It’s been a long road for Moana Jr., the Tisbury School play opening this weekend.. Like the heroine of the story, who sets off an ocean adventure, the students have been on the move, practicing in fields, cafeterias, the town hall — anywhere that would welcome them.

But the show must go on, and with the help of the Island community, the production, which includes about 45 students in all (on-stage and as part of the All-Island Youth Chorus), opens Friday at the Performing Arts Center at the regional high school. Showtimes are April 5 and 6 at 6:30 p.m. 

For director and Tisbury School music teacher Jessica Sanseverino, the successful outcome was never in doubt. The school hadn’t been able to put on a play since 2019, she said, and failure was not an option.

“It was a sharp turn in the Tisbury school’s fate,” Ms. Sanseverino said, referring to 2019.

Theatrical productions stopped after lead paint was discovered that year and have yet to return due to the reconstruction of the school. Currently, classes are held in temporary modular classrooms, which are too small to be used as rehearsal space for a production as large as Moana.

Finn Coddling, Michael Rives and Ethan Jemison. — Ray Ewing

Ms. Sanseverino pointed to the grit of the students and the generosity of the community as deciding factors in the process.

“The town generously granted us use of the town hall space for rehearsals,” she said. “And we couldn’t have done it without the support of the performing arts department at the high school too.”

She singled out Charlie Esposito, director of the performing arts center, and Jameson Whitmarsh, a high school student who has been instrumental in running the lights and sound.

Ms. Sanseverino said Jameson has been a hero for the project. In fact, he is listed in her phone contacts not under W for Whitmarsh, but under A for “Jameson Awesome.”

The journey began in the fall, when the students voted on Moana Jr. as their choice for the school play. It is a musical adaptation of the blockbuster Disney movie released in 2016, set on the Polynesian island of Motunui.

“They said it was a story they could relate to,” Ms. Sanseverino said. “It’s about a young woman who is personally committed and motivated to save her island.”

On the first day of rehearsal, Ms. Sanseverino brought the story even closer to home for the students. “I asked them, if the boats don’t run tomorrow would they jump on a raft and sail off to save a mythical dude.”

Cast includes nearly 60 students onstage an in the chorus. — Ray Ewing

The answer was a resounding yes.

Bringing the All-Island Youth Chorus on board was a no-brainer for Ms. Sanseverino, as she not only directs the chorus, she started it last year. Currently, it consists of fourth to sixth graders, but she is looking to expand the tuition-free program in the coming years.

She also gave the chorus some new challenges, having them sing many songs in Samoan.

“I can’t say enough about these kids,” she said,

Now that the Tisbury School construction is well underway, Ms. Sanseverino said she feels this year’s show will serve as an inspiration for the students when they are back in their new school.

“After this, they will truly know what it means to have a theatre home,” she said.

Moana will be performed at the Performing Arts Center on April 5 and 6, both shows beginning at 6:30 p.m. Admission is free.