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Springfield Little Theatre Opens Once on This Island

Springfield Little Theatre ends its season with a Caribbean musical called Once on This Island. KSMU's Randy Stewart recently attended a rehearsal and files this report.

Sound of music and singing

Stewart: It may be one of the best Broadway musicals no one knows. Once On This Island by Lyn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty opened in 1991 and ran for nearly 500 performances. It makes its Ozarks debut in Springfield Little Theatre production opening this Friday evening. It's based on the novel by the Trinidad-born, New York-based author Rosa Guy who in turn was inspired by Hans Christian Anderson's Little Mermaid. It tells the bittersweet story of a peasant girl who saves the life of a rich boy and falls for him despite the differences in their social status. The original production featured an all-black cast. But the authors see the story as utterly universal as does Lorianne Dunn who is directing the Springfield production.

Dunn: The story is universal. There's prejudice for many different reasons and the racial issues don't enter into the story at all at that point. No one is familiar with it in this area. It's not well known as a black musical. No one in this area knows it. This version is different from the original production. It's a bigger cast. We've taken a show that was a small storyteller show and turned it into quite a large, specatular...It's an ensemble show. I did get to see the show on Broadway. I fell in love with the soundtrack.

Rachel Young plays one of several elemental gods who get involved in the peasant girl's life.

Rachel Peacock Young: I'm Asaka, mother of the earth. All four of us help guide Ti Moune on her journey. It's fun. Very moving story. There's been times when the gods had to wipe away tears.

Stewart: Aaron Smith is music director for the show.

Smith: There is very little dialogue. Every song segues into the next song. As a musical director, that's fun. There's no down time for me and the musicians. The other nice thing is that it's just fun music. It seems like every song builds on the last one.

Stewart: Brie Cassil is one of two actress cast in the lead role of the peasant girl To Moune.

Cassil: She wants to fall in love with a Grand Homme, which is a rich guy on the other side of the island. So the gods make this bet and send Ti Moune on a journey to see if love is stronger than death. It's a poker game between the gods.

Stewart. SLT's production of Once On This Island runs June 2 through the 18th at Landers Theatre. For ticket information, call 869-1334.

Sound of music and singing