Once on This Island, Jr Takes Audiences on a Caribbean Adventure

Treat the family to Once on This Island, Jr., a musical twist on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale "The Little Mermaid," presented by Mainstage Center for the Arts (MCA) at the Dennis Flyer Theatre, Camden County College, July 12-14. Featuring almost non-stop song and dance, Once on This Island, Jr., will delight audiences of all ages. The production is sponsored by Precision Power Wash and First Bank. It kicks off the Summer Stage Children’s Theatre season and will include festive activities on opening night including cold samples from Starbucks, Gloucester Premium Outlets, children’s science games by Challenge Island, and one lucky audience member will be randomly selected to win a basket of  “island-themed” prizes.

    Once on This Island, Jr., written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, tells the story of Ti Moune (Anaya Colon of Cherry Hill as Big Ti Moune and Jayla Ortiz of Laurel Springs as Little Ti Moune), a peasant girl who rescues and falls in love with Daniel (Charlie Bell of Somerdale/Gloucester Township), a young man from a wealthy family. Central to the story are four gods Asaka, Mother of the Earth (Nadia Parker of Monroeville); Agwé, god of Water (Laura Ahern of Somerdale/Gloucester Township); Erzulie, goddess of Love (Lauren Pluta of Runnemede); and Papa Ge, Demon of Death (Krisin Bassi of Sicklerville) that the peasants believe rule their lives. These gods guide Ti Moune on a quest to test the strength of her love against the powerful forces of prejudice, hatred, and death.

    “I’m really excited about playing Ti Moune. It’s a dream role for me because it involves a lot of dancing. Plus, she’s such a brave character,” said Colon.

Bell also looks forward to his role as Daniel, “I like that this is a unique story. Daniel is caring, he crosses boundaries and falls in love with a peasant. But, he’s also flawed. I’m having fun exploring different ways to interpret this character.”

Additional characters include Andrea Devereaux (Nicole Duffy of Williamstown), Daniel’s Mother (Rachel Campbell of Deptford), Five storytellers (Jenna Byrzewski of Westville, Angelina Canavan of Glassboro, Carleigh Cusick of Washington Township, Essence Gandy of Sicklerville, Kaitly Hackett of Sicklerville, and Diana Pinolini of Glendora),

Island/add one Little Girl (Claire Corriveau of Plansboro) and the Gatekeeper (John Koza of Mantua). In addition there are 45 cast members who are featured dancers, ensemble members, and soloists.

MCA’s Once on This Island, Jr. is directed by Grace Szcepkowski of Marlton.

“This story is so special to me, I love how it is about passing on a story of overcoming adversity and following your dreams to the younger generation. The music is beautiful; almost every line from the show is meaningful enough to stand on its own,” said Szczepkowski. “Also, while we are doing this show we are also trying to educate our cast about global issues that connect to this story. We have a plastic and paper repurposing station set up in our trailer where we can dump leftover paper and plastics to use when we need to make props. We have a fact board about environmental issues and about Haiti which is where our story takes place.”

Once on this Island runs July 12 and 13, 7:30 p.m. and July 14, 10:30 a.m. in the fully accessible Dennis Flyer Theatre, Camden County College, 200 College Drive, Blackwood, NJ. The Children’s Theatre season also includes The Lion King, Jr, July 19-21, Elf, Jr, July 26-28, and Broadway for Kids, August 2-4. The July 20 and 26 performances will be ASL interpreted. Ticket prices are $12 for ages 12 and above and $10 for students under 12.  To purchase tickets visit www.mainstage.org or call (856) 227-3091.    

    In addition to the Children’s Theatre Season, MCA will present its annual summer Mainstage production, Grease on July 22, 28, and 29, 7:30 pm and July 23, 2 p.m. The Summer Stage Apprentice program for fourth and fifth graders will present The Jungle Book Kids and The Aristocats Kids on August 6th. Also the Video Film Production students will present their own original short films in a Film Premier, Friday, August 4 at 7:30 p.m.

Photo Caption: Ti Moune (Anaya Colon of Cherry Hill), is a peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy, Daniel, in Once on this Island, Jr., running July 12-14 at Camden County College’s Dennis Flyer Theatre.

About Mainstage
Mainstage Center for the Arts, the parent program for Summer Stage, is a 501 (C) (3) non-profit organization committed to providing a creative, vibrant, and nurturing environment for youth and adults.

    This program is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts and by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.

    Mainstage Center for the Arts, located in Blackwood, NJ is committed to make the arts experience enjoyable for all our patrons. In an effort to make our shows, concerts, events, workshops, classes, and offices accessible to as many as possible, Mainstage offers many services for patrons requiring assistance. For anyone in need of assistance, please notify our office at (856) 227-3091 at the time of purchasing tickets, or at least five days prior to the event you are attending.