Archive for March, 2009

R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Island theater: It's all about billing

March 27th, 2009

In the midst of "Gypsy," the fabled Broadway musical about the ambitions of an indefatigable stage mother loosely based on the life of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, the Mama Rose character yearns for billing for her vaudeville troupers.
You know, name recognition that would validate these struggling performers.
The irony is that Mama's lament rings true. More often than not, local actors don't get the respect and attention they deserve in community productions.
That's not to say they're not appreciated, but when it comes to getting due mentions, most face the dilemma of Mama Rose. Hard work does not beget billing.
And just when I thought the neglect was rampant, one camp has swiftly paid the proper respect to its lead actor ... even before the reviews were out. Don’t know if it was word of mouth, conscience, or demands from a gallery of fans.
But Shari Lynn now gets credit for “Gypsy,” the musical at Diamond Head Theatre. Greg Howell, in the Manoa Valley Theatre dramedy, “Tuesdays With Morrie,” doesn’t. At least at press time.
I highly recommend both. You'll laugh, perhaps tear a little, and applaud like crazy. You'll experience well-defined, wonderfully spirited performances - that wasn’t getting respect, paraphrasing Rodney Dangerfield.
Both DHT and MVT have hits on their hands, and DHT has smartly rethought its campaign to recognize the work of Shari Lynn as Mama Rose. New posters bear her name; a sizeable portrait of her hangs in the theater’s foyer.
But why not? Shari Lynn is at the pinnacle of her career, playing Mama Rose to perfection. She is the right person at the right age with the right pipes and the accompanying star power to inhabit this iconic role Her name was conspicuously absent from the print ads and TV spots. Shari is a local diva, if ever there is one, who happily doesn't behave like one, and merits billing for "Gypsy," because she is the magnet that will fill the seats.
Billing simply means her name is Out There, not just in the formal press release roster of cast members or that listing in the playbill. When she belts out "Rosie's Turn," before the final curtain, you will agree: This is Shari's turn.
There’s no firm policy on why names or photos of actors are used or not used in the promotion. In legit theater - meaning equity productions like Patti LuPone in the just-closed Broadway revival of "Gypsy" - the star is why you go see a show.
LuPone is the essence of a Broadway diva who has earned above-the-title billing because her presence and prowess move tickes. In this scenario, if LuPone is ill and can't perform, you can get a refund.
If names appear below the title in ads, and the actors miss a show you're holding tickets to, you're out of luck.
Some iconic productions - "Mamma Mia," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Misérables," "Miss Saigon," "Cats" - use trademark logos in all publicity. No name-dropping. The branding is all about the production.
Locally, there's no policy but performers' names rarely appear in ads. Army Community Theatre frequently promotes a local player in a show; DHT has embraced local actors in shows in the past, but not routinely.
So bravo and a standing ovation to DHT for tweaking its promotion, which still uses the names of show's creators but now also Shari’s. It’s charitable, fitting and proper; till now, there was amere mention of her in a direct-mail promo postcard not widely distributed.
After all, if you're a regular theater-goer, you know Shari, since this is the third time she's inhabited the role, and it's her best ever. She could walk into a touring show tomorrow. Her invisibility in the ads was a puzzler.
Of course, there are others in the DHT cast in secondary roles who warrant acknowledgment, too; think Dennis Proulx as Herbie, Candes Meijide-Gentry as Louise, Cathy Foy as Mazeppa, Lisa Konove as Tessie Tura, and Camille Michel as Electra. They are the rubies and rhinestones around the diamond that is Shari.
In the MVT ad, a photo of actor-makeup-hair specialist Greg Howell is subliminally featured, in a dancing pose as "Coach" Morrie. Since his image is there, why not Howell's name, too? He validates billing with a brilliant performance of the professor battling Lou Gehrig's disease.
The element  of acknowledgment is all about honoring and appreciating the community actors who work diligently for nothing or minimal honorariums, and who bring pride and acclaim for the producing theater group.
Perhaps the Aretha Franklin hit song "Respect" says it best: "All I'm askin' ... is for a little respect."

"Gypsy" at DHT: Two newly added shows at 8 p.m. April 11 and 4 p.m. April 12

Other scheduled performances: 8 p.m. today,  tomorrow; 4 p.m. Sunday; 8 p.m. April 3, 4; 4 p.m. April 5
Tickets: $12-$42

Charge by phone: 733-0274,

"Tuesdays With Morrie" at MVT

Remaining performances: 8 p.m. today, tomorrow; 4 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday; 8 p.m. April 3, 4; 4 p.m. April 5

Tickets: $30

Charge by phone: 988-6131,

Calendar cues: Who, what, when, where

March 26th, 2009

Here’s a grab bag of stuff  you may want to log for future reference — particulars about people, places and things:

An en-Counter to remember: The Counter, the not-so-ordinary hamburgery that has been serving 1,000 fix-to-order burgers a day since its opening six weeks ago, will hold its grand opening Saturday at Kahala Mall. And with Daniel Dae Kim of "Lost" a co-owner with restaurateur D.K. Kodama, Ed Robles and Pablo Buckingham, it's no surprise that Kim's colleagues from the the ABC series are expected to walk the walk and be the talk at the invitational bash. Looking's free, so if you're a "Lostie," you might hang out — say, from a lanai table at Chili's? — to see who shows up. Red carpet arrivals start at  7 p.m., the "Lost" brigade is expected between 8 and 9 p.m. and the merriment (with DJ music) continues at least till midnight, so oglers will have time to check departures, if not arrivals. Who knows who else you might see?

Aloha Friday redux: Cox Radio’s Aloha Friday Luncheon Shows will resume at noontime April 3 at the new Kani Ka Pila Grille at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach hotel. Hawaiian 105 KINE’s Billy V and Bruddah Wade will host a stellar show that features Brother Noland, who shares selections from his new “Hawaiian Man” CD; Troy Fernandez, also offering cuts from his newbie, “Ride Time;’ Kaukahi, featuring Barrett Awai, Kawika Kahiap, Walt Keale and Dean Wilhelm, who are among the nighttime regulars at Kani Ka Pila; and Amy Hanaiali’i, still riding high with her Grammy-nominated “‘Aumakua” album. The $22.95 admission includes a Hawaiian buffet (laulau, chicken long rice, kalua pork, lomi salmon, fruit salad, tofu and watercress salad, pineapple slaw, pineapple upside down cake, chocolate haupia pie). Call 924-4992. If this flies — and why shouldn’t it? — expect more Aloha Friday affairs in the future. And yes, the entertainment will be broadcast live on AM 940. ...

Hawaiiana mecca: The aforementioned Kani Ka Pille Grille at the Outrigger Reef  is quickly find its niche as a Waikiki hot spot. No wonder; these acts, playing from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. daily, provide a bounty of listening joy:

Thursday: Kawika Kahiapo and Martin Pahinui — two soloists from two ‘ohana; Kahiapo, from Kaukahi; Pahinui, from the iconic Waimanalo Pahinui clan.

Friday: Kaukahi — An award-winning foursome mixing traditional and contemporary Hawaiian sounds encompassing four-part male harmonies, acoustic guitar, ‘ukulele, Hawaiian slack key.
Saturday: Manoa DNA — Dad and sons, in this multi-generational musical family, has quickly developed a global audience
Sunday: Brother Noland, a prolific Island veteran, plays through April 15; his label, the Mountain Apple Company, will provide acts for this slot.
•  Monday: Kimo and Kamuela Kahoano, that’s father and son, respectively,  present a “Pau Hana Monday” talent search  with up-and-coming new artists.
Tuesday: Weldon Kekauoha, award-winning Hawaiian musician, shares his contemporary Island tunes.
Wednesday: Cyril Pahinui, one of Hawaii’s most legendary slack key with Grammy pedigree, from the Pahinui family.
Meal service is available from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Call 924-4992.

The envelope, please: This year’s Na Hoku Hanohano Awards, the 32nd annual competition organized by the Hawai’i Academy of  Recording Arts, will be held June 9 at the Sheraton Waikiki hotel’s Hawaii Ballrooms. The preliminary ballot is about to be mailed to HARA members, to pare down for the final roster. The awards evening will be televised live on K5 The Home Team. And yes, the awards fest is a tad later than usual this year. Information: 593–9424, ...

Scholarship applications: In conjunction with the Hoku Awards, the Bill Murata Memorial Scholarship for 2009 is seeking applications, who are college sophomores or beyond with a keen interest and focus on Hawaiian music and/or poetry. Application forms, available at the Hoku website, are due May 15. Information: Bryson Ramos at the HARA office (593-9424) or Lea Uehara (941-8751). Murata is the award-winning late recording producer and advocate of Hawaiian acts and Island music.

All that jazz: Michael Paulo hosts the last weekend of Smooth Jazz Nights at 8 p.m. tomorrow and 7 p.m. Saturday at the Royal Hawaiian Center Theater (aka the Waikiki Nei Theatre). Performers include Bobby Caldwell, known for “What You Won’t Do for Love;” Greg Adams, a founding member of Tower of Power and the iconic horn section; Pauline Wilson, lead singer of Seawind; and host Paulo, onetime Kalapana member who also has performed with Al Jarreau. Tickets: $45, $55.

Gypsy jazz returns: With “April in Paris” as a theme, the Hot Club of Hulaville struts back to the Manoa Valley Theatre for yet another MVT Studio Series show, at 7 p.m. April 6 and 7. Hulaville willhost guests Rocky Holmes on clarinet and DeShannon Higo on trumpet; Le Crepe Café will prepare savory crepes and other sweets from 5:30 p.m. Tickets: $25. Call 988-6131;

Economic stimulus package: With an economic slowdown, the folks at Dixie Grill in ‘Aiea — that’s Ed Wary, owner of Dixie Grill and g.m. Patrick Dolan — have ramped up efforts to update  its menu with day-by-day promotions to get folks eating.
•    Military Mondays offers a 10 per cent discount on food with military folks with I, from 4 p.m,. till closing.
•    Kids Eat Free  on Tuesdays, with a qualifying adult. Besides a keiki menu, children get crayons and puzzles and a sandbox to frolic in.
•    39 Cents Wings on Wednesdays, with the Grill’s Southern-style recipe.
•    Country Music Night on Thursdays, complete with bar specials.
•    Louisiana Crab & Shrimp Boil on Fridays, from 5 p.m.
•    Oyster Day on Saturdays, with shucking and slurping till the oysters are gone.
•    All-You-Can-Eat-Crab on Sundays, if you dine and order between 6 and 7 p.m. “Once your first order arrives, you have an hour to eat all you can eat,” says Dolan.
Dixie Grill is located at 99-016 Kamehameha Hwy. Call 485- 2722.

Island Sounds is back: And away we go!

March 20th, 2009

It’s been a couple of months since we’ve tended to Island Sounds, our reviews of local CDs.
So, time to relaunch:


Jake Shimabukuro arguably is the No. 1 ‘ukulele virtuoso; he tours solo, jams with Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and records with Yo-Yo Ma. Alone with his trusty uke and playing “raw” amid adoring fans in clubs large and small, Ol’ Frenetic Fingers gently sweeps through 12 emotion-charged originals (some known, some new) and five covers (a uke take of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and a killer Bach bit on “Two-Part Invention No. 4 in D Minor”) with even a tribute to his Asian heritage on “Sakura, Sakura.” It’s a journey of exploration and an explosion of artistry — with a little between-song patter justifying the “live” element. A dynamic Shimabukuro soars! | Wayne Harada, special to The Advertiser

Overview: Shimabukuro’s sizzling strumming style gets ample showcase, but warm, intimate and quiet moments endear, too. But where’s the DVD version?

**** (four stars)

Hawaiian Man
Mountain Apple

A pioneer of the Jawaiian music sound, Brother Noland returns to his Island roots with this revealing, reassuring assembly of traditional Hawaiian tunes rendered in old-school kupuna style, laced with wisdom and soulfulness. Highlights: a playful “Henehene Kou ‘Ana,” a reflective “My Little Grass Shack at Kealakekua, Hawaii,” an expressive “Great Hawaiian Man” (in English) and new versions of “Royal Hawaiian Hotel” and  his signature “Pua Lane.” Noland’s casual style (he plays uke and slack-key guitar) is blessed with accompaniment of Ledward Kaapana, Mike Kaawa and Kawika Kahiapo; his  Hawaiian eloquence makes this a winnah. Don’t miss the bonus track, “Mr. Sun Cho Lee.”| Wayne Harada, special to The Advertiser

Overview: This is kanikapila time, a moment for sharing; happily, Noland plays live Sundays at the new Kani Ka Pila club at the Outrigger Reef on the Beach.

**** (four stars)

A yen for travel in Japan....

March 20th, 2009

Moshi moshi from Japan.
On my first trek to Japan, I’ve quickly learned that the Japanese commute, shop, eat and work with efficiency, precision, and dedication.
A 10-day visit to Kyoto, Tsukuba and Tokyo — with stays in three hotels and commutes by taxi, bus, subway, bullet train and foot — opened my eyes to a culture and lifestyle that is inspired and welcoming. The people are warm; made up for the brrrrrrisk 40s/30 temps and one instance of snow flurries.
The Japanese take pride in their temples, which they visit like out-of-town tourists; they eat simply (and sometimes with kaiseki grandeur), with food served with exquisite eye-appeal; and they shop everywhere they go, like visitors — in the heart of town, in villages, at train stations, at pedestrian-friendly sectors offering rows and rows of little boutiques, eateries and everyday pharmacies.
They pray openly and frequently at unexpected temples tucked within busy shopping zones, finding a zen moment for reflection and inspiration.
If you’re lost or feel disoriented, stop and kindly ask someone. He or she will pause to point you in the right direction— or even walk a block or two with you to find what you’re looking for.
In Japan, there are worlds to explore, examine and experience.

Ten things you might want to do:

1 — Catch the bullet train called Shinkansen, the high-speed railway that supposedly transports 375,000 people daily. We caught it from Kyoto to Tsukuba. Opt for reserved seats for ultimate comfort; if you get hungry, a vendor rolls in a cart, airline style, selling snacks and drinks. Or bring on your own bento bought at the train station. The Shinkansen flies at 186 mph, with impressive comfort and ease; you see both rural and city sights, offering quick snapshots of the land- and homescapes.

2  — Explore the Ginza in Tokyo. At night, it throbs with neon signs galore, with jazz and karaoke clubs scattered amid business highrises and retailers. During the day, visitors and working folks form a sea of moving bodies on the busy corridors. There’s plenty of shopping, but people-watching is a particular joy. Signage is an issue; most places don’t have English names so if you’re looking for a specific store, get the address.

3 — Ride a cab. The taxis queue at hotels, but you can hail one from the roadside. Fares start at under 700 yen or under 800 yen, depending on the city, and short hops cost between 1000 and 1200 yen. The attraction here: the cabs have rear doors that shut automatically on the left side of the car. Remember, in Japan, they drive on the “other” side of the road.

4  — Experience ocha. That’s tea. Hotels make it easy, with a ready-to-dispense hot water in the room. Push, presto, hot water emerges from a hot pot, with tea bags readily available. Such a wonderful concept; I bought a dispenser for home use a few days upon return. (Go to Don Quijote or Shirokiya).

5 — Visit a department store, like Seibu or Mitsukoshi. Think Shirokiya with six, seven or eight floors. The street level area  with food stations — fresh and packaged  —boast counters galore, each hawking mochi, manju, candy, baked treats, senbei, bento lunches, sushi, ala carte entrees such as fish and oden and more.  I trekked through the Seibu in Tsukuba, but it’s in Tokyo, too. You’ll be tempted to buy something with the baked goods particulary enticing. And yes, you can taste samples, too.

6 — Shop till you drop. In Kyoto, head for the quaint specialty shops along Shijo Dori and in Kawaramachi Dori. The covered arcades boast trinkets, food booths, clothing, lacquer ware, tea shops, and  many other specialties. In Tokyo, you shouldn’t miss the Harajuku area right out of the Harajuku Station on the Yamanote subway line in Shibuya; this is a destination for hip and funky, where Lolitas and Little Bo Peep-dressed girls in Kawaii frills and candy-colored hair, and Goth guys parade in street garb that is fashionably young and manga or anime-inspired. —  Stores you might enjoy — Tokyu (cq) Hands (called Ginza Hand in Tokyo), an emporium of housewares, wellness goods and services, DIY tools, stationery and more; and Muji, another pleasurable store noted for its minimalism designs and “green” wares, from clothing to kitchen and bath goods, from travel bags to stationery, all with simple and clean looks.

7 — Explore a palace. Reservations are necessary; we explored a pair: the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Kyoto and the Tokyo Imperial Palace in Tokyo. You can’t imagine the grandeur and the history, till you get inside the manicured grounds, with incredible edifices from Japan’s fabled past. The Kyoto palace tour includes the Shinshinden, the hall for state functions, and the Kogoshi, or court room. The guided tour allows for numerus photo ops of historic buildings erected without nails, some in persimmon-hued columns and beams; most with traditional roofs of layered cedar. The gardens are gorgeous, even if only the plum (not cherry blossoms) trees are now flowering in its dark pink dress. The Tokyo palace, on the site of Edo Castle, is home to the emperor of Japan; visits are restricted to exterior tours of  some halls, like the Chowaden reception hall, where a ritual with male officers and women in kimono was under way during our visit. The family’s residence is not open to the public except on Jan. 2 and Dec. 23, the emperor’s birthday.

8 — Take in a kabuki play at the Kabuki-Za, the key theater in the Ginza area dating back to 1889. “Rush” tickets are available only from an hour before curtain daily, for the “makumi” tickets — four floor balcony seats for one-hour programs. If you want to see the second hour, you line up again. Don’t let the “scholarship section” space bother you;  as a visitor, you can’t score orchestra seats anyway; subscribers already have ’em. Rent the earphone guide for English translation, though listening to the cadence and rhythm of the kabuki actors has its own charm.  The hour-long, three-scene segment of “Genroku Chushingura,” the samurai drama about the 47 ronin based on a real-life incident about a lord attacked in a shogun’s palace and sentenced to ritual suicide — an exploration of samurai values. This is the real deal. The theater utilizes a mammoth revolving turntable to change one sce ne — larger than the Broadway version’s for “Les Miserables” — and
you should  try to witness this classic stage attraction, since there are plans to demolish the historic theater in 2010, with a new complex expected by 2013.

9 — See historical temples, particularly in Kyoto. If you have time for only one visit, don’t miss Sanjusangendo, a Buddhist temple in Higashiyama; statues abound, in awesome numbers.  This is an unusual destination — a temple that’s a walk-through, a longhouse with columns and 1,000 statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon which flank Sahasrabhuja-arya-

avalokiteśvara or the Thousand Armed Kannon, the main statue in 10 rows and 50 columns. There are 28 other statues of deities. No photography is allowed, but this is an eye-filling army of figures to behold. Oh, you may also pause for worship; there are no pews, however, for seating.

10 — Sit on a warm toilet. The Japanese know what comfort and cleanliness demand. The hotels we stayed at had bidets; one had a toilet seat that was eternally warm and heated. The  potty has an armrest-like gizmo with controls for the special features. On the other hand, beware: at many ‘traditional” places, like temples, you’ll find the squat toilet; choice is offered at malls and some temples, with the old type and the “western” convention we all prefer. I suppose it is an adventure to try this, too.

*  *  *

... To University of Hawaii professors — Andrew Werthheimer and his wife, Noriko Asato, a Japanese native —  for their kokua in navigating the trains, subways and buses of Japan, and for translating Japanese signs, menus and restaurant communiqués.
Werthheimer and Asato are UH colleagues of my wife; they attended educational conferences in Kyoto and Tsukuba.
It helps to have folks acclimated to Japanese ways and means, to figure out yen coins and store or street signs. One wonderful element of Japanese restaurants: they either have pictorial menus or storefront looks-like-real replicas of entrees, so pointing is an option.
— Wayne Harada

Hints of home, during a Tokyo visit

March 19th, 2009

TOKYO — Most folks travel to destinations hither and yon, for a change of pace —and place. Last thing you’d want to do is think of home, when you’re away, enjoying leisure time.
From rail to environmental concerns, a recent Japan trip pulled some Hawaii chains. While the turf and the temps were vastly different, Japan’s ways and means touched some local nerves for me.
Take rail.
While Honolulu readies and still debates the value and worth of rail, Japan is light years ahead in moving bodies efficiently and on the clock; the bullet train or the subways and trains in general come and go when they’re supposed to, with rare delays. There’s a jumble of separate lines, but the fares generally are as low as 130 yen (about $1.50) or 160 yen (about $2) and you move quickly in clean cabins that are jammed at morning and evening rush hour.
The system, while confusing and challenging for newbies, works. O’ahu won’t ever have that web of trains and subways going every which way; there’s no need for that kind of network.
But our city still is in the baby steps phase, with a long overdue rail system that might constitute no more than five or six stops on a typical Japanese subway system. Thus, we have ways to go.
Japan’s railway largely is above ground, occasionally tunneling through a mountain, and awfully quiet. I spotted numerous bike parking lots at rural stops, clearly an indication that folks pedal then hop onto a train to commute. We’re still fumbling with what buses will link certain communities to a station or where car parks will be provided.
Then there’s the matter of saving a major natural attraction.
I only saw Mount Fiji, Japan’s highest mountain, from the skies, en route to Japan from my Japan Air Lines seat. Its peak was clad in a white dress, peeking above white clouds.
Residents and visitors adore Fuji and that’s become a problem. Hikers and climbers bombard the site, raising environmental concerns. There’s talk about charging entrance  fees for climbers, according to The Asahi Shimbun.
Simply put, overcrowding is resulting in damage to the environment. So there’s talk that  Mount Fuji, located in the Shizuoka and Yamanishi prefectures, could benefit from user fees, which will provide funds to repair trails, collect debris, improve the site and even provide personnel for first aid stations.
It’s not yet a go, but the user fee for a popular attraction seems right on.
Sounds a lot like Hanauma Bay — a nature preserve that is a favorite of residents, and visitors — where crowd control is a major concern, where entrance fees help maintain the environment.
What do you think?

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