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Get stranded on an island at NLHS this weekend

  • Special to the TIMES NEWS Northern Lehigh High School students who will perform in the spring musical "Once on This Island" include (front row, l-r) Jacob Heintzelman (Papa Ge), Lydia DeLong (TiMoune), Maggie Surdovel (Asaka) (back row, l-r),…
    Special to the TIMES NEWS Northern Lehigh High School students who will perform in the spring musical "Once on This Island" include (front row, l-r) Jacob Heintzelman (Papa Ge), Lydia DeLong (TiMoune), Maggie Surdovel (Asaka) (back row, l-r), Anthony Connell (Agwe) and Jill Zeiser (Erzulie).
Published March 10. 2011 05:00PM

Ever imagine what it must feel like to be stranded on an island?

Those who attend the Northern Lehigh High School Little Theatre Company's spring musical can find out for themselves up close and personal.

The three-day musical, "Once on This Island", will show at 7 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday in the high school auditorium.

Based off Hans Christian Andersons' "The Little Mermaid", "Once on This Island" focuses on social differences, hatred, and prejudices on an island that can lose everything whenever a storm strikes, said Charles Weigold III, director.

"This musical was chosen when a group of students suggested to me that they would like to do a musical that deals with a situation our society is presently facing," Weigold said. "With the 2010 disaster in Haiti, and the continuous cases of Cholera breaking out, I knew this was the perfect show for these kids to do."

Weigold said the musical, by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, takes place in Haiti during the Mulatto rule. The island is separated into two parts: the peasant side, and the Grand Hommes side. Four Gods run the island: Asaka the Mother of Earth, Agwe the God of Water, Erzulie the Goddess of Love and Papa Ge the Demon of Death.

A peasant girl named TiMoune rescues a Grand Hommes Prince named Daniel when he crashes his car near her hut, Weigold said. After days of nursing him, he is carried back to the side of the island where he belongs, but TiMoune has fallen in love with the rich boy, and is convinced they were destined to be together, said Weigold. She travels to his mansion where they share many glorious days together, until a secret is revealed, hearts are broken, and nature takes its toll, Weigold said.

Weigold said the students practiced five days a week - after school until 8 p.m. - whereby they separated the rehearsals into three parts: voice practice, dance practice, and show runs.

"I'm hoping that the audience is able to recognize the very strong message this play offers, as well as the incredible journey these kids have taken in order to bring this tale to life," he said. "The students have organized a fundraiser called Operation Jewel."

Operation Jewel, Weigold said, is a fundraiser run by the students of the Northern Lehigh Little Theatre to assist recovery efforts in the island nation of Haiti.

"Numerous natural disasters and other troubles have ravaged the already underprivileged country during the past year, and little improvement has been made," he said. "Operation Jewel will collect money in accordance with the NLLT production of 'Once On This Island', a musical by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty that is set on the island of Haiti."

All proceeds from Operation Jewel will be donated to "Give Haiti Hope," an organization which will give directly to schools on the island, Weigold said.

"Operation Jewel will donate to the recovery efforts in the hopes that it will soon be the 'Jewel of the Antilles' that it once was," he said. "At the end of each performance, members of the cast and crew will stand at each exit door with buckets to take up a collection."

Weigold said any and all donations are welcome.

"Every little bit helps," he said. "We will also be selling "Operation Jewel" support bracelets in the lobby before the show, during intermission, and after the show."

Bracelets cost $1, and all proceeds go to the same cause, Weigold said.

The cast for Once On This Island include The Gods: Asaka, Mother of the Earth; Maggie Surdovel; Agwe, God of Water, Anthony Connell; Erzulie, Goddess of Love, Jill Zeiser; and Papa Ge, Demon of Death, Jacob Heintzelman; The Peasants: TiMoune, Lydia DeLong; Mama Euralie, Sydney Martin; Tonton Julian, Ben Yenser; and Little TiMoune, Reagen Pender; The Grand Hommes: Daniel / Beauxhomme, Nathan Rex; Andrea Devereaux, Courtney Blocker; Armand / Father, Matthew Pender; and Madame Beauxhomme, Connie Hepner; as well as the Peasant Dancers: Rebecca Blocker, Amanna Bradley, Emily Clements, Meghan Miller-Brown, Darby Pender, and Brie Williams; and, finally, the Peasant Ensemble: Logan Clifton, Noah Freudenberger, Veronica Green, Paige Hemingway, Brandon Horvath, Sara Hunsicker, Nicole Kaercher, Amber Klocek, Victoria Lear, and Dakota Zadzora.

The production crew is comprised of Weigold, director; Stephen Shuey, art director; Rachel Reiter, HalkiasVocal Director; Joe Reiter, Pit Director; Chris Bennett, set construction; Randall Utsch, Lighting & Sound; Shannon Czarnecki, Hair & Make-Up; and Rachel Walker, Sign Language Instructor.

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