Culture House excels with outstanding ‘Once on This Island’ at KCPA

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Bob Compton Photography/Culture House
Bob Compton Photography/Culture House

Culture House continues to present astounding productions, as evidenced by their summer presentation at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts that hosted this year’s production of the Tony Award winning “Once on This Island.

”The fantasy story about a small Island with two separate cultures, one rich and the other poor, tells the story of a young girl saved from a hurricane. Raised on the poorer side of the Island, Ti Moune is advised that her life belongs with the common-folk, but her heart tells her that she belongs with the prince.

Bob Compton Photography/Culture House

Ti Moune, beautifully played and sung by Natasha Gibbons, is found as a baby in a tree after a hurricane devastated the Island. She was found and raised by Islanders and overseen by the native gods that saved her. While most of the gods protect her, one wants her soul and encourages her to make some tragic choices.

Bob Compton Photography/Culture House

Ti Moune’s life is overseen by Asaka (Addie Lee), one of the native gods who wants a happy and special life for Ti Moune. Larissa Briley plays Erzulie, and likewise, wants Ti Moune rewarded with a rich and happy life. And then there is Papa Ge, the devil’s disciple, hell-bent on snatching Ti Moune’s soul. He accomplishes this after Ti Moune rescues and nurses the prince back to good health after a car accident. Ti Moune makes a pack with the devil (Papa Ge) exchanging her life for the prince’s life.

Bob Compton Photography/Culture House

As Papa Ge, Evan Lovelace receives his big chance to display his singing and dancing talent to a wide audience at the KCPA. Matt Fowler plays the patriarch of the Island elite, and his voice seems custom tailored for the KCPA.

The Carribean fairy tale entertains with its bright colors, outstanding set design, Calypso-ish music, strong voices and choreography that keeps the show in a state of constant movement. The musical direction by Matt Richardson fits perfectly in the KCPA auditorium. Great job by the behind the scenes production teams. The lighting, sound, props, etc made the show fun-filled from start to finish. But, probably the most outstanding and noticeable aspect of the technical aspect was the fantastic costumes that lit the stage. All costumes

Bob Compton Photography/Culture House

were sewn by Culture House staff and family. The colors were vibrant. The colors were balanced throughout, and when the lights hit the costumes, it was a tropical paradise in rhythmic motion. Fantastic job by the costumers.

Culture House’s show at the Kauffman Center shines a huge spotlight on the company and the quality productions they produce. “Once on This Island” set an even higher bar for future Culture House productions. The only down side is that Culture House productions only play for one weekend. Such show as “Once on This Island” could sustain a longer run as word of mouth would encourage more audiences and funding support for the organization.

Bob Compton Photography/Culture House

“Once on this Island” Cast: Natasha Gibbons (Ti Moune), Chase Simmons (Daniel), Tionne Allen (Mama Euralie), Kaleb Clemmons (Tonton), Evan Lovelace (Papa Ge), Larissa Briley (Erzulie), Addie Lee (Asaka), Te Minor (Agwe), Matt Fowler (Armand), Michaela Sewalson (Andrea), Aubrey Richardson (Little Ti Moune), Havilah Gilliland (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Jaynie Brown (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Elaine Christensen (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Madison Kelsey (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Amanda Emilee Moder (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Iris Enna (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Beth Alleman (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Jeremiah Coleman (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Lucy McClung (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Noah Smith (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Allie McMillin (Featured Dancer/Storyteller), Aggie Williams (Featured Storyteller), Jessica Holcombe (Featured Storyteller), Joslyn

Bob Compton Photography/Culture House

Joseph (Featured Storyteller), Cally Beckman (Featured Storyteller), Connor Ampleman (Featured Storyteller), Jamy VanSyckle (Featured Storyteller), De’Markcus Howell (Featured Storyteller), Cameron Gunter (Featured Storyteller), Marshall Lovelace (Gatekeeper/Storyteller), Allison Cloud (Madame Armand/Storyteller), Maddie Ampleman (Little Girl/Storyteller), Aaron Watts (Daniel’s Son/Storyteller) and Storytellers: Sharon Johnson, Valerie Knott, Amy Zemelman, Andrea Hobley, Isabelle Alston, Ella McClung, Megan Clifford, Kaelana Mong, Marty Joseph, Sienna Wilting, Rachel Field, Eleanor Morgan, Tripp Star, Chuck Chambers, Will Gurley, Emerson Ross, John Van de Voort, Michael De Voe Jr, Jefferson Harwood, Jacob Durant, Aliyah Hart, Emma Scott,

Bob Compton Photography/Culture House

Isabelle VanSyckle, Josie McClung and Noah Hart.

“Once on this Island” Musicians: Michelle Reed (Keyboard), Bill Welch (Guitar), Deana Wagoner (Synthesizer), Ron Mundt (Reeds), Blake Vignery (Percussion) and JJ Wallace (Bass).

“Once on this Island” Production Team: Amy LaGrone Sander (Summer Broadway Theatre Director and TCH General Manager & Producer), Matt Richardson (Music Director/Conductor), Nick Perry (Choreographer), Elana LaGrone (Production Coordinator), Morgan Stacer (Stage Manager) and Michelle Reed (Accompanist).

Tags: “Once on This Island” review, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City Theatre, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Culture House

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