New Orleans Youth Perform Once On This Island June 18 in NYC Benefit Event

News   New Orleans Youth Perform Once On This Island June 18 in NYC Benefit Event New Orleans students and young artists will perform a special two-show benefit of Once On This Island in New York City June 18.

After the Storm — a non-profit film and theatre project supporting and increasing the awareness of the New Orleans community — presents the two performances of the musical at Playwrights Horizons Theatre at 5 and 8 PM.

Original Broadway cast member Gerry McIntyre directs and choreographs the production. Featuring a book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens with music by Stephen Flaherty, Once On This Island is a stage adaptation of the popular fairy tale "The Little Mermaid." In a parallel to the story of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina, the musical "weaves the story of a black peasant girl on a mythical Caribbean island who survives a hurricane and then must discover her purpose in life. The unpredictable 'gods' who rule the island decide to guide the girl on a quest, and to test the strength of her love against the powerful forces of prejudice, nature, hatred and finally, death."

"People say theatre has the power to heal," said creator Ahrens in a statement. "We hope that this production of our show and the efforts of After the Storm will remind all of New Orleans — especially the children — that love, community and the sharing of our stories can help heal hearts and rebuild lives." (Ahrens will take part in a post-show reception with Flaherty, the cast and producing team following the 8 PM performance.)

Featuring a cast of local New Orleans kids (ages 8-18), producers and theatre artists worked and rehearsed this production in conjunction with the 100-year-old St. Mark's Community Center — which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina — and helped rebuild and reopen the center. The production held a series of free performances and a benefit evening to raise funds for the community.

A documentary crew headed by filmmaker Hilla Medalia has followed the production from the start and will continue with the New York performances. Cast members from a number of Broadway show helped raise funds to sponsor each New Orleans cast member's trip to New York — where they will also take part in master classes, Broadway activities and New York sightseeing trips amid rehearsals. The shows include A Chorus Line, The Drowsy Chaperone, The Producers, Spamalot, Spring Awakening, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and Wicked, with additional support from Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Musical direction is handled by Randy Redd, and production design is by Amanda Rehbein. The show is produced for After the Storm by James Lecesne in association with Lesley Mazzotta and Gary Solomon Jr.

Tickets to the performances of Once On This Island at Playwrights Horizons Theatre, 416 West 42nd Street (between Ninth and Tenth Ave.), are available by calling call (212) 255-3684. For more information, visit afterthestormfoundation.org.