Tropical folklore brings song/dance to Spinning Tree show

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By Bob Evans

Spinning Tree Theatre gets it right–again–with their season ending musical fantasy “Once on This Island,” a folkloreish tale of young love between a peasant girl and an affluent gentleman well above her social class.

The Calyposesque music sounds similar to what would be expected from Trinidad and such Islands of the Carribean where the mythical story originates. “Once on This Island” tells of a  young peasant girl who saves a rich young man after his near-fatal car accident. . In doing so, she calls on ancient gods and goddesses as she cares for him and nurses him back to prime health. Like the original versions of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, (before Walt Disney removed all the darkness) the goodness of wishes also possesses a darker side as well. So, too, “Once on This Island” takes on some darker notes as it speeds toward its finale.

This delightful, non-stop musical captivates audiences from the opening and takes them on a joy-ride through its finale. The show is quick, non-stop music and dance from beginning to end. The popular show is already in revival on Broadway. When you see Spinning Tree’s version, sit back and enjoy the richness of the music and the quality of the vocalists performing in the show. These are truly some of KC’s best voices.

The story of “Once on This Island” develops quickly with the music and dance telling most of the story. For this show, again, Spinning Tree enticed and cast some of the best vocal performers available in Kansas City, even coaxing New York-based Matthew King to return to Kansas City for this show.

Spinning Tree Theatre continues to bring quality production to local audiences and relies on local talent to create their shows. “Once on This Island” continues that trend with a lively musical, lasting only 90 minutes with no intermission. The spirited music and dance remains enthusiastic to say the least. The story, a simple fable, appelas to a wide audience because of great execution and balance.

Many in the cast make their Spinning Tree debut, so expect newfound gems to watch for as these talented actors appear in subsequent shows throughout the metropolitan area. “Once on This Island” features: Darrington Clark, Keshana Cook, Da’Merius Ford, Angela Hagenbach, Allison Jones, Matthew A. King, Linnaia McKenzie, Granville O’Neal, Jahnaya Thomas, Douglass Walker, Morgan Walker.

The show comes from a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens with music by Stephen Flarerty. It is based on a novel, “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy.

For the production, the creative team is led by Nedra Dixon, director; Nicole Jaja, lighting design; Eric Palmquist, properties design; Shannon Smith-Regnier; Jeff Eubank, sound design; Taylorrae Burton, stage manager; Pamela Baskin Watson-Baskin, music director; Andrew Grayman-Parkhurst, choreographer. The production staff as listed by Spinning Tree is Taylorrae Burton, stage manager; Victoria Barbee, assistant stage manager; Warren Deckert, assistant lighting designer and Just Off Broadway technical director; Ryan Tucker, house manager, Derrick Weishauer, graphic designer, J. Robert Schraeder, photographer, Sarah Bartley, volunteer coordinator.

The band for “Once on This Island” is Pamela Baskin-Watson, keyboard and conductor; Kaytee Deitrich, reeds; John Gilmore, percussion; Julian Goff, percussion; Brian Wilson, bass.

“Once on This Island” continues at the Just Off Broadway Theatre through May 6. Tickets and more information can be found on the Spinning Tree Theatre website. Season tickets for Spinning Tree’s next season can also be purchased online now, as well.

Tags: Spinning Tree Theatre, Just Off Broadway Theatre, Kansas City, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment

Images courtesy of Spinning Tree Theatre and J. Robert Schraeder/Spinning Tree Theatre

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