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A celebration of dance at BHS

Bainbridge High School Theatre’s spring musical is a lavish affair, from the 100-plus cast and crew members to the tropical costumes to the full orchestra. The story is as emotional as the songs, which aim to move the body and the soul.    - Photos courtesy of Per Sherwin
Bainbridge High School Theatre’s spring musical is a lavish affair, from the 100-plus cast and crew members to the tropical costumes to the full orchestra. The story is as emotional as the songs, which aim to move the body and the soul.
— image credit: Photos courtesy of Per Sherwin

The spring production of ‘Once On This Island’ is alive with music and motion.

With hot music, Bainbridge High School thespians will spin a spellbinding tale-within-a-tale, transforming LGI Theatre into a tropical paradise for its three-weekend spring production.

Beneath the lush French Antilles setting, however, lies an ugliness in the form of class distinction that only love can overcome.

But, alas, as in “Romeo and Juliet,” not in the mortal world.

“Once On This Island,” which opens Thursday night, intertwines elements from that great tragedy with mythology and the longing in “The Little Mermaid.”

Drawing it together is an absolute joy of a score that erupts from calypso, heartfelt ballads and gospel and lots of movement, from ritual dances to the gods to elegant waltzes.

“It’s a great big cast with so many different personalities on stage,” said junior Erika Saeger, who handled choreography duties with fellow student Roxanne Foster. “It’s so upbeat. It’s a really interesting story, the dancing is wonderful and the music is (too). It’s fun for everyone.”

Sometimes BHS plays are directed to a particular age group, Saeger added.

“But this one is so much for everyone. A 3-year-old could come to this and enjoy it,” she said.

Vibrant tropical costumes by Marie-Elena Baker and elaborate set designs keep the story true to its Caribbean roots. Student directors Martha Corbin and Lizzie Dameron are at the helm of the production with director/theater teacher Bob McAllister.

“I do this every year,” he said, adding that students apply for director duties. “There are a lot of kids who want to get involved with the arts.”

Pulling off this big production requires a cast and crew of more than 100 students. It’s a costly endeavor, McAllister said, but he wanted to do it right.

Lynn Ahrens, who created the book and lyrics, based her play on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy, which retells “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Andersen. The play digs “deep into the human soul of the story,” in which a peasant girl saves the life of an upper-class boy. Mixed in are four gods who rule the lives of the peasants.

Critics extolled the play, first produced in 1990, calling the story “emotional and elegant” and applauding Stephen Flaherty for music that gets “the body jumping and the feet tapping.”

“This is just a beautiful story,” McAllister said. “It’s a mix of very much a terrible kind of beauty, as Steinbeck said, and youthful idealism. Plus it has kick-ass music.”

The story reminds audiences that “no matter how bad things get, there’s that wonderful resilience humans have,” he said. “It’s not a piece of glass. It’s a story to lift the human spirit.”

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Island soul

BHS Theatre presents “Once On This Island” at 7:30 p.m. April 28-29, May 5-6 and May 12-13 at the LGI Theatre. A special Mother’s Day performance is at 3 p.m. May 14 and all madres are admitted free of charge. Tickets are $12 for adults; $10 for students; and free for seniors. Buy them at the BHS box office. No tickets will be sold at the door.

Community Events, April 2014

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