By Zach Armstrong
PRINCE GEORGE, Va -- Members of J.E.J Moore Middle School showcased “Once on this Island Jr” based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy with book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty. The play was originally directed and choreographed on Broadway by Graciela Danielle.
The musical is a story that takes place on an island between the peasants and the grand ohms. There are two different parts of island: the poorer side and the wealthier one. A wealthy man is in a car accident and is aided by a peasant girl before the two fall in love though they aren’t allowed to. The story includes many interactions between the gods and Ti Moune as she goes through her trials.
“The message of the play is that love can conquer death and death is what makes the world go round,” said David Dockan, who is both the Music Director of the play and a Music Teacher at PGCPS. “There's a goddess of love and a goddess of death and she says ‘Oh, but if I love him that will conquer his death so her caring for him brings him back to life,’”
The cast includes several talented J.E.J Moore Middle School students. Emma Lockett, Eliana Freidhof, Corleen Dirney, Preston Zeiner Mama are storytellers 1-4; Mylee Mihelich is Mama Euralie; Marshall Jenkins is Tonton Julian; Alyssa Brendel is Ti Moune; Dylan Canniff is Daniel; James Battle III is Gatekeeper; Devonte Eady is Daniel’s Father; Alivia Conner is Andrea; Thomas Salisbury is Papa Ge; Janet Colon-Montalvo is Asaka; Mauricio Martinez is Agwe; Kailani Salisbury is Erzulie; James Battle III is Ensemble.
Other cast members are Nadia Brown, Taryn Cheek, Devonte Eady, Brody Ehrenfeld, Olivia Hahn, Safia Huggi, Sara Ingram, Abby Koch, Emyrson Simmons, Zachary Brendel, Cecilia Fierro, Mackenzie Galle, Riley Hacker, Cheetara Napper, Aleigha Shinault.
Production behind the musical included Director Greta Francy, Music Director David Dockan, Choreography by Suzi Redling, Set Design by Rebecca Stroop, Sound / Technical Director John “Red” Redling, Stage Manager Danis Jones and Photographer Stephanie Feldman.
Stage crew of the production are William “Harry” Grant, Zarah Yates, Alyssa Whitchurch, Kirsten Robertson.
“The talent that is hidden in this county is remarkable,” said Greta Francy, theatre teacher at J.E.J. Moore and Director of the play.
Franci used to live in New Jersey where she saw and enjoyed this production and chose it because (this being her first year at the school) she wanted to put on something she was familiar with that would also give her a bigger cast. Auditions for the play took place in November and the rehearsals started in January.
Songs performed during the play include Waiting For Life performed by Asaka, Erzulie, Papa Ge, Tonton Julian, Mama Euralie, Ti Moune and Storytellers; Mama Will Provide by Asaka and Storytellers; and the final number which explains the importance of stories being passed from one generation to the next.
Prince George talent has been showing off lately. Several students this year have made All State Choir this year and Prince George was the only school division to perform at the Virginia Music Educators Association Conference this year.
“I think Prince George is underrated because we are a small county and usually people don’t think big when they think of Prince George and I think we show that even though we are considered small we keep up with the counties around us.” said Dockan. “We’ve always had great talent.”