PADUCAH – A musical launching its national tour Saturday at Paducah’s Carson Center has two Paducah natives involved in the production, one of which is a graduate of Murray State University.

“Once on This Island” was the winner of the 2018 Tony Award for best revival of musical. It started in 1990 and also had shows in 1994, 1995, 2009 and 2017. It is now set to launch its national tour Saturday at the Carson Center before an official opening Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville. The show will be performed in 25 cities on its first tour. 

“Once on this Island” is the tale of a young inspirational peasant girl who is in search of the purpose of her life and is ready to give up everything for love. It is based on the novel, “ My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy and is a retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid.” According to a news release, “It will be one of the most immersive Broadway Experience viewers will have as the seating allows the patrons to view the show from a unique angle. At each performance there will be on-stage seating, creating an adventurous experience for the audience.”

James Jennings, an alumnus of Murray State’s Theatre Arts department, is the company manager for the tour.

“The thing which makes this national tour special is the fact that the production is set in a village which is being hit by a hurricane,” Jennings said. “The lights, sounds, use of air, sand, water, and fire present a real picture of the Caribbean island.” 

Jennings said the set will enable the audience to feel the show in an empathetic way. Since the show started in 1990, he said the the cast of this show has kept changing and new faces are welcomed to participate and polish tour their skills. The cast of this national tour consists of some new faces, and some actors have joined from the Broadway Company. He said it is a point of pride that two Kentuckians are involved in the tour, including not only himself, but cast member McKynleigh Alden Abraham, who is the daughter of Paducah City Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Richard Abraham. According to an interview with Paducah Life magazine, McKynleigh acted in many Market House Theatre productions while she was growing up and starred in the first season of the cable reality competition series “The Glee Project” in 2011. A Northern Kentucky University graduate, she also appeared in the tour of “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.”

Jennings said he is very excited to come back home to launch this show in Paducah. 

Talking about his experience as a student at Murray State, Jennings said he felt blessed to be an alum, and he said the university prepared him so well that his career accomplishments are largely due to the education he got there. He described Murray State as an outstanding educational institute that provides a world-class education, and he said the theatrical program is great at polishing its students’ skills and providing them with a chance to get practical exposure for what they learn. 

“I think the theatrical program at Murray State University evolved so much in previous years, and many interesting things have been added to add up to a student’s practical knowledge,” Jennings said. 

Jennings advised current students to not doubt whatever they are learning at the university because it provides its students with one of the best educations available. 

Tickets for “Once on This Island” are available online at thecarsoncenter.org or by phone at 270-450-444, as well as the box office. The show starts at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

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