Over 150 students will light up the stage in the upcoming spring musical at the North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts.
This year's production of "Once On This Island Jr." is a vibrant, island-themed extravaganza. Not only will it be performed at the school, but also the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater. This will give those aspiring young actors and musicians the chance to please the local crowd, but also to be on a professional stage as well.
"I love the music, it is so very vibrant," said Academy Drama Teacher Alyson Holton. "And the story has a universal theme that love knows no boundaries."
The stage lights up with over 150 students, including band members, who are part of the production for “Once On This Island Jr.” at North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts
The story actually takes place in Haiti, making the work extra poignant, she said.
"We choose this musical last spring, before the earthquake hit in Haiti," she said. "I think the play is much more relevant for the kids because of that. We are also going to take donations at the performances to send them to an arts school in Haiti."
Students from both North Fort Myers and Cape Coral are involved in the mega-cast and musical accompaniment.
Many children make the daily journey to the North Fort Myers school from Cape Coral, because of the exemplary arts programs there. Two Cape residents that are involved as lead characters are Rosemarie Cosentino and Nick Lamoureux.
"Our two leads blew us away at auditions, not only with their beautiful voices but their sparkling stage presence," Holton continued. "Cosentino plays the young peasant girl Ti Moune and Lamoureux plays Daniel. She saves the upper class Daniel from an accident and they fall in love."
Cosentino said she also enjoys the underlying theme of love.
"This character is so unique because she gives her life for love," she said.
Lamoureux said he is looking forward to the production.
"It's my first play and my first lead," he said.
Both said they may consider acting as a career, though Lamoureux also may pursue a career in another love - baseball.
Academy Principal Dr. Douglas Santini has been pleased at recent auditions.
"This production involves a lot of kids, and it is multi-cultural, contemporary and rich," he said. "It also teaches children about status in society, dealing with the poor and the rich, the haves and have-nots."
A big first in the production is incorporating music hand in hand with drama.
Band Director Christina Moffet said, "It's great. We've never incorporated live musicians before, so this is a first."
There's percussion, steel drums and congas.
"It's all African-driven music," Moffet said.
That includes the school's Steel Drum Group, which has played professionally throughout Lee County, and is expected to play for Gov. Charlie Crist when he comes into town in the next few weeks.
The production incorporates many disciplines at the school. It is not only drama, music and dance, but also includes stage craft, costume design, publicity deign and more.
"We do have amazing communication and support from the entire arts
team, and our administration," Holton said. "We all bring our talents to the table to make it shine."
Web design students, under teacher Sue Sommer, designed many pieces for the play. The winning poster designer was Nicole Carbonell. She also plays "Goddess of Love Erzulie" in the play.
Sommer said not only did her students create great posters for the play, they also created the actual ticket that will be used for performances.
"It was a fun assignment, but it also turned into a competition, giving real-world experience," she said. "It was like competing for a job - like firms and freelance graphic designers do."
She prides herself on numerous projects that result in portfolio pieces for students.
Another shining graphics student was Kyla Dodd, who designed the winning ticket.
Many other teachers were involved, including Marcia Friedman, who runs the school's Family and Consumer Sciences class (something many will remember as Home Ec.
"She and her students did the majority of costumes," said Sommer.
Another key player was Art Teacher Theresa West-Tylo, who had students and volunteers work on sets.
"Margie Orlindini, a parent of one of our teachers, was a volunteer who helped tremendously," West-Tylo said.
She particularly liked the style the students have worked on.
"When we started talking about it, we decided to do Henrie Matisse-style," she said.
Performances will be held Friday, May 7, at 7 p.m., at the school, North Fort Myers Academy for the Arts, located at 1856 Arts Way in North Fort Myers, and on Tuesday, May 11, at Broadway Palm Dinner Theater. The Broad-way Palm is located at 1380 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers, and for that performance doors open at 5:30 p.m.
The cost is $5 at the school (for both adults and children) and $20 for adults and $15 for children (12 or under) at the Broadway Palm.
For additional information, call 997-2131.