During the first two weekends in March, Maine East High School's Fine Arts Department will present "Once on This Island," a vibrant and infectious musical that will leave theatergoers wondering why the show is not more widely known.
Inspired in part by the classic fairy tale "The Little Mermaid" and in part by the themes of "Romeo and Juliet," "Once on This Island" is set in the French Antilles Islands of the Caribbean and tells the story of a how a little girl frightened by a storm learns the tale of Ti Moune, a peasant girl who falls in love with Daniel, an affluent grande homme from the other side of the island.
If you goWhat: 'Once On This Island'
When: Fridays and Saturdays, March 7-8 and 14-15.
Where: Maine East High School, 2601 W. Dempster St., Park Ridge.
Cost: $10, at the box office or through "Seat Yourself Online Ticketing" on east.maine207.org/.
But more than a simple story of star-crossed lovers, the musical focuses on the universal human experiences of love and loss, faith, grief and hope -- all set against the rich fabric of a Caribbean Island's culture.
East's student actors, Director Karen Hall and Fine Arts Chairman Edward Eubank describe "Once on This Island" as a show with music that will give the audience chills and a storyline that will not only open theatergoers' eyes to a Caribbean Island culture but leave them with a better appreciation for the power of storytelling and why we all tell our own life stories in the way we do.
The one-act, 90-minute production features the lyrics of Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. Eubank describes the music as "wonderful" and highlights two moving numbers, such as "The Human Heart" and "Forever Yours."
Unlike more conventional musicals in which occasional songs punctuate the play's dialogue, "Once on This Island" characters deliver the majority of their lines through song.
Hall lauds her student actors for embracing not only that challenge but also for the fact that this show requires cast members to be powerful individual storytellers and to faithfully present an unfamiliar island culture.
Hall also left room for student input into the show's choreography after laying the general foundation of what she wanted.
Eubank said "Once on This Island" is an opportunity for Maine East's Fine Arts Department to fulfill its mission, which goes beyond providing an outlet and training for students in the creative arts and extends to serving as a purveyor of art to the wider community.
Other major players in the show are vocal director Julie Crossen, pit orchestra director Pamela Holt, costume designer Kim Morris and two student directors: technical director Jessica Buczek and student lighting designer Joanna Szewczuk.