Newport Teen Nabs Lead Role in ‘Once on This Island Jr.’

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The “Once on This Island Jr.” cast features Newport Beach resident Simon Khan (front row, third from left) and his brother Sebastian (back row, second from right).

Live plays and concerts are finally starting to return to local stages.

South Coast Repertory is presenting two plays this summer on the grounds of the Mission San Juan Capistrano. Pacific Symphony launched its summer season on July 4 with a concert featuring fireworks. Pageant of the Masters is back in Laguna Beach.

And at Concordia University in Irvine, Arts & Learning Conservatory is presenting a live musical under the stars featuring young actors.

The show is “Once on This Island Jr.” that runs July 16 – 25. It’s a shorter version of the Broadway musical “Once on This Island” that won a 2018 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.

The show is the Calypso tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl in search of her place in the world. The nonprofit Arts & Learning Center’s creative team purposefully cast the production with actors of color in lead and support roles.

The musical has a Caribbean-themed score based on an original adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s popular fairy tale with a storyline similar to “The Little Mermaid.”

Ti Moune sets out on a remarkable journey to reunite with the boy, Daniel, who captured her heart, defying the social forces of prejudice and hate which demand their separation.

Set to music of legendary writing team Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Ti Moune’s fate breaks down the walls that divide her society, ultimately uniting it.

Newport Beach resident Simon Khan, 15, has a lead role in ‘”Once on This Island Jr.”

The lead role of David is portrayed by Newport Beach teen Simon Khan, 15. His brother Sebastian is also in the show, as is fellow Newport actor Cosette Smith.

“We are so excited to return to live theatre after a long hiatus and are committed more than ever to seeing that the arts remain in the lives of our youth which we believe is essential to a well-rounded education. Our newest production is a celebration of diversity which gives our BIPOC actors (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), a voice of empowerment through the creativity of the arts,” says Arts & Learning Founder & CEO, Debora Wondercheck.

Performed by a diverse group of youth and teens from throughout Southern Calif., “Once on This Island Jr.” will take place at Concordia University on the evenings of July 16-18 and 23-25. Tickets are $18 for general admission and $25 for premier seating and can be purchased at

Concordia University is located at 1530 Concordia in Irvine. The outdoor amphitheater is concrete, so attendees are asked to bring low-back chairs, stadium seats or other padding for comfort. Concessions and opportunity baskets will be available. The July 17 performance features an ASL Interpreter.

The nonprofit also seeks partnerships with business and community leaders to sponsor underserved children to attend this live theatre experience.

For more information, visit or call (714) 728-7100.

Arts & Learning Conservatory is a nonprofit organization providing all youth with access to quality arts programs based on the values of accessibility, acceptance, confidence, and creativity. Founded in 2004 by award-winning music educator Debora Wondercheck, Arts & Learning Conservatory partners with Orange County school districts providing over 600 annual scholarships to students in need while offering no-cost musical theatre, band and string classes.

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