Archive for March, 2010

Two Broadway biggies top MVT’s 2010-11 season

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March 17th, 2010



The premiere of two award-winning Broadway shows, “Avenue Q” and “August: Osage County,” will highlight the Manoa Valley Theatre’s 2010-2011 season. Both shows are adult-oriented, with frank language and mature themes, but are prime attractions for theater audiences.
“We are particularly thrilled to be one of the first theaters in the country to receive independent licensing for ‘Avenue Q’ and ‘August: Osage County,’” said MVT producing director Dwight Martin. Both shows are previous Tony Award winners; “Avenue,” a Best Musical winner in 2004, last year closed on Broadway, but later reopened as an off-Broadway musical featuring muppets, and “August,” about a dysfunctional family in Oklahoma, also was a Best Play hit in 2008.
“MVT is committed to including exciting, contemporary plays within our annual lineups,” said Martin.
The season schedule:
“The Honky Tonk Angels,” a musical by Ted Swindley, Sept. 9 to 26. It’s about three women fed up with their lives, who chase their dreams by becoming country singers; the score includes familiar hits by Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Willie Nelson, tapping such riches as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Nine to Five,” “Stand By Your Man” and “Harper Valley PTA.”
“A Christmas Carol,” an adaptation by Doris Baizley of the Charles Dickens holiday classic, Nov. 11 to 28. Performed as a play-within-a-play by a motley crew, in raggedy costumes and masks befitting the gray and ghostly tale, and set entirely in Scrooge’s bedroom and focusing on his viewpoint. Elements of commedia dell’arte prevail, with minimalist sets and no props to test the audience’s imagination.
“Around the World in 80 Days,” a comedic adventure based on Jules Verne’s classic, adapted by Mark Brown, Jan. 13 to 30. Phileas Fogg and his faithful manservant circle the globe and try to beat the clock, in a whirlwind world tour involving stampeding elephants, raging typhoons, runaway trains and more. There’s danger, romance and slapstick, with five actors portraying 39 characters traversing seven continents.
“Avenue Q,” a musical featuring puppets by Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty, March 3 to 20. Look who’s in the ‘hood — a “Sesame Street”-type crew of singing and talking puppets, enacted by actors, with coloring book costumes, focusing on Princeton, a college grad who comes to New York with a small bank account and big dreams, settling on Avenue Q, where the neighbors include Brian, a jobless comedian; his therapist-fiancee Christmas Eve; Nicky, a good-hearted slacker; his roommate Rod, a GoP investment banker with a secret; Trekkie Monster, an Internet addict; Kate, a kindergarten teaching assistant; and Gary Coleman, the buildings superintendent.
“August: Osage County,” a drama by Tracy Letts centering on a reunion of the Weston family in Oklahoma, May 19 to June 5. An intense, raucous, funny and riveting three-act play, embracing anything and everything about family life, including drug abuse, alcoholim, suicide, death, sexual harassment, pedophelia, aging, generational change, racism, incest, infidelity, dysfunction, and, ultimately love.
“Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding,” an environmental comedy by Artificial Intelligence set at a wedding reception, June 30 to July 17. The audience is part of the party, as Tony and Tina tie the knot, hold a reception, and hear the entertainment — and they eat, too. The play is one of the longest-running off-Broadway comedies and has become the landmark environmental theatrical piece because of its interactive and improv flavor. It’s a revival for MVT, which last produced the show in 1996.
Season ticket sales go on sale shortly. Information: 988-6131.

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Review: The Brothers Cazimero's 'Favorites' is one for all seasons

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March 13th, 2010



With apologies to James Bond, nobody does it better than The Brothers Cazimero, whose “Favorites”-themed one-nighter last night (Saturday, March 13) at the Hawai’i Theatre demonstrated that Robert and Roland are mightier than ever.
In a two-hour-plus production high on vocal dynamics, sizzling with male and female hula, ingenious in the use of stellar guest artists, and bursting with enthusiasm and inspiration, The Caz put on a career-best spectacle laced with nostalgia and seasoned with savvy and artistry to spare. They made it all look easy and sound breezy but Robert, the brain and focus of this momentous mounting, said it best: “We have history,” meaning that a four-decade run that included gigs at local spots as diverse as Chuck’s Cellar and the Royal Hawaiian hotel’s Monarch Room and distant as Carnegie Hall and Washington D.C., had prepared them and their cast to deliver such solid showmanship.
Roland’s pre-holiday bout with pneumonia sent him to the hospital and canceled a multi-show Christmas run at the Hawai’i Theatre last December. Yes, it was a disappointment, but health care prevailed.
Fit as Robert’s stand-up fiddle and looking and sounding fully in control like his amplified bass, Roland appeared rested and restless to get back into action, sitting on a high stool instead of his trademark white cube, and was matched by Robert’s zest and zip caused by the unexpected down period.
Further, the time off must have stirred the creative juices and got Robert, in particular, thinking; a show with crowd favorites would have been a simple formula to deliver, but the kumu hula-singer was generous and genuine in his praise of his cast, which included 24 gents from his Halau Na Kamalei o Lililehua, five wahine from the Royal Dance Company, hula soloist and “third brother” Leina’ala Kalama Heine, Lehua Kalima of Na Leo, and three exquisite hula queens from the duo’s past, Nani Dudoit, Jackie Boothe and Moea Defries.
The trio of hula maidens, who joined The Caz at the Monarch Room over a dozen years, took turns doing signature solos — Dudoit on “Moon of Manakoora,” Boothe on “Love Song of ‘Kalua’” and Defries on “Hawaiian Vamp” — that sent both Roland and Robert to orchestra seats to finally witness what audiences had seen and applauded tirelessly over time. You see, when you’re the voices and musicians of a Cazimero concert, you only see the dancers from your stage perch, which usually mean their backs; you could feel and hear the enthusiasm and energy as the brothers turned spectators, cheering, clapping and commending like ordinary folks, as the women danced to recordings. And, in the case of Robert, providing stereo vocal dynamics, involuntarily singing along to his own voice, from the row behind me.
Chicken skin time, for sure.
The “Favorites” format was a boon; haul out the best and reboot with new vision and version. There was a pre-intermission Christmas acknowledgment (mahalo, guys) with Robert on keyboard singing with Roland on his trusty guitar the inspirational “Go to the Light,” a natural emotion-raiser to bring down the first-half curtain and, yes, to recognize the health-related disruption. And just before the final curtain, a reprise of “May Day Is Lei Day” — a reminiscence of the three decades of Waikiki Shell May 1 triumphs —made it a show for all seasons.
Before Lehua Kalima started her planned segment, she surprised Robert — whose birthday is on March 20 — with a song she penned about “Awapuhi,” or yellow ginger — as he was hastily directed to sit on a stool on stage. Heine did a sit-down hula, hoisting fragile yellow ginger lei — as Robert reacted like a kid, eyes slightly moistening with glee.
Then he hit the keyboards again to provide, with Roland, a male chorus version of her “Local Boys” hit from yesteryear, as well as on another Na Leo hit, “What Are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life?” Such give-and-take validated their friendship, trust and aloha for each other.
There were several other moments of sheer rhapsody.
Robert and Roland’s succinct montage of “Pua Lilia,” “Ku’uipo,” “Hawaiian Paradise,” “Follow Me” and “Kawika” — with succulent, soaring high notes and iconic bass-and-guitar orchestrations from the combo of two — was among the evening’s best evidence that these self-proclaimed dinosaurs are not extinct.
And oh, you couldn’t help but sing along or move your lips on another riveting and rousing revival of a vintage gem, “One Small Favor,” with dancer-singer Sky Perkins providing the buoyant lead voice and the glamor with the Bros taking alternate turns revving up the huge audience fave.
And the “Pua Hone” finale corralled the women solo dancers again, along with ‘Ala, who danced the Dennis Kamakahi compositions dozens of times separately before — but moved as one; they were briefly interrupted by Robert, who explained that dedication and wisdom thrived within the ranks with intuitive skills, giving deserved credit to the commitment and caring of crew.
Yes, the show was taped — mostly for documentation and personal use by its creators, namely executive producer Burton White and director-choreographer Robert Cazimero — and would be a DVD keepsake for anyone in attendance. Alas, it’s not for public release — and unless there’s a “Favorites 2,” which Robert could be urged to launch, we all have to let the memories live in our hearts.

Vanita Rae Smith kissing goodbye to Army Community Theatre

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March 12th, 2010



Vanita Rae Smith, 66, the prolific producer-director at Army Community Theatre, is retiring after a 32-year theatrical career here. She has timed her exit with her current production, the backstage musical “A Chorus Line” (playing this and next weekend at Richardson Theatre at Fort Shafter), because it captures the heartbeat and essence of her love for theater.
“Timing is everything in show business and a lady always knows when to take a bow,” said Smith. “It is best to leave ACT near the top of my art and not just fade away behind closed doors.”
“Vanita is a theatrical institution in town,” said Jo Pruden, a theatrical colleague for 40 years, who has worked with Smith as box office manager for 13 years, and directed by Smith in at least 15 productions.
“It’s kind of an end of an era, if she no longer is associated with Army Community Theatre," said Pruden. "She decided it was time — but I can’t see her fully retiring. She will be involved in theater, in some capacity or other. It’s in her blood.”
Smith has been the face and the pillar of ACT, an organization with early roots at Schofield Barracks, when productions were free and largely attended by a military audience. At the more centrally located Richardson Theatre at Fort Shafter, Smith has raised the bar of old and new musicals — ACT’s hallmark — over the past dozen years, with shows such as “Miss Saigon,” “Cats,” “Aida,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Guys and Dolls” and “Curtains” that have drawn fans from all over the Islands. She has been at the helm for 30 of ACT's 66 years.
“I will miss the art, the directing,” said Smith. “It’s hard to give up the shows. But not the management part of the job; that was often a pain in the butt.”
Officially, Smith has been ACT’s managing and artistic director, and had been tirelessly working on a transition plan that would enable her to depart with a replacement in place. She hired Brett Harwood, who is ACT artistic director more than a year ago, with intentions to groom him as she prepped for retirement.
“I had hoped to work on a succession plan over five years, so there would be a smooth transition,” she said. “But after some tears and a lot of soul-searching, I have decided the time is now, however inconvenient. So I’ve got to go.”
She plans to exhaust her vacation time and then retire. That will allow her to openly launch a business plan or job search.
“A Chorus Line” has a special place in her heart, since she spent an afternoon with the show’s creator, Michael Bennett, prior to the show’s 1975 opening. She was program chair for a division of the American Theatre Assn. attending a convention in New York at the time, but she never saw the show on Broadway and also missed Jason Tam, a Hawaii native who, as a youth, performed on the Army stage, during the revival two years ago. “During the rehearsal process, so many memories have flashed,” she said. “A Chorus Line,” symbolized by the musical’s iconic hit song, “What I Did for Love,” magnifies Smith’s accomplishments.
Smith launched her Army career at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, where she had interrupted service because of Hawai’i ties; she arrived here in 1969, staying through 1973, and returned to Missouri where she established dinner theaters at Fort Leonard Wood and in Fort Knox, Kentucky. But she returned in 1982 — to stay.
She has directed nearly 130 plays, including 25 productions at Manoa Valley Theatre and a handful at Windward Theatre Guild. After the MVT production of “Doubt” here, it was staged in a regional theater competition in 2009.
Smith was awarded the American Association of Community Theatre’s Outstanding Service Award at Sardi’s on Broadway a few years ago for her “significant, valuable and lasting service” to community theater in America.
She also was an architect and co-founder of the Hawaii State Theater Council’s Po’okela Awards, which honors achievement and performance among member theater groups.
As Army’s entertainment honcho, Smith also produced a string of Fourth of July day-long spectaculars at Sills Field at Schofield Barracks, capped with “The Flags We Follow” narrated by Jo Pruden and capped by aerial fireworks.

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Extras, extras: ‘Five-O’ casting for extras

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March 7th, 2010



“Hawaii Five-O,” the remake of the popular CBS-TV series that made Jack Lord a household name, will begin filming the pilot in the Islands this week, and casting for extras has been underway.
Those interested should e-mail applications to Hawaii50casting@gmail.com.
Include a jpeg headshot, sizes, contact phone number, and list experiences and credits, if applicable. Special abilities should also be revealed: biking, paddling, swimming, singing, skating, and even unusual skills like underwater basket weaving or acrobatic dancing.
Union membership and fees would be required, should extra work surface.
The reboot is being developed by writers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, whose credits include “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” and the “Star Trek” relaunch, and “CSI: New York” executive producer Peter Lenkov.
Alex McLoughlin has been signed to portray Steve McGarrett; others cast so far include Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho Kelly, Grace Park as Kelly’s niece Kono Kalakaua, Scott Caan as Danny "Book 'em Danno" Williams and Taryn Manning as McGarrett’s sister Mary Ann McGarrett.
Because Caan still is attached to HBO’s “Entourage,” his will initially be a guest-starring arrangement, eventually segueing into a regular, should CBS picks up “Five-O” as a fall series. In this mounting, Danno will be a New Jersey cop assigned to the fictional state police unit following a divorce, who has to partner with McGarrett.
Len Wiseman will direct.

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My nostalgia cup runneth over: Remember these?

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March 5th, 2010



Are we in retro mode right now?
The Ranch House has been rebooted as a destination for Island-style comfort food; not a free-standing “ranch house,” like the original in ‘Aina Ha’ina, but located in a second-story walk-up on Kapahulu Avenue where Sam Choy’s and Sergio’s used to be.
“Hawaii Five-O” is gearing up as a new old TV show, with a new generation of actors to carry on the tradition of Jack Lord and company.
The Aloha Stadium is bringing back periodic drive-in movies in its parking lot. Kids, go ask grandma and grandpa what a drive-in movie is.
Comebacks are often driven by yearnings for the past. Do we simply miss something or some place that’s no longer available just because today’s arena forgets roots and neglects comfort? Are closures, then isolated returns, just part of the cyclical nature of life?
On that note, I was thinking of some entertainment and dining bygones ... and started compiling a list. In reality, once something’s gone, it’s pau. Like Aloha Airlines. Like sugar plantations and pineapple canneries. And, in light of last week’s startling development, two daily newspapers face drastic change, and possible extinction for one.

On a nostalgia note, I’m thinking ...

RESTAURANTS:

Canlis. Waikiki’s first fine-dining destination, with waitresses clad in kimoni with obi.
Swiss Inn. Not just because of the simple Swiss pleasures, but because of the salad dressing (still available in stores) and proprietors Martin and Jean E. Wyss.
Maile Restaurant. You’d don a jacket to get into the upscale mood; helped put the Kahala Hilton on the destination map.
M’s Ranch House, the original in ‘Aina Haina. Oh, to have the little freshly-baked bread that came as soon as you sat; the scratchy “Happy Birthday” recording, played on your birthday, and the toy chest for kids; and, in later years, live music with The Makaha Sons. Comfort food, comforting local music.
Andrews. Not the downtown spin-off, but the one at Ward Centre. Steaks, seafood, good times.
Tahitian Lanai. Oooh, the eggs Benedict for brunch were to die for.
Yacht Harbor Restaurant. The menu’s a blur, but there were views of the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and Ala Moana Park — a special place for special occasions.
The Third Floor. Just going for the naan bread was enough.
Coco’s. The go-to place after a movie, a play, or after you cruised Ala Moana Park; always open, with burgers and breakfasts to refuel and reflect.
Pearl City Tavern. A “country” eatery where vast numbers could dine on American or Japanese fare, and see live monkeys at the bar, bonsai collections on the roof.
Spindrifter. For business lunches or casual dinners, this mid-range Kahala spot made way for progress, despite a loyal clientele.
Le Bon Restaurant. Home of the singing waiters, who’d chirp, then scurry to the kitchen to fetch your soup or entrée, then sing again.
The Pottery. You could literally take home your dish, if you ordered something that came in a hand-made piece of pottery that was yours to keep when you’re pau kau kau.
Golden Dragon. In a town that still boasts scores of Chinese places, one closure in a hotel (Hilton Hawaiian Village) leaves a void: the best beggar’s chicken, baked in clay, which was retrieved with the help of a hammer.
Wisteria. Oh, those delish Okinawan shoyu pork and Japanese pork or chicken tofu dishes. The only restaurant that featured waitresses passing out bango numbers (tokens) to ID their table turf/customers.
Waikiki Sands. A very early, early buffet emporium, where, for $1, you could have it all. Not a dream, but the original bargain dining.
Suehiro. Japanese comfort food, from butterfish steaks to pork tofu. Some nights, you only want the plain and simple, not fancy-dancy cooking.
Columbia Inn. The Roundtable; the Broke-da-Mouth Stew; home of the Dodgers;
Tosh, then Gene Kaneshiro.

INFORMAL DINING:

KC Drive In. Am I the only one who still longs for the peanut butter shake with a waffle hot dog?
Hana Broasted Chicken. Because no one else (sorry, Zippy’s and KFC) made chicken skin so chicken-skin-ono.
Swanky’s. A downtown counter place, where hot dogs, burgers and french fries ruled, way before the coming of McDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box and Wendy’s.

BAKERIES:

Alexander Young Hotel bakery. Because its lemon crunch came was da best.
Sweetheart Bakery. As far as I’m concerned, the red velvet cake (and crème cheese frosting) was born here.
Bill’s Bakery. The place to go for French doughnuts, when Kapahulu mostly was known for Leonard’s Bakery and Rainbow Drive In, period.
9th Avenue Bakery. Dutch bread; the round loaf with the wrinkly, crinkly crust.
Yum Yum Tree. The original Kahala outlet (where Chili’s now sits) had a popular restaurant and bakery operation with the every pie variety imaginable; you could order single slices, too.

CLUBS/LOUNGES:

Trappers. A jazz mecca; a place to be seen, a hangout for celebs.
Duke Kahanamoku's. There would not have been a Don Ho if he didn't inhabit Duke's. Period.
Garden Bar. A launching pad for wannabes; count Carole Kai, The Krush, Barry Kim among the alumni. Waikiki sorely needs a site to expose and develop the future Don Ho, Danny Kaleikini, Loyal Garner, Dick Jensen.
Maile Lounge. Dance floor, Kit Samson’s Sound Advice, Paul Conrad, Anna Lea; nooks to schmooze and kibitz.
Waikiki Beef ‘n Grog. A Waikiki hotspot: live music, dancing, bouncers at the door.
The Noodle Shop. Less was more; the teeny birthplace of the Frank DeLima Show, where Imelda Marcos showed up one night ... yes, with shoes on.
Queen’s Surf. The original hang-loose place; I saw Elvis Presley there one night; Kui Lee performed there, but the resident star was Sterling Mossman, in the Barefoot Bar.

MOVIE THEATRES:

Waikiki Theatre (aka Waikiki # 3). As in movie palace, not a stadium seater; this one had it all: large capacity, a ceiling of moving clouds and twinkling stars; a rainbow arching over an electric organ just in front of the screen; twin walkways from Kalakaua Avenue, with a central pool and nameplates with Hollywood stars.
Cinerama Theatre. Where conventions like Cinerama (a filming technique with a curved screen) and iconic films like “Star Wars” and “2001: A Space Odyssey” made movie-going and “first run” policies special and classic.

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