BWW Review: CCT's Summer Youth Conservatory's ONCE ON THIS ISLAND JR. - A Touching Story of Eternal Love in a Land Divided

Sara Tuohy
Photo Credit: David Heasley

Columbus Children's Theatre's (CCT) international award-winning Summer Youth Performance Conservatory presents ONCE ON THIS ISLAND JR., directed by Ryan Scarlata, opening today, July 27, and running thru August 7 at the Park Street Theatre. Featuring a talented troupe of 30 ranging from ages 10-15, these kids have worked diligently for most of the summer to tell the story of forbidden love on an island divided by social prejudice.

Based on Rosa Guy's 1985 'My Love, My Love,' which is also inspired by 'The Little Mermaid,' ONCE ON THIS ISLAND JR, although possessing elements of a 'Romeo and Juliet' tragedy, is also infused with hope and reassurance, together with colorful costumes and beautiful music by Stephen Flaherty.

The story follows Ti Moune (Sara Tuohy), a young peasant girl who is rescued from a tree and raised by poor couple, Mama Euralie and Tonton Julian (Megan Masciola and Kyle Channell, respectively), on an island in the French Antilles. When Ti Moune grows up, she prays to the Gods to let her know her purpose and she is granted the gift of love. Her love is tested when the Gods arrange for the car of wealthy boy Daniel Beauxhomme (Kyle Swearingen) to crash so that Ti Moune can restore him back to health.

Amirah Lomax and Company
Photo Credit: David Heasley

While at his side day in and day out, Ti Moune falls in love with the ailing Daniel and dreams of a future with him. The Demon of Death, Papa Ge (David Rausch), appears to take Daniel's life, but Ti Moune begs him to take her own life in exchange for the boy. This scene is obviously reminiscent of Ursula taking Ariel's voice in THE LITTLE MERMAID.

Tonton then travels to the other side of the island to seek Daniel's family and let them know of his whereabouts. When Daniel's people take him back home, a tearful Ti Moune vows that her purpose is to go after him to marry him. With determination and a heart full of love, Ti Moune sets off on a quest that will test the strength of her love against the powerful forces of prejudice, hatred, and even death.

The entire cast and ensemble give a spectacular performance in each of their roles. However, the star of the show, Sara Tuohy, truly shines as Ti Moune, a naive but courageous peasant girl motivated by curiosity and love. She evokes sympathy with her emotional plea to the Gods in "Waiting for Life" and balances her strong vocals with tender cries and great acting skills.

Kyle Channell plays a strong and supportive Tonton, and Megan Masciola is loving and nurturing as Mama Euralie. She gives a tear-jerking and passionate performance of "A Part of Us" as she holds Ti Moune in a loving, tearful embrace.

The Company
Photo Credit: David Heasley

Amirah Lomax gives a stand-out performance as Asaka the Goddess of the Earth. She is confident and sassy, and shows vocal maturity beyond her years, especially in the song "Mama Will Provide." Katie Wager as Erzulie the Goddess of Love gives a touching performance in "The Human Heart," Mitchell Kallner as Agwe the God of Water captures the audience's attention with "Rain," and David Rausch leaves us with chills as the evil Papa Ge, Demon of Death. He is especially frightening in "Forever Yours" and "Promises."

Other cast members deserve recognition, including Kyle Swearingen (Daniel), Maria Dalanno (Andrea), Amelia Cameron (Little Ti Moune), and Avery Bank, Toby Hattemer, Kate Mason and Gabe Woerner as the storytellers.

The costumes by Dayton Willison and choreography by Megan Shepston Overly add color and brightness to the show, and Freddie G. Award-winning Director Ryan Scarlata moves the show along at a swift pace without losing its heartfelt tone.

It is a story of love and forgiveness and believing our lives are a story to share. Come see CCT's Summer Youth Performance Conservatory of ONCE ON THIS ISLAND JR., now playing thru August 7th before they head off to Atlanta to compete in the annual Junior Theatre Festival on a national level. Although the story is somewhat mature, young ones will appreciate the colorful costumes, fun choreography, and fairy-tale story. And at only 60 minutes, even the youngest will be entranced.


Performances run Wednesdays thru Fridays at 10am, Fridays at 7:30pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm and 3pm. For tickets, visit: http://www.columbuschildrenstheatre.org/, call CAPA: 614-469-0939 or the CCT box office: 614-224-6672.

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From This Author Christina Mancuso

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