For its final production of the year, TheatreMSU performed "Once on This Island."
The play opened Wednesday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m. The troupe performed twice on April 9, and the final show was on April 10.
"Once on This Island" is a one-act musical by Lynn Ahrens with music by Stephen Flaherty. The play follows a young peasant girl named Ti Moune, played by Veronica Washington, as she falls in love with Daniel Beauxhomme, played by Darryl Brundidge Jr., as she fights to stay by his side, even when challenged by Papa Ge, god of death. In the end, she loses Daniel and dies of a broken heart, but the gods take pity on her and turn her into a tree, allowing her to bless the descendants of her lost love.
TheatreMSU's supporting cast added to the story by quickly shifting characters. From villagers, to birds and trees and even to snippy gossipers, they made the story become real, participants said.
Melanie Harris, a Mississippi State University faculty member and costume designer for the production, said viewers should sit back and enjoy their time watching the show.
"This is just a very fun show, just a sit-back-and-enjoy kind of show," Harris said. "We try to make sure we have pretty balanced seasons, some hard-hitting things and some things that are just for fun, something to teach. So we try to make sure we have a variety but this was a 'Let’s close out the year on a good note' for everybody."
Helen Anne Horecky, a junior marketing student, performed for the first time this year as Erzulie, the goddess of love.
"I've never done a musical at Mississippi State. This is my first one, but I did musicals when I was in high school, and I've been a part of MSU Theatre since freshman year," she said. "I just hadn’t really gotten a chance to put myself out there and audition for something."
She said she was excited to get the part and contribute to the production.
"But I finally did audition, and I got the part of Erzulie, which was literally incredible. I was so thankful, especially for it being my first show and it's just been so much fun," Horecky said. "We all just share the same passion for theater, and we all love the show."
Marleisha Kyles made a special appearance in the show. She is currently a staff member at MSU, but she also acted during undergrad and grad school at MSU.
"Mar is literally so helpful and the most encouraging person you will ever meet. She's actually so sweet. Me and Mar have this pre-show ritual where we do Soulja Boy; I think it's funny," Horecky said about Kyles. "... She's kind of like a mentor to almost all of us because she is older, and she's literally so talented, too."
The cast and crew started working on the musical in January 2022. As the performances drew nearer, time spent rehearsing increased until the week of the first show when the cast rehearsed for almost 12 hours in one day. The cast and crew were coming and going as needed based on their roles.
The music was a major part of the show. TheatreMSU borrowed many voices from the State Singers to supplement the show.
Throughout the show, the cast constantly moved around, and many times even upward, as the set allowed for vertical movement and provided areas for the gods to stand and watch over the island. Even with the special effects, the crew fluidly switched scenes by moving only one item.
Jesse Wade, technical director for TheatreMSU, explained their experience building sets.
"My job is to just build sets … We were on a pretty short time frame to get the set built, but I mean the set design wasn't super complex even with all the surprises and stuff that you see with it throughout the show," Wade said.