PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN
By MIKE CHAIKEN
Families and the bonds of a community are key to the story of the musical “Once Upon This Island.”
And families and a community bond are key to the PCS Youth Theater production of the musical, which opens Friday night at Plainville High School.
Press materials from PCS Youth Theater explaine, “‘Once On This Island’ is a musical tale of love, loss and redemption performed by a group of Caribbean peasants as they wait out a violent storm. The show tells the story of Ti Moune, a poor peasant girl who falls in love with Daniel, an ‘upper class’ boy whose life she saved after an automobile crash in the rain. The gods of Love (Erzulie), Earth (Asaka), Water (Agwe), and Demon of Death (Papa Ge) cause the lives of the young lovers to intersect, and send Ti Moune on her fateful journey that tests the strength of her love.”
There is no division between families in the PCS Youth Theater production but two families help fill the cast of “Once On This Island.”
Siblings Vinny, Anthony, and Sophie Penisse of Southington and sisters Savannah and Molly Freitas all have roles in the show in which the entire cast has become a family for the young actors.
“It’s great because you’re surrounded by people you know in the show,” said Vinny.
Anthony said, “It’s very fun because you’re surrounded by friends and they feel like family because they’re so close to us.”
“I just love my family,” said Sophie. “I think it’s a great theme for the show because it just brings everybody together and makes the cast more like family because the show is family.”
“I like (the family theme) because during the show there’s a lot going on tragedy wise but the family bond still remains,” said Savannah. “That is a metaphor for real life, that family bond remains true no matter what.”
Being cast with family members is a definite plus, said Anthony, Vinny, and Sophie, noting it comes in handy when they rehearse their parts.
“He’s (Anthony) is always there to help me with my lines,” said Vinny, “or we’ll work on a song.”
“It’s cool (being on stage with my sister),” said Molly. “She’s like a role model for me. It’s cool to see her do all of this stuff… Watching her… helps me perform better.”
“It’s nice for me to act as a role model and … being able to talk about the show at home and practicing together with my sister is a good opportunity for bonding,” said Savannah.
“I was here first and then they joined,” said Sophie of her brothers. “It was so much more fun when they joined because we can all sing songs in the choir together.”
The young actors all agree the musical in general is great entertainment.
“I think this is one of my most favorite shows I’ve done so far. I just love the island theme,” said Sophie of “Once Upon This Island,” which was created by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and is based on the 1985 novel “My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl” by Rosa Guy;
“It’s a really great family show,” said Vinny of the Tony Award-winning show. “It’s enjoyable. It’s humorous at point. Everybody loves it. I saw it before and I loved it. And I think we’re going to put on a great production.”
“This is my favorite show,” said Savannah of “Once Upon This Island.” She said, “I love how it is told through song… The songs are beautiful. Most of the songs are upbeat, tropical sounding island kind of music. It’s really easy to get up and dance to. And the songs are really catchy.”
Molly had seen “Once Upon This Island” in a previous production in which her sister performed. “And I loved the show.”
“I would say go (see the show),” said Sophie. “I think it’s a great story. I didn’t know the story before I did the show. But it made me want to see the show wherever I could and get more into it… It’s really interesting.”
Besides that, said Sophie, “Everyone (in the PCS Youth Theater group) has amazing voices. The dances are so great.”
“People definitely should come to the show,” said Molly. “It’s a really good story. And it’s a story that sticks with you.”
“It’s definitely an easy story to follow,” said Savannah. “So it’s definitely something all ages can enjoy. The songs are upbeat. It has an uplifting message so you’re not going to feel down.”
Also, said Savannah, “It’s a great performance and the way we staged it is really interesting…. We brought something new to it (by bringing new and unique elements into the production).”
The PCS Youth Theater, now in its 29th season, will be presenting the musical “Once On This Island,” on Friday, Sept. 5 and Saturday, Sept. 6 at the Plainville High School auditorium, Robert Holcomb Way, Plainville. The curtain time is 7:30 p.m. both evenings and admission is $12 per person in advance and $15 at the door. Tickets are available from any cast member, Saints Restaurant, and Dancingly Yours.
The cast consists of 52 performers between the ages of 8 to 15 from the Central Connecticut community: Berlin, Bristol, Burlington, Farmington, New Britain, Plainville, Southington, South Windsor. and West Hartford.