For the Bristol Theater Company, an island awaits on Reynolds’ stage

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In a tale that demonstrates how love can transcend social barriers, the Bristol Theater Company is finishing up their rehearsals for “Once on This Island,” a one-act musical written by Lynn Ahrens.

The production is directed by Bruce Lackey, a 41-year veteran in community theater, and is the first for him as a member of the Bristol Theater Company.

When he joined the group in January, he was impressed by the company’s approach to theater.

“I’ve worked with several theater companies,” he said. The BTC is “very professional,” he said.

Coming into the group, the 24-member cast, ranging in ages from 7 to 60, was already set for Mr. Lackey who began the task of putting the production together in late January. After three rehearsals each week, the cast and crew are excited to be presenting the performance in their current home at the former Reynolds School.

“Traditionally, this show is done with an African-American cast,” Mr. Lackey said of the island setting. But the story, he said, isn’t one of race; it’s one of breaking down barriers, be it race, socio-economic status or any number of prejudices that affect people’s perceptions.

“I think a lot of people are going to leave the show feeling good,” he said. “The cast seems very suited for their roles and give strong performances.”

Nearly 60 people auditioned for the show, mostly coming from the East Bay and southeastern Massachusetts to take part in the Bristol Theater Company.

With only two weeks before the opening of the show on May 16, actors, musicians, costume designers and set crews were making their final preparations, glad to have such a theater space available to them. In the past, the BTC would be looking for a performance space for each production, and while this is their second production in the High Street venue, they hope that it will become their theatrical home.

“We are very happy to be here,” said board of directors member, Marie Knapman.

The BTC will present “Once on This Island” in three shows, Friday, May 16 and Saturday, May 17 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, May 18 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $10 for children under 10 years of age and seniors. For information, contact the BTC at 424-1315.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.