Archive for November, 2009

KITV launches hour-long late news tonight

November 16th, 2009

Beginning tonight (Nov. 16), KITV4 Island Television, the ABC affiliate, will expand its 10 p.m. newscast to a full hour. “ABC News Nightline” will follow at 11 p.m.
The move will give Channel 4 a solid 90 minutes of late night news — the first salvo in the evolving TV news war triggered by the recent shared resources union of KGMB9 and KHNL8 and KFVE.
“Given recent changes in the market, we believe there’s a positive message in expanding our local coverage,” said Mike Rosenberg, KITV president and general manager in a statement. He added, in a conversation, that the expansion involves new hirings in an otherwise climate of cutbacks in the news media, and indicated “the late night programming landscape has created some unique opportunities to reach new viewers.”
The extra 30 minutes will terminate the post-news “Seinfeld” syndicated shows that will continue only at 6:30 p.m., following the earlier newscast.
Genie Garner, KITV news director, said the hour-long late news “will provide an incredible coverage advantage (allowing) more important time for in-depth local coverage.”
KGMB, the CBS station, and KHNL, the NBC affiliate, now simulcast news with a blend of air personalities from both stations, broadcasting from shared facilities on Waiakamilo Road. Also, KGMB and KFVE swapped programming and call letters in an arrangement that is under scrutiny and challenge from media watchdogs since Alabama-based Raycom Media Inc. now controls both KHNL and KGMB, offering a product billed as “Hawaii News Now” aired on three stations with a combo of anchors.

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Even angels face a silenced Honolulu Symphony

November 13th, 2009

Sad, but not surprising.
That’s my reaction to the fate of the beleaguered Honolulu Symphony, faced with a $1 million debt and a lack of funds to continue year-round operations in a $4 million-plus budget.
I was in Charlotte, N.C. last week, when I read/heard about its plight: shutting down the current season, perhaps jump-starting in 2010, seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to reorganize, paring down by cutting staff and orchestra size to become financially viable.
This orchestra has been down this pathway before. An angel usually appears, making a sizable donation, almost to script. Angels are band-aids, not a cure or a solution. These are tough economic times, so the bleeding is faster and the results more painful.
“We have a world-class orchestra,” singer Jimmy Borges told me the other day. He’s sung with this ork many times and with many others in Mainland cities, and he stands by the locals.
As a fan and a singer, he has weathered the ups and downs of this bouncing cork. “Everyone waits for a savior, somebody who is going to help; that’s been part of the equation,” said Borges. “But in reality, the musicians are one step closer to the bread line this time.”
Orchestra folks will lose medical benefits; jobs, too, if the ranks are thinned, as expected. A first-class ork needs to maintain 60-plus musicians to perform popular pieces; if the ranks are cut, say in half, a 30-member orchestra won’t be able to play specific repertoire numbers, demoting the ranking and image of the organization — now, that would be tragic.
This isn't the first time musicians have been down this path; they’ve earlier suffered through no-paycheck months, worried about pink-slips, experienced cutbacks just to keep the boat afloat.
They’ve seen exec directors come and go, lived through the horrors of a strike, witnessed consultants come here to tell us what we know: you gotta ante up to build up a huge endowment whose interest would pump up the funds the orchestra needs so badly.
Because the financial cupboards are bare, contributions are stagnant and attendance disappointing, specifically with the classical series; the pops shows have held their own. So dry docking is the most sensible way out for this orchestral ship.
Or does this spell finis?
I hear veteran supporters are questioning the style and vision of the orchestra management and board and thus are reluctant to write their usual checks — the theory being, what bang do you get for your buck these days?
Symphonies are part of the spectrum of art forms that define and shape a community, alongside opera, ballet, theater, dance and other performance groups. The grim reality is that this ork is close to sinking.
TV shows get canceled, because of poor ratings; Broadway shows are shuttered, because of similar factors, often even with good reviews. For an orchestra to shut down the season is akin to a cancellation. It’s dreadfully tough to engineer a comeback.
This organization has been around for nearly 110 years. My first brush with the ork was when I was in grade school; our class attended a performance at McKinley High School auditorium (this was well before the Blaisdell Concert Hall was built) and my early recollection was simply this: the orchestra was cool, the musicians playing all kinds of instruments; I was especially taken by the oboe, for some reason.
As an adult, I’ve attended numerous concerts over the past four decades, and have come to realize that an orchestra is part philanthropy, part business, and constantly challenged to survive. Like its sister organizations ballet and theater, it requires institutional and grassroots support, to keep the tempo going and the music flowing. It needs to channel and build a younger core audience to transit and succeed the long-timers — to evolve into the check-writers of the future. In recent times, financial support has dropped despite efforts to attract big money.
Until the orchestra builds up that endowment that builds interest and dollars, there will be these frightening moments. You don’t hear much talk about endowments — because the higher ups don’t normally discuss sensitive issues.
I feel for the musicians, who work perhaps a little more than half the year and fill in open periods by taking on other gigs, from teaching to out-of-town performances.
But sometimes they snicker, with discord, that leaves a bitter aftertaste.
I recall several instances over the past decade or two. When traveling musicals like “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Les Miserables” and “The Lion King” “bumped” the ork out of Blaisdell to the Hawai’i Theatre, there was a hue and cry — like the ork owned the city facility. When butts fill the seats, everyone wins; the presenters, the players, the tenant (in this case, the city). “The Lion King” was a tenant with the Midas touch: the citizenry bought tickets, the hall was packed, the city made money.
In another example, the symphony musicians — who are free to moonlight to supplement their meager pay — bickered about performance time with “Phantom,” expecting overtime to compensate the long playing time, or two separate contracted groups, one to play during Act I, the other to finish up Act II. Get real.
Further, contracted musicians walked out of a Jim Nabors “Merry Christmas With Friends and Nabors” show at the Hawai’i Theatre when there was a power failure near the concert finale. Because of the uncertainty of the delay, to stay meant OT issues and the musicians figured it might be a long time for the switch to go back on, so they exited in the name of “safety issues.” Strange, since emergency lights were on onstage. Fortunately Maestro Catingub stayed, played solo piano, and enabled Nabors to complete the show, amid audience cheers.
Whatever happens to the Honolulu Symphony, some damage already is imminent: refunds for folks who can’t make the shows the orchestra have rescheduled; a blemish on potential subscription sales for 2010-11; a cloud over future fund-raising; general loss of faith in the organization.
A silenced concert hall is the worst fate for any city and its citizenry.

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Another mixed plate: Lots on the show radar

November 12th, 2009

Lots to do, so little time — so it’s all about choices.
Here’s what’s coming up:

Stage: MVT’s Christmasy ‘Winter Wonderettes’ bows tonight

Christmas cheer, in terms of stage merriment and holiday goodies and beverages served in the theater, arrives tonight when Manoa Valley Theatre presents the Island premiere of Roger Bean’s “Winter Wonderettes,” a sequel to the off-Broadway bonbon, “The Marvelous Wonderettes.”
Curtain is 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. Opening week is virtually sold out, so plan ahead.
The production focuses on the Marvelous Wonderettes girl group, comprised of Betty Jean, Cindy Lou, Missy and Suzay, who are tapped to perform at a holiday party for Harper’s Hardware, where Betty Jean has worked since high school. Alas, news leaks that the hardware store will close so the foursome does its best to share yuletide cheer with even a serenade to Santa.
The Wonderettes are played by Aubrey Lee Glover (Betty Jean), Pomai Lopez (Suzy), Alex Lanning (Cindy Lou) and Becky Matlby (Missy), who uncork a wildly entertaining and lighthearted nostalgic dollop of kitsch, plus such holiday songs as “Santa Baby,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Little Saint Nick,” “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” and even “Mele Kalikimaka.”
Brett Harwood is guest director, Kenji Higashihama is guest musical conductor and Grace Bell is guest choreographer. Dusty Behner is costumer, Benjamin MacKrell is set designer, Janine Myers is lighting designer, Jason Taglianetti is sound designerm Greg Howell is hair and makeup designer and Sara Ward is prop designer.
Tickets: $35 general, $30 seniors and military, $20 patrons 25 and younger. Reservations: 988-6131 or

Stage: ‘White Christmas,’ with snow, at DHT

Irving Berlin’s immortal film, “White Christmas,” adapted for the stage, arrives Dec. 5 at Diamond Head Theatre, complete with snow, the famous title song, and other melodic evergreens like “I Love a Piano,” "Snow," “Blue Skies,” “How Deep Is the Ocean” and “Happy Holidays.”
Curtain time is 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday on opening weekend, with a holiday schedule prevailing from Dec. 10 to 20: 8 p.m. Thursdays thorugh Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, 3 p.m. Saturday matinees Dec. 12 and 19.
John Rampage is directing and choreographing, Emmett Yoshioka is conducting.
Joshua Varde-Laguana and Kyle Malis play the song-and-dance team of Bob Wallace and Phil Davis, Army buddies during World War II, who meet two sisters played by Nicole Sullivan as Betty and Kathryn Lee as Judy, and accompany them to an inn in Vermont — where there is no snow, consequently no patrons. They call in the troops to do a show to rev up business.
Tickets: $12 to $42, with discounts for childen under 18, students and seniors 62 and older active-duty military. Reservations: 733-0274,

Life’s a beach: ‘Sunset’ offers films, Cypriano, hula
Tesero Hawaii’s “Sunset on the Beach,” Nov. 14 and 15 at Waikiki Beach, offers a panorama of free activities.
Food booths open at 4 p.m., followed by music both days; films are shown at dusk, at about 6 p.m.
The Saturday event, is sponsored by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, in conjunction with Lilly. Highlights: Reggae vibes from HiRiz; “Life of a Child,” a documentary, and the animated “Monsters vs. Aliens.”
The Sunday event is presented by Japan Airlines. Highlights: Performances by Nohelani Cypriano and kumu hula Blaine Kamalani Kia and the Ladies of Halau Ka Waikahe Lani Malie and the Men of Halau Kahulaliwai; “Hula Aloha — the Love of Dance,” and three films on Waikiki and hula, including Edgy Lee’s “Waikiki in the Wake of Dreams,” narrated in Japanese.

Music: Loggins & Messina reunite at Blaisdell
Loggins & Messina, the folk-rock dudes of “House at Pooh Corner,” “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” “Danny’s Song” and “Lahaina,” update their catalogue and renew their friendship of Islanders in a concert at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at Blaisdell Concert Hall.
Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina, who date back to the 1970s, have been a particular fave with Hawaii fans and have routinely included the Islands in their concert stops. Loggins has owned property on the Big Island and both have Hawaii friendships built over the decades.
Tickets: $45 to $75. Reservations: 591-2211,

Mall: City Lights photo exhibit at Kahala

To mark the 25th anniversary of the holiday tradition “Honolulu City Lights,” Friends of the Honolulu City Lights is presenting a photo display now through Nov. 28 at Kahala Mall.
The exhibit, fronting The Walking Company, is free and viewable during shopping hours.

Stage: ACT’s ‘High School Musical 2’ opens Nov. 19

Army Community Theatre’s “High School Musical 2,” the Disney phenom, opens Nov. 19 at Richardson Theatre, Fort Shafter.
It continues the saga at East High, when Troy, Gabriella and the Wildcats gang finish junior year and work at the Lava Springs Country Club.
Curtain time is 7:30 p.m.; performances are on Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 12.
The cast features Seth Lilley as Troy, Kayla Kashimoto as Gabriella, Vincert Fitzgerald as Ryan, Jana Souza as Sharpay and Jalen Thomas as Chad.
Coco Wiel is directing, Daren Kimura is conducting and Philip Amer Kelley is choreographing.
Tickets: $15 adults, 12 children. Reservations: 438-4480,

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Caught in Charlotte's web -- Charlotte, N.C., that is

November 7th, 2009

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — I am caught in Charlotte’s web, in my first-ever visit to this Southern city, and let me tell you why.
Surprises abound:
• Entertainment-wise, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band sold out the Time Warner Cable Arena this past Tuesday night — an indication that Charlotte is on The Map; he’s never ever come to Honolulu to perform. Miley Cyrus plays the same space Nov. 24; ditto. Don’t you feel left out?
• The national tour of “South Pacific” opens a five-day run Nov. 10 at the Belk Theatre (no, our Loretta Ables Sayre still is doing her Bloody Mary at Broadway’s Lincoln Theater, so she’s not touring), followed by “Spring Awakening” Feb. 2-7, “Jersey Boys” March 31-April 1, and “Mary Poppins” Aug. 26-Sept. 5 at the Belk, with “Wicked” bringing its spell May 19-June 13 to the Ovens Theatre; it will be years before one of these award-winning musicals hits Hawai’i’s shores; in reality, most won’t.
• Charlotte is the nation’s No. 2 financial hub, with Center City — the central downtown area, where skyscrapers rise like a garden of full-bloom roses — the fertile ground for Bank of America and Wachovia. The two institutions are competing for dominance. Money, money, money is the theme song — you’d think “Mamma Mia!” was playing (well, it was, several weeks ago).
• Center City has plenty of hotels — Westin, Hilton, Omni, Marriott, Doubletree — and beaucoup eating spots. But only three completed condos, with a luxury high-rise boom under way continuing the next few years. Thus, nighttime, the streets are virtually bare; there’s only a slim downtown residency. The past few nights, the American Association of School Librarians have been convening here this week (the reason I am here, being a spouse of a library professor) so College and Tryon Streets are the key hot zone avenues of some foot traffic.
• NASCAR is huge — no, a monster — here; while this is not the height of racing season, NASCAR is ensconced at the Lowes Motor Speedway at Concord. But change is in the wind: Lowes drops its title sponsorship and the facility is searching for a sponsor replacement in this weak economy. The outlook? A name like Charlotte Motor Speedway.
• Fame is the game: Opening May 11, 2010, the NASCAR Hall of Fame — adjoining the Charlotte Convention Center — easily will become the No. 1 visitor attraction, where racers and their cars will take centerstage. A behemoth corporate tower also is racing skyward.
• Shopaholics need to look elsewhere; there’s not a single downtown department store, nor vertical mall; while there are shopping plazas, including the new EpiCentre opening in spurts (some merchants are in biz, many more are yet to come), the tenants are generally snack, lounge, restaurant or service-oriented (copying operations, cell phone giants, drugstores). No place to buy clothes, toys, omiyage. Charlotte has no special cookie, candy, pastry; someone mentioned mayonaisse, but that’s like bringing shoyu to the Mainland. Where to go? The outlet outpost at Concord Mills.
• Light rail is limited — only 9.6 miles long now, with plans for expansion — but very evident here. I caught a ride the other day; LYNX, as it’s called, is fast, comfortable, affordable ( $1.50 one way), and — take note, Mayor Mufi Hannemann — is spurring development along the route, with condos and businesses in construction even in the soft economy. There are 15 stations, seven park-and-ride-locations — and LYNX serves a corridor from I-485 at South Boulevard to Uptown Charlotte, with Center City in the service zone.
• Captive audience: Interestingly, the city prison is located downtown — across the street from the courthouses — and prisoners are shuttled from cell to courtroom through an underground passageway, with little chance of escapes. You can’t tell there’s a prison with its high-rise glam look; the tell-tale hallmark are the narrow ribbon of windows around the structure. Clearly, these are rooms with no views, just some light.

Cruz on the prowl, on a green, affordable tour

November 6th, 2009

John Cruz, Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winning singer-composer, is going lean and green in November and December, with a statewide tour at modest venues with easy-on-the-pocketbook admission.
It’s his stimulus effort, to provide affordable good vibes in grassroots spaces. Some gigs have dinner options;
We caught up with him in Kona, to catch up on his mission:

Question: With a tight economy, this is a tour with affordable prices in venues not commonly tapped for a trouper of your stature. Is this an easy Cruz (well, cruise) for you, or a challenge?

Answer: It’s great to fill large venues, but regardless of how big a place is or what the ticket price, the goal is always the same and that is to connect with fans and make people feel good.

Q: In these rough times for folks, with furloughs and lean wallets, do you suppose your grassroots route will have appeal and make fans feel better and at the same time support you?

A: Bigger venues cost more to play at, so this time, I wanted to keep ticket prices down for people who wanted to come see me play but maybe couldn't afford it. So I decided to play at smaller places with low overhead so my shows were accessible to more people.

Q: Sounds like you’ll have fun with your hand-picked band of Frank Carillo and Imua Garza, folks you’ve worked with. How did you achieve that vital chemistry?

A: Imua actually can’t make any of the shows this time; his schedule just changed. I’ll have Frank Carillo with me on bass at all the shows, plus some family members and other guests at the different venues. Choosing people with good chemistry is essential when you’re doing live performances. That energy lifts the music up and translates for everyone, both on and off stage.

Q: You performed earlier this year at the South by Southwest fest in Austin. How did Hawai‘i’s music fit with that crowd?

A: Austin is a music town and fans there already had a familiarity with Hawaiian music. Rather than hoping people would accept the music, we found they were actually seeking us out because they were excited to finally have some Hawaiians play Austin. The whole experience was a blast.

Q: So you’re hitting most of the Neighbor Islands; but how will fans on Lana‘i, or even Ni‘ihau, react when they’re not on your radar?

A: I go to as many islands as possible. I’m happy to be playing on Moloka‘i this time, in addition to the other islands on the usual route.

Q: What can you say about the third album that’s in the works?

A: My new album is really just starting to take shape, so I’m still not sure what it’s going to become. I’m still selecting the songs and deciding what I want it to be. I have some songs that I love and others that have yet to be written. I’m excited to be starting another project and keep the creativity going. I hope I can capture that same magic in this third project. It’s always a challenge to do that and hope to connects with people.

Q: You plan to hit the road next year to the East Coast, the West Coast, Canada, Japan, etc. Are you a traveling man – living from a suitcase?

A: I love traveling. I’m fine with living out of a suitcase, backpack or whatever. I just love to get out there and play. It’s an opportunity for people to hear my music, which is wonderful no matter how long I'm on the road.

Q: You had basic training, formulating your music, while living and working in the East and Northeast before settling back in Hawaii. What lessons and insights did you learn when you were in turf that many have tried, but only few have succeeded?

A: I’ve learned that no matter where you go, you have to play what you know and how you feel. If you try to be a certain thing because you're in a certain place and think you have to sound a certain way, it won't work. If you’re fake, you won't have a lasting impact at all. So no matter where I’ve lived, I’ve stayed true to myself and my music and I think people have responded to that.

Q: Can you equally and freely express the feeling and intent of a tune only with instrumental guitar, or do you feel you do your best work with lyrics that provide shadings and details of an experience?

A: I love playing instrumentals. To me, it's always more rewarding when you can move people with just a guitar. It's easier to have people respond to vocals, but if you can make an impact with just a guitar, it feels that much sweeter.

Q: You’re part of a musical family, with a dad who entertained and brothers who sing and strum. Ultimately, at some time, you all were competing for the same audience. How competitive, or supportive, are you, as 'ohana-siblings-musicians?

A: My family has always been very supportive of each other. We’re not competitive about our music. We might have some of the same audience, but we feel it's a blessing to be able to get up there and play it. It's about the joy of the music, not about who is better than whom.

Q: Is it intimidating to count among your fans, and friends, some notables like Jack Johnson, Jackson Browne, Jimmy Buffett, Lisa Loeb, Trey Anastasio and others?

A: It’s great to be around artists like that to see what music is like for them I’m just happy they've found success and psyched they’re able to crack that lock, so to speak.

Q: And who do you admire and listen to, as fan?

A: In Hawaiian music, I admire Peter Moon, Auntie Genoa and of course, brothers and sisters too because I love them. In contemporary folk music, I love Bruce Cockburn, Greg Brown, artists that don't get a lot of mainstream radio play. They are more independent and I think it's rewarding to do it yourself.

Q: It must be a cool gig, to be spokesman of Sprint Hawaii's "Mr. Holland's Opus" Foundation, which donates free ‘ukuleles to school. Do you wish you had this kind of kokua while you were in school? Any particular memory of a school visit to share?

A: When I was in school, music was a standard part of the curriculum. Everybody had a chance to play. It's strange to hear that schools now don't have music programs or that students have to play paper ukuleles. Hawaii has such a rich musical heritage and the fact that the state doesn't nurture that is ridiculous.

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not singing or other words, the flipside of John Cruz, performer.

A: I love fishing and go as often as I can. I like to go camping and do stuff that's quiet and that doesn't happen in front of people.

Q: “Island Style” will probably be your signature. How true-to-life is it— mom prepping beef stew and lomi salmon, go grandma to clean yard, kanikapila local style. All real, from small kid time? Was there a verse that never made the cut?

A: "Island Style" is completely true to life. That's why I wrote it. It means different things to different people, which is why different verses have taken life. I wrote my other verse as a response to people who started writing them on their own.


Kailua-Kona — 7:30 p.m. today, (Nov 6) Aloha Theatre, 79-7384 Mamalahoa Hwy.; $35 reserved, $25 general;
Hilo — 7 and 9 p.m. tomorrow, (Nov 7) The Mongolian Grill, 194 Kilauea Ave.; $25 with dinner for first show, $15 for second show; http:/
Princeville — 7:30 p.m. Nov 13, Church of the Pacific, 5-4280 Kuhio Ave.; $25 reserved, $20 general;
Waimea, Kaua‘i — 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14, Waimea Theatre, 9691 Kaumuali‘i Hwy.; $20 reserved, $15 general;
Kaunakakai — 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27, Paddler’s Inn, 10 Mohala St.; $45 reserved with dinner, $20 reserved; $10 general; 808-533-5256
Honolulu — 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1, Jimmy Buffett’s at the Beachcomber, Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber hotel; $45 adults with dinner, $25 children with dinner; $20 general; 791-1200
Kahului — 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4, McCoy Studio Theatre, Maui Arts and Cultural Center; $32; 808-242-7469,

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