By Wayne Harada
Hawai’i’s theater and dance community said aloha to one of its own yesterday — and a fond, fun and festive goodbye it was for Jim Hutchison — at Diamond Head Theatre.
Theater people do it best — share songs, share stories, share memories.
You could have charged admission for the Celebration of Life adieu for Hutchison, who died April 16 at age 75 of bladder cancer.
Little did most of us know that he kept a lively, hilarious and touching journal, from his four decades of dancing, directing and, excerpts from which were read by Kirk Matthews, who emceed the celebration. Oh, what an imprint Hutch left, on and off stage.
Ex-wife Wisa D’Orso, who performed a three-song medley complete with a white boa (really, when hasn’t she had a feathery companion?), was a sensation, singing and prancing — and oh, how we miss that smoky voice of hers! — and targeting some of the lyrics (especially “Goody, Goody”) to a director’s chair bedecked with lei and holding Hutch’s remains. Yep, those watching were chortling with delight.
Shari Lynn (“Before the Parade Passes By,” from “Hello, Dolly”; an earlier entry mistakenly attributed the tune to "Funny Girl," since corrected) and Dennis Proulx (“Trouble,” from “The Music Man”) personalized their numbers with reflection about their mentors with earnest charm and depicting the spontaneous honesty of Hutch.
After Shari closed her first-ever show on the DHT stage, she asked director Hutch what if she never gets another role? His comment: “Life goes on.” Proulx, who was sweaty at his “Music Man” audition, was showering at the theater when Hutch pulled the curtain to inform him he’d landed the Professor Harold Hill part.
Cathy Foy-Mahi reprised “I’ll Remember You,” the Don Ho hit, which, she said, Hutch had asked her to perform at his late friend Steve Harmon, beachside at Lanikai, so she did it for her buddy, too.
And Zenia Zambrano, who revived “Crazy” from her portrayal — twice — of singer Patsy Cline, fit the bill for Hutch’s cravings for country music ... when he was not listening to pop or the classics or show tunes.
Kurt and Tita, children of Hutch and D’Orso, also took the stage, demonstrating that they have show biz in their blood.
There was drama and comedy — Roslyn was to sing “The Party’s Over,” but couldn’t because of a bad cold; but throaty voice notwithstanding, she spoke with candor and warmth; Hutch’s good pal Glenn Cannon shared vignettes about their love, and bickerings, about football; Matthews, reading from Hutch’s journal about his Broadway experience of getting more chuckles than anyone else in Broadway's “Pajama Game,” because Hutch performed with his fly open; and Frank DeLima, in Cardinal Vermicelli regalia, gave a blessing and uncorked his gag with a Catholic punchline.
Missing: Terence Knapp, another of Hutch's longtime allies. So what happened? “I am heartbroken,” Knapp told me. He didn't know he was top of the program; he regrettably missed sharing his song and memoirs due to complications too long to discuss here, but he said he "hopes Jim understands and forgives." But Knapp made it to DHT in time to relay his sorrow to Kurt Hutchison.
Who could have asked for a better send-off? Hutch must be in heaven still laughing with joy, cherishing the parade of talented pals.