Arts & Entertainment

Richland High takes off to 'Island'

Richland High drama will bring theater lovers a taste of Hans Christian Andersen when it presents Once on This Island, beginning April 24.

The musical is based on the original The Little Mermaid tale, which has nothing to do with Disney's version.

In fact, Anderson's story has no mermaid at all. It chronicles the lovelorn adventures of a young peasant girl, Ti Moune, who lives on a Caribbean island. She rescues a rich young man, tends to his wounds and winds up falling for the guy.

Of course, there's no way a member of the wealthy elite could fall for a poor girl.

That's when the gods who rule the island step in and lead Ti Moune on a quest to test the strength of her love, pitting her against such powerful forces as prejudice, hatred and even death.

Ellicia Mertens Elliott, who directs her students in this fanciful musical, chose the play for a number of reasons.

"This show isn't very well known outside of the theater community," Elliott said. "But it received many Tony nominations when it was on Broadway in the early 1990s."

Those eight Tony awards included best direction, best choreography, best book of a musical and best original score.

She also wanted a smaller production that required less costume and set designs.

"The backstage of our auditorium is currently being renovated, leaving us no room to store costumes, build a set or have an area for actors to change and get ready for the show," she said. "Having a smaller show, with a small cast, made it possible for us to still produce a full-scale musical while being flexible with the renovations taking place."

Even more than that, Elliott said the musical is packed with many beautiful themes, like unconditional love, the importance of family, all shared through the art of storytelling.

"Storytelling is where theater started," Elliott said. "Way before the Greeks started performing plays, stories were being passed down from generation to generation (then) acted out to teach people about their family and its history."

The play runs April 24-25 and May 1-2 in the high school's auditorium. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. each night. Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for students and seniors. Advanced tickets are available at Adventures Underground bookstore in Richland and also at the door.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;