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An ensemble of emotions

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EHS production of 'Once on This Island' promises to move audiences

By Deb Hurley Brobst

It’s a tale as old as time: Two young people fall in love despite the obstacle of being from different classes.

 

In this case, it’s the story of “Once on This Island,” a contemporary Broadway musical set in Haiti that is being performed by Evergreen High School theater and music students.

Theater teacher Fran Arniotes says this is her favorite show.

“The music is amazing; the story is amazing,” she said. “It’s a remarkable show.”

The show is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.” The story is about wealthy Daniel, who meets TiMoune, a poor peasant, and the trials they endure to be together.

She said audience members of all ages will get something from the story. It’s about the triumph of love, and the power of faith and forgiveness. It has generational issues, as Daniel and TiMoune must defy the will of their parents.

The music has a calypso-Haitian-African theme.

“The music is so energetic that you can’t sit in your seat,” Arniotes said.

Randy Brooks, a dancer from Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, has done the choreography, incorporating Haitian and African dance technique. He taught the dances to the actors, most of whom have little dance training, Arniotes said.

Vocal music teacher Charlene Hunt helps the cast of 20 with the singing, and instrumental music teacher Wiley Cruse works with the instrumentals. Arniotes’ husband, Dean, designs and builds the sets. It’s truly a team effort, Arniotes said.

“Once on This Island” is an ensemble-type show, which means the majority of the cast is on stage at all times. Some portray several characters as the story unfolds.

“I hope people will come and see it,” Arniotes said. “I always fear that people won’t see a show like this because it’s not familiar to them. But this is an amazing show with an amazing cast.”

For some of the cast members, “Once on This Island” is their favorite show.

Sophomores Ellie Pearson and Hanna Narans agreed that the show is fun to perform. Both have been in other shows in middle and high school, and they said reading the script was the first indicator that the show would be enjoyable.

Junior Laura Clayton, who plays TiMoune, has been in 11 shows, many of them with the Evergreen Children’s Chorale, and says this is her favorite by far.

“The characters are so real, and the choreography is amazing,” she said. “It makes you cry; it makes you laugh. It’s a beautiful story.”

If you go …

“Once on This Island” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. March 9, 10, 16 and 17, and at 2 p.m. March 11 and 18. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and $5 for EHS students and staff, and may be purchased at www.brownpapertickets.com.