Tonka student selected for CAPPIES review

A play review of, “Once on this island”


Theater I teacher, Paul Hackenberger is pleased to announce that junior Francesca Valente’s review of Center High School’s “ONCE ON THIS ISLAND” was selected as an outstanding review on Dec. 12; and it is being forwarded to the Jackson County Advocate. They will decide whether or not to publish the review online for readers to access.

A copy of her review:

“Happily ever after,” is a fervently sought after ideal, instilled into us via the culture of our childhood stories. However, life does not typically align with the ease portrayed in boy-meets-girl plots– perhaps we have been reading the wrong fairytales. In their rendition of Once on This Island, Center High school delivers an honest and heartfelt performance that prods the audience to question the ambiguity of life, love, and loss.

Rendered from a novel which combines story elements of Romeo and Juliet and the original Little Mermaid, Once on This Island is a captivating piece that utilizes enchanting musicality and profound motifs to question the caste division of society. The story follows a peasant girl, Ti Moune, who was orphaned by the Gods and placed on a tropical island with an astounding class disparity between the affluent French and her own peasant people. As she questions her Gods’ intended purpose on the island, she becomes a pawn of the Gods’ bet between the power of love versus the destruction of death. Costing her life, Ti Moune clings to the power of love, and unites the social classes.

Rita Hanch embodies her leading character, Ti Moune, by maintaining the energy required to play an array of emotional levels in short time frames. She moves about the stage with ease, claiming the space as her own. Her cold counterpart Tom Gerry, in the role of Daniel, expresses a symbolic detachment from her, which effectively advances the plot.

The supporting ensemble of Gods and Goddesses display a wide variety of talent. Each actor possesses traits that capture your attention equally, stealing their own piece of the show. Annamarie Hurst, in the role of Asaka, is a consistently expressive and energizing performer, with purpose in each syllable and step. Maurissa Cunningham as Agwe delivers an enchanting and chilling performance of her solo song, “Rain.” Jawon Jones (God of Death) and Sydni Lapsley (God of Love) not only provide the basis for the plot and execute an interesting rivalry between their characters, but deliver the show with incredible vocal and acting talent, such as in their shared sequence of, “Forever Yours Reprise.”

The choreography is the heart of the show’s energy. Skillfully crafted by Tara Smith, it finds a way to tell the story in ways that even the words sometimes cannot. Tara’s command of the stage and her captivating talent maintain the intrigue and understanding of the audience.

The technical aspects of the show maintain a foundation for show. Lighting is well adjusted to the emotional context of scenes, and sound is well maintained in quality and control. However, actors should always enunciate, as some words can be missed. The costumes create a relaxed, island aesthetic, but also add an intriguing element of masks that are redolent of French influence.

The equivalence of talent throughout the cast is symbolic of the unifying message of the script. Although there are specified leads, each cast member is allotted the opportunity to showcase memorable talents, ranging from the sass of featured storyteller, Shelby bass, to the grace and kinesthetic brilliance of featured chorus member and choreographer, Tara Smith. With the combined investments of passionate students, Center High School achieves an enchanting and memorable performance of “Once on This Island”.