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Arts & Entertainment

Petite Players kick off 5th season with ?Island? musical

| Thursday, April 19, 2012

When the curtain goes up on the fifth season for the Petite Players at the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth this weekend, the young performers will present the Caribbean-esque musical, "Once On This Island."

Director Jen Gorton is no stranger to the show.

"I was in 'Once On This Island' right out of college in Boston and played the god of love," she said.

Offering a glimpse into the show, Gorton said it's a love story about a peasant girl, Ti Moune, who rescues and falls in love with Daniel, a rich boy from the other side of the island, which is ruled by four gods. "Ti Moune and Daniel fall in love but they can't be together," the director explains, noting the story is about sacrificing for the sake of love.

The 23-member cast are performers between the ages of 10 and 13.

"They have really risen to the challenge of this show," Gorton said. "This is an operetta so they are singing the entire time. This is a very large show and there is also a lot of dancing. This show is real fun and it's something different, which is why the kids enjoy it. This is a great group of kids."

Musically, the songs are catchy. "My 2-year-old son Hayden has been listening to this music for a while and he knows all the words and sings along. When we're in the car he even asks for the songs by name," she said.

Praising the cast, she said Samantha Hawk "is doing a fantastic job" as the show's main character, Ti Moune. "She is doing a beautiful job as are all the gods who have a pretty big role in the show. Mama (Amy Hotovchin) and Tonton (Joe Raszewski) also are doing very well."

Rounding out the cast are Laura Basciotta as Asaka; Tiffany Boden, Autumn Cain, Angela Danen, Angelina Jordan, Sierra Kielur, DJ Pickell and Chloe Skerkoski as Gossipers/Peasants; Joe Coccia as Papa Ge; Carly Cygrymus as Erzulie; Kyla DeNitti, Sarah Doran, Theresa Hall and Dory Johnson as Storytellers; Bay Johnson as Daniel; Alexis Little as Gatekeeper; Livia Mazzarella as Little Ti Moune; Karlie Olson as Agwe; Jordan Ploskina as Daniel's Father; and Kynzie Webb as Andrea.

Kellee Cohlhepp is stage manager.

The elementary and middle school students are from several school districts including Baldwin, Bethel Park, Elizabeth Forward, South Allegheny, South Park, St. Angela Merici, St. Gabriels, Pittsburgh School for Creative and Performing Arts, and Yough.

The Bethel Park native's love of theater began in grade school when she started piano lessons. In high school, Gorton was in the school musicals and in college studied theater and voice performance. After college, she spent time in Boston and Nashville, where she was involved in the theater before returning to this area.

Her involvement with Grand Theatre began with teaching.

"I was teaching a few classes there and they asked me to do a show," she said. "I had done fragments of this show but never the entire production, so that's why I decided to do (tilde)Once On This Island'."

Gorton said she hopes theater-goers "enjoy the journey and see that love can conquer all barriers."

The Petite Players, whose shows are produced by Mon River Arts, is a youth drama troupe based at the Grand Theatre in Elizabeth. For tickets, directions or more information, call the theater at 412-384-0504 or visit www.elizabethgrand.com .

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