Sights and sounds of the Caribbean will fill Rosse Hall Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16, at 8 p.m. when the Opera Music and Theater Workshop presents Once on This Island.
The one-act musical, set in the French Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea, echoes Romeo and Juliet with a love story that entangles people of different classes — a peasant girl and a wealthy landowner.
Workshop music director Jennifer Marcellana ’95 and choreographer Magic McBride P’17 chose the show for its intoxicating setting and timeless theme.
“The music has all kinds of Caribbean rhythms, so it is fun from a musical and dance perspective,” said Marcellana, adjunct instructor of voice. “It also has an important message that love can conquer differences in social classes.”
With a cast of 15 and nearly two dozen songs, Once on This Island is one of the most ambitious productions staged in recent years by the workshop. A four-piece student band provides accompaniment. “I didn’t realize when making the choice how dense the musical score was,” Marcellana said. “It is not an easy show to learn.”
Max Black ’17 of New York City and Eliza Abendroth ’18 of Evanston, Illinois, play the star-crossed lovers, with support from Kayleigh Loveland ’17 of Mount Vernon, Ohio; Lily Ann McBride ’17 of Gambier; Meredith Awalt ’19 of Baltimore; and Jalon Eason ’17 of Chicago as meddlesome gods.
With book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, Once on This Island ran on Broadway for nearly 500 performances from 1990-91. It opened on London’s West End in 1994 and won the 1995 Olivier Award for best new musical.
The Opera and Music Theater Workshop staged the show in 2005 with McBride as the choreographer. “The choreography and staging this time are quite different and, of course, we’re working with an entirely new cast,” said McBride, president of the Knox County Symphony Board of Directors. “Even though it is a very short show, it is a very big show with a lot of musical numbers.”
No tickets are required for the free performances.