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Staff Photo by Thomas J. TurneyPlay rehearsal arts of the albemarle,  Monday, May 26, 2014.
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Staff Photo by Thomas J. TurneyPlay rehearsal arts of the albemarle, Monday, May 26, 2014.

Theatre company presents ‘Once on this Island’

By By Robert Kelly- Goss

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The Center Players, the kids’ musical theatre company, are about to come at you with another production. But first, there are a few things you need to know. 

The first thing you need to know is that productions such as the upcoming “Once on this Island,” are not something just for family and friends. The quality of the performance of these award-winning kids is top notch and if you enjoy live theatre, you’ll enjoy a Center Players show. 

Another thing you need to know is that these kids are serious about their art. They work seriously hard and they put a great deal of effort into these shows.

And one more thing: This is their first performance since their award-winning participation in the Junior Theatre Festival in Atlanta last winter. What that means is these kids are on fire. 

“I think it has given them a confidence they didn’t have before,” says program director and choreographer Holly Wright. “They competed with 93 other groups and they were recognized and that builds confidence.”

The company came back with awards like Best Overall Performance in their category and Best Actor and Best Actress. They came back with an understanding that they are now on the national radar and their efforts will have far reaching effects beyond Elizabeth City and the surrounding region. 

“I think it was affirming that what we’re doing is the right things,” said Billy Caudle, director of the School of Performing Arts for Arts of the Albemarle, and Center Players’ musical director.

So you have this incredible energy that is drawn from a national competition, and big wins and recognition. 

The effects of last January’s events can be seen in the fact that Center Players veterans Corey Bradford and Lauren Luther will be attending musical theatre camp in New York City this summer. Wright says it was an audition that won them spots at the camp. 

Wright and dramatic director Laurie Hull will also be in New York this summer. They will be attending the Broadway Teacher Workshop through Music Theatre International, the group that puts on the Junior Theatre Festival. 

So all of this comes together in one specific moment. That moment is each time these kids perform on stage. And that’s happening this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Maguire Theatre inside AOA. 

“Once on this Island” is a one-act musical set in the Caribbean. To comfort a small girl afraid of a thunderstorm, villagers tell her the story of Ti Moune who falls in love with a young man. 

In this story four gods – earth, water, love and death — rule an island, The Jewel of Antilles. 

The story combines elements of “Romeo and Juliet” and “The Little Mermaid.” The result is a lively story told through song and 

dance to a Caribbean beat. 

Center Players kids such as Naomi Rodgers and Kelly Stancil give it their all while performing as Ti Moune and the Earth Goddess. 

Their performance validates what Caudle and Wright say about their post-competition show, that there is a confidence on stage that while it shined pre-competition, it seems to blaze now. 

The kids all have what it takes to put on a show and offer a solid performance. And there is no doubt that audiences will agree when they see “Once on this Island.”

Perhaps the only shortcoming with this performance is that it is only one weekend. But they are kids and this is the end of a school year, so tests and the like will fall in place soon after the curtain falls. 

But that doesn’t spell the end of a season for The Center Players. While they won’t be doing a summer production, they will be involved in a summer camp, says Billy Caudle. 

Caudle says a summer drama, vocals and dance camp will open to all kids in the region, and while some of the Center Players will attend, others will be assisting the teachers. 

“It gives our older ones a chance to work on the teaching side,” says Caudle. “And they help with the little kid camps.”

Laurie Hull will lead the drama camp. Cathy Kreplin will lead the vocal camp. And Leigh Cornu, a professional dance with the Salt Lake City School of Performing Arts will head up the dance camp. 

In the meantime Caudle, Wright and Hull will be organizing next season’s production as well as preparing for a new competition season. And amidst all that, they are applying for grants, receiving grants but most importantly, they are looking after the future of some of the most talented kids this region has to offer. 

For more information about The Center Players, their upcoming show and tickets call Arts of the Albemarle at 252-338-6455.