City, suburban kids prepare April show about crossing cultural lines

Boys and girls in Near West Theatre’s “Kids Loud and Musical Organic Revue” program are rehearsing a lively, mystical musical about two young people who cross lines of class, culture and race and how the communities around them reaOOTI Jr imagect.

Caribbean-themed song and dance are featured in Once On This Island Jr., on stage Thursday, April 10, Friday, April 11, and Saturday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 13, at 3 p.m. Performances will be at the theater’s longtime home in the St. Patrick’s Club Building, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland. It will be the next-to-last production in that location before Near West makes a transition to its new home, now under construction in the Gordon Square Arts District.

Like the original Once On This Island, which received nine 1991 Tony nominations on Broadway, this “junior” version — shortened and modified for young actors — follows the orphan girl Ti Moune and the wealthy boy Daniel through journeys of beauty and struggle as they challenge boundaries that separate two cultures on a Caribbean island. The cast includes 17 girls and 14 boys, ages 9 to 15. They are directed of Kelcie Nicole Dugger, who grew up on the Near West Theatre stage and now directs NWT’s KLAMOR program, which concentrates on building ensemble and self-esteem among its diverse particpants. Cast members are African American, Euro-American, Hispanic American, and of multiracial heritage. Seventeen are from Cleveland; the rest are from the nearby communities of Avon, Avon Lake, Berea, Euclid, Lakewood, Mayfield Heights, Olmsted Township, Sheffield and Westlake. Rehearsals, conducted off site since March 2, will move to the St. Pat’s performance space next week.

Tickets can be purchased at, or by calling the box office at 216-961-6391 between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. weekdays. Reserved Star Seats with special benefits are $20 and give special support to the theater’s art and mission; general admission is $10 for adults and $8 for children 12 and under.

Near West Theatre is grateful for ongoing programmatic support from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, Greater Cleveland Community Shares and the Ohio Arts Council. — Hans Holznagel

Cast of Once On This Island Jr.

Felix Albino (Papa Ge), Tatiana Ally, Kylie Colvin, Cole Emerine, Abby Golden, Lindsay Hajostek, Mary Halm, Corinne Howery (Asaka), Rakim Huff, Rachel Johanek, Louis Johnson II (Tonton Julian), Bryen Kilbane, Sabrina Kim, Jonas Kukelhan, Christine Larson, Elliot Lockshine, Madelyn Lockshine, Finn O’Malia, Phil Pantalone, Joceyln Perkins (Ti Moune), Diana Popa, Stellina Scacco (Mama Euralie), Grace Schumann, Cole Tarantowski (Daniel), Christian Toth, Nora Van Lier, Rafael Velez III, Colin Wheeler (Agwe), Elijah Whitt, Morgan Williams (Erzulie), Allison Yellets (Andrea).

Production Staff

Director: Kelcie Nicole Dugger. Musical Director: Evie Morris. Assistant Director: Anthony Williams. Choreographer: Andrea Belser. Technical Director and Production Manager: Josh Padgett. Assistant Technical Director: Perren Hedderson. Scenic, Properties and Costume Designer: Laura Carlson Tarantowski. Stage Manager and Assistant Production Manager: Ryan Wolf. Assistant Stage Manager: Anthony Williams. Lighting Designer: Tobias Peltier. Sound Designer: Joshua Caraballo. Properties Master: Jessica Rosenlieb. Artistic Director, NWT: Bob Navis Jr. Executive Director, NWT: Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek.

Once On This Island Jr.

Book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

Music by Stephen Flaherty

Based upon the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy

Originally directed and choreographed on Broadway by Graciela Daniele

Playwrights Horizons, Inc. produced “Once On This Island” Off-Broadway in 1990

 Originally produced on Broadway by The Schubert Organization, Capital Cities/ABC, Inc., Suntory International Corporation and James Walsh, in association with Playwrights Horizons


About Near West Theatre

Our Mission Statement: "Near West Theatre builds loving relationships and engages diverse people in strengthening their sense of identity, passion, and purpose, individually and in community, through transformational theatre arts experiences." View all posts by Near West Theatre

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