Houlton middle schoolers treat audience to engaging musical

HOULTON, Maine — Houlton Middle School students gave the audience a treat with their opening performance of the musical, “Once on this Island Jr.” on Wednesday.

The students explored the art of storytelling through a play that was itself an act of storytelling. The play shines a light on inequality as it follows a young orphan’s journey into adulthood, and explores the discovery and complications of love and the bargains we make.

Audience members at the Houlton Community Arts Center allowed the performance to wrap them under its spell; each seemingly wishing for different outcomes in defiance of having read the synopsis on the back of the program.

Without giving away the ending, the play still has a positive outcome, and drew rousing applause.

“Once on this Island’s” cast members did not disappoint with their performance, giving their all to the music and lines.

Tonton Juliette (Ella McCarthy), young Ti Moune (Hailey Suitter) and Mama Euralie (Mariah Peterson) act out a scene from the musical, “Once on this Island Jr.,” on Wednesday at the Houlton Community Arts Center.
(Rosalind Morgan)

Under the guidance of Jason Anderson with an assist from student Tessa Solomon, the students found an avenue to mine their theatrical talents.

Anderson said he was pleased with the results, especially as his young charges rehearsed and learned their lines all while juggling academics, sports and a host of other activities and responsibilities.

“The kids did an amazing job,” Anderson said. “Their abilities to develop dynamic characters while maneuvering through difficult music was admirable. I was very pleased with every cast member’s willingness to devote many hours to bring this story to life on our stage.”

Anderson added that he had intended to have a competition show choir this spring season, but gave the students a choice of that or a staged musical.

“Given the way this show presented, I’m thankful that they chose this activity,” he said. “They were very intent on giving the best performance possible. I’m especially thankful to Erin Kafferlin for her dynamic costuming, Kevin Mania and Mike Hutchinson for their sound and tech support, and Laurie Byron for running our box office.”

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