DATE: May 7, 2019
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
“Best Everything” Folk Tale From Broadway, London, Debuts at Monticello High School This Week With an Important Message for Audiences and Some Unusual Twists to the Production
(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – On Broadway, it earned Tony Award nominations for Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Direction, and Best Choreography. In London, it was the Best New Musical, and it later won a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. On the Monticello High School stage this weekend, these stunning creative contributions will come not from professionals, but from students, a first for a local high school spring musical.
Once on This Island is much more, however, than an extraordinarily entertaining experience. It’s an experience that will gift theatergoers with a serious message on how the power of human emotion can close even the widest divisions among people of different backgrounds.
“It’s a timeless lesson for all communities and an especially relevant one in Charlottesville and Albemarle at this time,” said Madeline Michel, Monticello High School’s drama director. “I am so proud of our students, who are incredibly talented and committed to one other and to all their neighbors,” she said. “This production is entirely student-driven, from the play’s direction to its choreography to its design to, of course, its amazing performance.”
Michel says the role of students in such key roles makes the play more energetic and more real. “You get more robust engagement from students when they add their own interpretation to the creative process. That’s what excites me about this year’s musical—the on-stage and behind-the-stage transformation of more than 80 students who have thrown themselves into this statement of purpose,” she added.
The folk tale takes place in colonial times in Haiti, which became the first country to abolish slavery. In the story, a young peasant girl makes a bet with a local deity about which is more powerful—life or death. The play reveals that answer in a stunning and inspirational display of music and dance as displayed in these clips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xoag5JRSa-o and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQcXUa3XwRY.
The presentations this week include two benefit performances. On Thursday evening, May 9, at 7:30, admission to a final dress rehearsal will be by donation only. All proceeds will benefit the school’s college scholarship fund. On Saturday, May 11, at noon, admission again will be by donation, with all proceeds benefitting the Southwood community.
The play’s opening night is this Friday, May 10, at 8 p.m., followed by performances on Saturday at 8 p.m. and a Sunday matinee at 3 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for students and can be ordered at https://monticellodrama.seatyourself.biz.
The play is directed by Tylar Schmitt; Tyasia Lindsay plays the lead role of Ti Moune. Kayla Scott, who also has a leading role, won the state’s top student playwriting award this year and is one of four members of the choreography team. Also on the team is Heaven Fleming-Bryant, Nashaia Lane, and Elizabeth Buluma. Abigal Anderson did most of the set design.
Thursday night actually is not the first performance by the cast before a discerning audience. In another unusual departure from past practice, nearly 400 students from nearby Cale Elementary School were at Monticello last Friday for a preview.
“One young man said it was the best thing he had ever seen in his life,” Michel said, adding that several children were so enthralled by the set that they had to be reassured it was not real. “In the play, one of the characters falls down and we had to ask him to get up and walk around to demonstrate to some very concerned children that he was just fine,” she said.