Once on this Island: A melody, love and joy in tropical abundance

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Friday, December 13, 2013


“ONCE on this Island” is the third musical play staged by St. John’s School and St. James’ School of Science and Technology in Malaybalay City which follows the success of Godspell in 2012 and The Fantasticks in January this year.

Behind these shows is one of Cagayan de Oro’s talented and sought-after director, Mr. Roland V. Rivera. He has worked with the school in all of their plays, all garnering great success.

Sir Roland is fuelled by his desire for excellence and the drive to bring out the best in his cast and crew – a belief that they can do much better even if they themselves think that they have no more to give. In the end, that faith in his students prevails.

He intends to deliver the same excellence with this latest project.

Originally inspired by Hans Christian Anderson's The Little Mermaid, the 1990 Broadway musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty transports the story to a Caribbean island in the French Antilles where social prejudice divides the island.

Presented as a 'play within a play' is a cast of village storytellers attempting to calm a frightened young child, tells the romantic tale of a peasant girl who saves a rich city boy from death. It concerns Ti Moune, a young girl, saved by the gods from a terrible storm. The grown up Ti Moune falls in love with highborn Daniel after rescuing him from an accident. She becomes his lover but is devastated when she learns he’s to be married. The demon of death suggests she kills him but her love prevents that and she dies of a broken heart. The gods turn her into a tree, a haven for a future peasant young girl and Daniel’s son whom Ti Moune touches their hearts and sets them free to love.

Ambitious attempt

“Once on this Island” is SJS and SJSST’s ambitious attempt in performing a contemporary, Caribbean-flavored Broadway musical.

Eighteen young and dynamic grade school and high school students take part of this most awaited show. Perseverance is the key why these students continue to pursue long hours of rehearsals after class.

The characters

David Abejuela plays Papa Ge. David loves it how he enters a new world and be whoever he wants to be in the play. He feels good to be part of the play that is united in passion. When asked how he prepared for the play, David said it was not easy as there were many setbacks and yet the actors never gave up.

Monai Ching is Mama Euralie. Monai is very much excited as they rehearsed. “I did prepare for this play. Being the “mama” in this play is a challenging role for me. Even though, I had a hard time being in the character, I gave my hardest to impress our director,” she said. For her the play brought her to a magical world and fantasy full of adventures that reflect our lives.

Ia takes the role of Andrea. She loves to be active and working with co-actors. “I just love being in another world and have the opportunity to present in front of a crowd,” she said. Though hesitant because of fear, Ia realized how fortunate she is to be part of the play and said “I felt so special.” Ia shared that preparing the role was difficult. “One has to internalize the character, memorize the lines and practice the songs, and the worst – you don’t get to eat whatever you want,” she said.

The play taught Ia many things. “It taught me how to trust others more, determination and the willingness to do new and different things. It has shaped me to become a better person, it taught me how to see things in a different perspective. And I’m always grateful to be part of “Once on this Island.”

For Manny Valdez who plays Tonton Julian every day of the rehearsal brought him a new handful of experience.

In the practice area, he saw a diversity of talents surrounding him that works as a group, strives as a team and operates like organs to a body. He said: “It is a spectacle exhibiting grandeur in its own way – the esprit de corps way. The experiences are embedded in my memory in a snapshot manner, where the memory is like a long and unending strand of film, though a very brief fantasy turned alive, it is a major shareholder nevertheless, in the empire of my life. Our progress is charted by a director whose vigilance is never swayed. An error never remains a mistake for it is corrected in whole heart teaching.”

What Manny loves about the play is the climaxing excitement of possibilities when the lights flash in his thought of surreality. “The people spectate in intense scrutiny, and Sir Roland, then we say to ourselves, "curtain."

“Like a large family, our sincerities and true characters are unraveled, layer by layer, our inhibitions slowly being stripped off. Well, to sum up what I want to say of what I feel being truly part of the cast is: I feel at home.”

“Being Tonton is a wonderful experience. Feeling at home is a factor in the course of rehearsals, I became less afraid of staying out of home when the sun faced the other side of the world, and it can be said that for me, the play was like a ship, a galleon emblazoned with gold that sailed me closer to life. I opened my doors to zones beyond home, as time strode by. The play taught me the best way to deal with life – not to be afraid of it. In the future, home is bound to be behind you (figuratively), there will come a time where home is behind you and the only way to reach it is to go forward.”

Manny remembers something he read and said: “To be able to go back you must go forward. Impressing the director and honoring the efforts of the cast, crew and teachers are steps I took alongside the company. This is the philosophy that shows the essence of living, we should take life on forward steps. And this is what "Once on this Island" taught me.”

Last but not the least, Raphael Silan who plays Daniel said he loves theater because it creates the illusion of a different world. For him, the actors on stage are still the same people but with the added personality of their character.

“Once on this Island” will be staged on December 13 – 14, 2013 at Bukidnon State University Auditorium in Malaybalay City. Matinee show will start at 3 p.m. and tickets are sold at P100 each while the Gala Show will start at 7 p.m. and tickets are sold at P150 each. (Rodalove Jabunan-Sinues)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 13, 2013.

Lifestyle

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