Musicians Kahele and Greig voice volcanoes in 'Lava' short film

July 30th, 2014
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Kuana Torres Kahele and Napua Greig, best known for their Hawaiian music, will portray lovesick volcanoes in “Lava,” a Disney Pixar animated short film, debutingin August at the Hiroshima Animation Festival in Hiroshima.

According to the Los Angeles Times, “Lava” is directed by James Ford Murphy, and is a seven-minute musical about two volcanoes.

Detroit-raised Murphy, who grew up loving Elvis Presley movies and island culture, has been a Pixar animation artist since 1998’s “A Bug’s Life” and admits he got the idea for the love-stricken volcanoes two decades ago while honeymooning on the Big Island.

The volcanoes are named Uku and Lele — ukulele, get it? — and Kahele’s and Greig’s voices are part of the soundscape, performing the title song, “Lava,” composed by Murphy who learned how to play the uke.

“I thought it would be so cool to fall in love with a place that’s also a character,” said Murphy in the L.A. Times story. “I wanted to make Uku appealing and likeable but also look like he’s been carved out of lava flows.”

The director wanted to share the dichotomy of volcanoes: Destructive but creative, powerful but peaceful.

“Lava” will open in U.S. theaters June 19, 2015, preceding the screening of the Pixar animated feature, “Inside Out.”

 

Amanda Setton to join 'Five-0's' M.E. office as a trainee

July 16th, 2014
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When CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0” premieres Sept. 26, there will be a new trainee in the medical examiner’s office.

Amanda Setton, from “Crazy Ones,” will be introduced in the first episode of Season 5 as Dr. Mindy Shaw, who will assist Dr. Max Begman (Masi Oka) in the ME’s office.

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TV Guide named her as one of the new regulars this season, who’ll pop up in crime investigation scenes periodically.

Viewers of “Gossip Girl” and “The Mindy Project” may also recall Setton.

Carol Burnett, earlier introduced as Steve McGarrett’s (Alex O’Loughlin) aunt Deb, will recur in Season 5 portraying Aunt Deb.

Five things to consider for ‘Five-0’s’ fifth season

June 16th, 2014
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 Michelle Borth, Alex O'Loughlin on CBS' "Hawaii Five-0:" While she bid aloha at the end of Season 4, should Borth as Catherine return again as a recurring character/love-interest for Steve McGarrett?

 

 

 

 

 

With CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0” poised to launch Season 5 filming in July, the show’s writers already are at work to produce new scripts.

Four are aboard the creative team to create about 24 episodes, led by script coordinator Sue Palmer whose team includes Kenny Kyle, Sarah Byrd and Akeba Gaddis.

Mum’s the word, of course, on the specifics of the plots but the storylines will embrace the “Five-0” team including Alex O’Loughlin as Steve McGarrett, Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho Kelly, Scott Caan as Danny “Danno” Williams and Grace Park as Kono Kalakaua.

This will be the first season that the series will be headquartered at the Hawaii Film Studios on the slopes of Diamond Head. While a fall kick-off is yet to be formally announced, the show will return to the Friday lineup at 8 p.m. Hawaii time (9 p.m. Mainland), preceding CBS’ “Blue Bloods” starring Tom Selleck, the network’s previous “Magnum P.I.” headliner.

No word yet if the traditional Sunset on the Beach premiere screening, on the beach at Waikik, will be a go.

The show’s treasury of characters has enlarge and expanded over the four seasons, with recurring secondary characters anchored in story arcs that likely will continue, hopefully with less frequency and with a better sense of reality.

Here are five things we’d like to see:

  • The return of the Catherine Rollins character played by Michelle Borth. Surely, her part was magnified in the brief absence of actress Park, whose real-life motherhood was shielded in an on-the-lam story tapping her on-screen boyfriend.  The likelihood of Borth’s return seems logical: she was not killed off, audiences adored her, depending on what she might land on TV, she just may be the trump card “Five-0” needs somewhere during the season. Further, McG has no object of his affection going into the new season.
  • Shelve  Doris McGarrett (Christine Lahti), mother of McG,  and retired Navy commander Joe White (Terry O’Quinn), who brought aboard more luggage and despair in their cloudy, confused demeanors, triggering far too many loose ends and conspiracy theories. Each time either returned, there was clutter and tangle to impede the “Five-0” storytelling rhythm. Pau, already.
  • Wo Fat, now disfigured, also has outlived his usefulness as McG’s nemesis; let him disappear, too, to some destination. If the series needs him in its hip pocket, he could be summoned back. And please: do we need segments on Wo Fat’s mother and father, to fill in the blanks of his family tree? Fans of actor Mark Decascos can still view him as The Chairman on The Food Network’s “Iron Chef, ” after all.
  • Eliminate those far-flung reaches with foreign destination storylines; Borth’s dedication, to seek a conclusion and closure in an Afghan segment in the Season 4 finale, was a whimper of a finish for the show — not a ratings leader. Indeed, the tale was as drab as the desert landscape. Shelve, too, any intention to fly a chopper to Korea for McG (remember?) — if there’s a foreign tie, at least make it believable.
  • Build up the secondary figures in the “Five-0” ohana; Chi McBride, as SWAT ace Lou Grover; has found his niche and audience base, from a competitor/foe of McG, to a buddy-buddy;  Jorge Garcia, as conspiracy theorist Jerry Ortega, has built-in oddity to hold interest and command, with equal parts seriousness and comedy — in short, he brings extra value and creds; Dennis Chun, as Officer Duke Lukela in the Honolulu Police Department, continues to land meatier roles thanks to his symbolic. historic tie to the original Jack Lord “Five-0,” where his late dad was Kam Fong Chun who originated the Chin Ho Kelly role; Kamekona (Taylor Wily), the shrimp truck operator, is  in an awkward place, recurring as a caricature of local culture and manners so if he continues, the writers should instill dignity and humanity to his presence.

Is this too much to ask for, for Season 5?

 

 

 

 

 

Many 'senior moments' in 'Cabaret III' at Hawaii Theatre

June 6th, 2014
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                    Arcadia cast performs "Gangnam Style." Bruce Asato photo

Note: This is an expanded version of a story published today (June 6) in the Today section of the Star-Advertiser.

Entrepreneur Jack Cione has had an illustrious producing-directing career spanning  nearly six decades here, but one project — his signature “Mardi Gras Follies,” which just completed a three-weekend run (June 1 closing) at the Arcadia Senior Residence — remains his passion and pet project.

He gets the most jollies working with his “Follies” senior citizens, where his enthusiasm and dedication rub off on his fellow retirees. The endeavor has become the focus of his personal golden years — and his dazzling revue staged without charge expressly for the Arcadia ohana has evoked a lot of “senior moments” to remember and cherish.  Not just for him but for his cast, too.

Now the public can see his seniors lip-synch, dance, and frolic — in Bill Doherty’full theatrical regalia that includes feather boas, sequins and frou frou costumes — when  38 Arcadians, including seven troupers from sister senior residence 15 Craigside — will be joined by 45 ballroom dancers representing 12 chapters of the Hawaii Ballroom Dance Assn. The expanded “Follies” production  is dubbed “Cabaret III,” and will unfold at 7 p.m.  Saturday (June 7) at the Hawaii Theatre.

It will be Cione’s third  collaboration with the HBDA to support the dance organization.  A last-minute addition to the lineup is Randy Smith, a Frank Sinatra sound-alike; the finale is a salute to world traveler King Kalakaua and the precious gems he introduced to Hawaii from his global jaunts, in lavish Las Vegas-style glitter and finery.

“All told, I’ve done about 35 ‘Follies’ shows,” said Cione. He launched the concept at Pearl Harbor, initially tapping military brass and their families, to stage elaborately-costumed romantic and comedic numbers to raise funds and esprit for the Navy for 25 years. There have been variations of the show at the Waikiki Shell, Blaisdell Arena,  and even the Hawaii Theatre  before anchoring at the Arcadia.

“I’ll do one more next year,” he said of a milestone 10th at the Arcadia, a tradition that has raised not only the profile of the senior living institution in Manoa but also the performance-savvy of the retirees who never thought they’d get bitten by the show biz bug.  Some troupers have had community stage experience, but most are newbies dealing with the challenges of theater: makeup, wigs, costumes, rehearsals,  learning lyrics to lip-synch, conquering dance steps, and in some instances, act. In front of an audience.

Turns out the journey has a fountain of youth side effect.

As Edna Yonaoshi, 89, the eldest in the performing company, said, “This year is my first show; I saw it last year and I couldn’t resist (participating). I think I have two minutes and 30 seconds on stage, part of a bon dance. ”

It’s been a gratifying and fulfilling new experience for the former tour escort for Royal Adventure Travel for 36 years.  “I am having fun,” said Yonaoshi. “Makes me feel younger.”

Her pal, Edith  Tan, 75, already is a veteran of two productions and admitted, “I was railroaded to do it the first time … but I was curious. I’ve met so many professional dancers; it’s good fellowship.”

For director Cione, who turns 88 this year, the bottom line has been to bring out the actor and dancer in his elderly cast, and nurture confidence as well as  a sense of pride. Some years, he’s had mid-90s folks traipsing all over the stage.

“It takes six months, from the time I do a script, assemble music, plan costumes, cast and then rehearse the show,” he said. “And New York provides the inspiration.”

Personal health issues have forced him to prioritize and reduce his activities somewhat, but he’s not ready to give up his “Follies” ship.

“I move slower now,” he said. “I quit giving tap dance classes several years ago because of health. My doctor thinks I need to cut back my trips. But I want to go to Tahiti and Samoa … but there are no hospitals there, but I could travel to Las Vegas and the West Coast, in case I need care.”

The production traditionally is a pastiche of Cione’s show biz past. Cione, of course, is the venerable nightclub operator when naughty was enticing; his foray into adult shows at the old Forbidden City and other strip joints put him on the map. He’s booked such acts as Liza Minnelli and Sarah Vaughan, introduced the naked waiter revue at the Dunes nightclub and occasionally produced Waikiki spectacles at Le Boom Boom Club and the Royal Hawaiian’s Monarch Room.

Not surprisingly, he taps his past to influence his present.  For the current show, Cione chose  “Magic To Do,” as his opening number borrowed from the Tony Award-winning “Pippin,” which he saw last year with its circus-magic remake on Broadway. “Be a Clown” and “Comedy Tonight” continue the theme, anthems from previous musicals he’s seen.

There are vaudevillean shticks, and even a mild strip tease —a segment that is family-friendly and senior-sensitive.

“The show becomes part of their lives,” he said of his performers, some of whom who have patronized Cione’s various nightlife presentations of decades past.

Marcie Taylor-Kaneshige, 82, has been a “Follies” volunteer and participant for 30 years, initially through her job ties with American Savings, which sponsored a dance event at Blaisdell Arena which involved Cione. She took the stage in the Pearl Harbor era of the event and regularly and willingly assumes solos and ensemble numbers with flair now.

She’s the one who takes off some of her clothes, but there’s nothing risqué or demeaning. Her outer kimono-type garb comes off, to display some intimate apparel. “I do and bring my own costumes,” said Taylor-Kaneshige. “I love theater and dance is theater. And the show addresses my interests. Jack has such a positive attitude;he tells you how it’s done, and it’s hard to say no.”

Benny and Faith Agbayani, dance directors at HBDA, can’t imagine their lives without dance — they were novices under the tutelage of the late Eugene Ichinose more than three decades ago and have been instrumental in securing dancers to carry on the HBDA tradition. “I used to bowl,” said Benny, who’ll be 75 in November. “But Mr. Ichinose said that it’s bad for the posture. So now I dance.”
It was Faith, 64, who first got immersed in ballroom dancing  — “the rhythm keeps me young,,” she said — but Benny ultimately succumbed to the rhythm of the dance. “It’s my only exercise now,” he said.

And yes, the Agbayanis are parents of baseball star Bennie Agbayani.

Both said the emergence of reality shows like “Dancing With the Stars,”
which cast celebrity dancers with skilled tutors, have sent a loyal fanship to the Ala Wai Clubhouse, the flagship ballroom site for dance lessons, to learn swing, tango and waltz. Couples and singles show up and instructors become partners when needed.

“It’s really reasonable — $20 for eight weeks,” said Faith. “We show them etiquette.”

Shirley Ota, 74, is current HBDA president and is a retired teacher and principal in Southern California.  On an ocean cruise, she found her calling — ballroom dancing — and now admits “it seems like I belong. It’s a great way to meet people, it’s good for the brain, and my husband’s dancing again.” Herb Ota collapsed on a ship tour last fall but has recovered and joined his wife in the “Follies” production.

John Kotake, a dentist by trade, and his wife Karen typify the volunteerism and twosomeness in the history of the “Follies.” They have been a featured duo in 10 Pearl Harbor shows, two at the Hawaii, and six at Arcadia. He now is treasurer of HBDA, she is its corresponding secretary.

“We do things together,” said John Kotake, who admits he often contemplates dance steps while involved in his dentistry. Not surprisingly, he’s become Cione’s dentist in the process.

At 33, Allyson Doherty is the youngest  cast member. By day, she’s a curriculum coordinator at Stevenson Middle School, so dancing is a tension reliever. “My day job is stressful; when I dance, I don’t think about work. I love working with the seniors, and who give out as much energy as I do. They call me The Kid and they take care of me, and dancing in the show with them is a joy.”

 

 

‘CABARET III’

Featuring: Arcadia “Mardi Gras Follies” cast, Hawaii Ballroom Dance Assn. performers, guest-singer Randy Smith

When: 7 p.m. Saturday (June 7)

Where: Hawaii Theatre

Tickets: $30, general admission; at hawaiiballroomdance@hawaii.rr.com or 753-8673;   also at the Hawaii Theatre box office, 528-0506, www.hawaiitheatre.com

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REVIEW: Makuakane a master of hula innovation

May 12th, 2014
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 Adaptation leads to innovation in the performing arts.

Consider: We wouldn’t have “West Side Story,” based on “Romeo and Juliet,” if it didn’t serve a dollop of  jazz dancing and story-progressing tunes rendered by conflicted teens from two opposides sides of the tracks. Similarly, “Rent” added a rock core to Puccini’s “La Boheme” opera, speaking a new language targeting a contemporary audience not commonly considered for the Broadway genre.

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In this spirit, this past weekend’s visit of Patrick Makuakane’s San Francisco-based halau, Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu — in two sellout performances at the Hawaii — discovered resources for reinterpretation with uncanny and unexpected results. Makuakane, a former Oahu dancer-kumu hula with roots in Robert Cazimero’s Halau Na Kamalei, is a prolific craftsman without boundaries. His joyous, inventive, adaptation element created flash and wattage for a changing audience of Hawaiiana fans; his was a halau of a performance (I attended Saturday night’s show), laden with genuine,creative bursts, with a foundation trackable to tradition.

Makuakane’s latest production, exploring mele extracted from and inspired by vintage Hawaiian newspapers of the past 100 years, had solid island ties, embracing history but served with his keen sense of adventure and exploration. His daring, bold style and manner have stunned and, yes,  even offended Hawaiian purists in the past (think Merrie Monarch Festival) but there’s no denying: Makuakane is onto something vivid and vibrant and immensely refreshing. Advance alert: Kumu Cazimero will join Makuakane’s halau in a San Francisco dance-out in October; should be visual fireworks and fun.

If there was any fault in “Ka Leo Kanaka (Voice of the People),” theme of the endeavor, it might simply be the inert, limp, prolonged  opening narrative, done in the darkness with the theater’s curtain still down, doing precious little for anticipation of the launch. However, Once the lights went on and the narration pau, there was the energy and physicality of hula, of course, about the legend of Pele, her sister Hiiaka, and their relationship with the handsome Lohiau … fodder for  hula ‘auana. Yes, a rousing opening dance, despite the awkward and turtle-paced prelude.

The heart of the evening embraced visuals of vintage nupepa (newspapers) and stylized drawings of Pele and ‘ohana, providing the backdrop, but the party didn’t reach sizzle level until the pre-intermission montage of Hawaiian jazz and soul, with a stunning hula solo to “Embraceable You” featuring Desiree Woodward Lee in a willowing rose gown. Then joyful syncopation started popping and pounding, with halau ensemble members jitterbugging to “I’ve Got Rhythm” and resorting to flash-dancing spontaneity supported by audience applause.

Before the curtain fell, “Ta-Hu-Wa-Hu-Wa-I,” aka “Hawaiian War Chant,” provided the cherry on the cake: razzmatazz with contagious hand-and-foot-and-body action. It was the essence of adaptation with ideology, elevating dance to an art form that transcends Hawaiiana and sashays into the realm of the iconic. Merrie, but perhaps not for Monarchs.

It was all incredibly ingenious, with dashes of hip-hop and boogie-woogie, recalling the  era of big-band dancing and prancing. Clearly, an intermission was needed.

The second act included more samplings of newspaper-originated nibbles — personal messages from commoners, lamenting the vagaries and challenges of life and relationships; a hula about papers with dancers hoisting newspapers; and a emotional and powerful lament about the death of a royal child.

Just when you think the newspaper homage was overstaying its welcome, a nimble and nuanced coupling of two unrelated modern songs, Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” and Spandau Ballet’s “True.” The juxtaposition of a hip-hop hit with a romantic ballad provided contrast and challenged the dance couple, Kahala Bishaw-Fisher and Jason Laskey, to be frisky with the upbeat and smooth with the balladry, and they killed it with formidable chemistry and artistry. Again, it was Makuakane, thinking and reacting outside of the box.

Kupaoa, the Honolulu duo featuring Kihau Hannahs-Paik and Kellen Palk, were house musicians in live portions as well as on their solo newspaper-originated mele, ”Water Lily.” Kris Lee also was an accompaniment.

As a kumu, Makuakane is a do-all dude. With his huggable-bear demeanor, he is at once lordly but accessible, very conversational in his intros, passionate about his craft, and takes an occasional turn as a chanter as well as a singer. His pride emanates from his accomplished company of nearly 30 of both genders.

So: Stop the presses! Makuakane may not be a Merrie Monarch winnah (he acknowledged this) but he knows how to adapt and turn the familiar into the fabulous. He is a master of innovation, bar none.