The New England School of Communications Entertainment Production degree program at Husson University will present the award-winning musical, Once On This Island in the Gracie Black Box Theatre April 17th-19th. This is the third musical to has been presented in the school’s experimental theatre space. In 2013, Studs Terkel’s Working – The Musical launched the space as an intimate alternative performance facility on the Husson campus, to be followed by sell-out performances of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee last May.
Once On This Island is a rousing, Calypso-flavored tale of one small girl who finds love in a world of prejudice. From the TONY Award-winning songwriting team of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Seussical, Ragtime) comes this Olivier Award-winning Caribbean adaptation of the popular fairy tale The Little Mermaid. This show garnered eight TONY nominations for its Broadway run, including Best Musical, Book and Score. Following their Off-Broadway debut with Lucky Stiff, a musical farce, Ahrens and Flaherty knew they wanted to tackle something with greater emotional depth. Browsing for ideas, Ahrens stumbled upon the novel My Love, My Love by Rosa Guy in a used bookstore. The book was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, and Ahrens responded instantly to the novel’s poetic language and to the simple beauty of the story. Her writing partner, composer Stephen Flaherty, was attracted to the novel’s Caribbean setting, which would allow him to create a score that was theatrical, but inflected with the rhythms and sounds of the story’s locale.
The story focuses on Ti Moune, a peasant girl, who rescues a wealthy boy from the other side of the island, Daniel, with whom she falls in love. Unbeknownst to Ti Moune, the pompous gods who preside over the island make a bet with one another over which is stronger, love or death, the stakes being Ti Moune’s life. When she pursues Daniel, who has returned to his people, Ti Moune is shunned because of her lowly status. But her determination and capacity to love proves more powerful than society’s prejudices and the whims of the mischievous deities.
The NESCom production is staged by Jeri Misler, the Director of the Gracie Theatre, who is well-known to the Bangor Theatre community through her work with the Gracie as well as the Penobscot Theatre Company and Winterport Open Stage. Jeri will be assisted by the musical talents of Ben McNaboe, a music director and teaching artist at numerous high schools, Penobscot Theater, and Stages Performing Arts Academy. In addition to music directing, Ben also plays in pit orchestras on both reeds and keyboards having appeared in over 50 musical theater productions around New England. Together, Jeri and Ben have been working with Husson’s Musical Theatre Performance class, and other students within the Entertainment Production and Live Sound Programs to rehearse, design and produce this entertaining and uplifting musical.
The performances of Once On This Island are scheduled for Friday and Saturday, April 17 & 18 at 7:30 PM and on Sunday, April 19 at 2:00 PM. The Gracie Black Box Theatre is located on the second floor of the Gracie Theatre on the campus of Husson University. General Admission tickets are available at the door before each performance. Ticket prices are $5.00 Regular Admission and $3.00 Student admission. Seating is limited to 50 seats for each performance, so get there early, and be prepared to become enchanted!