Chris Low, and Amy Zaiss (paint heads); Brendan Mahoney (master carpenter); Mike Wines (lighting design/operator); Ian Trumbore (sound design team); Sufia Alnoor and Kate Maginn (publicity/press/promotional); David Coolidge/Kate Maginn (props); Sean Sukol (house/lobby decor); Tenaya Hantke (makeup); Patrick Skoog (house).

"We are excited to bring this amazingly beautiful fantasy musical to our audiences," said Mary Jo Levesque, theatre arts director. "This is a true family show developed on the sad but sweet story of the little mermaid. Most people who see our professional quality shows do not realize that students fund and put together the entire show. West Springfield students design and build the sets, lights, sound, choreography, and provide publicity, marketing, ticket sales and orchestral accompaniment. The only professional assistance students receive is from the capable direction from our performing arts faculty including Michael Dombrow, choral director and Amanda Ehst, our musical conductor. The West Springfield performing arts mission is to provide students with the guidance and tools to pull together a tremendously successful show that belongs to them exclusively."

Tickets for "Once on This Island" will be available at the door for $10. The show, produced by special arrangement with Music Theatre International of New York starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Adolphus Coward auditorium at 6100 Rolling Road, Springfield. West Springfield High School is located just outside of the Beltway off of Braddock Road (west) and Rolling Road (south).