By Wayne Harada
‘Ohi ‘a Productions, a bastion of pidgin English musical comedy and inspirational shows, marks its 15th season with “Da Anniversary Show,” at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 28) at the Hawaii Theatre.
And at its core, its devotees continue an enduring bond by committing talent, time and energy to keep the spirit and foundation of the late Lisa Matsumoto, who is widely known for her mix of local pidgin with classic fairy tale wisdom and characters, which connect the dottiness between performers and patrons like no other.
“Having been on stage and a part of the production team over the years has given me a more well-rounded perspective on both the company and the shows,” said Zan Timtim, ‘Ohi‘a’s new executive director, committed to move Matsumoto’s legacy to the next level.
Timtim is just one of a 65-member cast, ready to revive and relive the spirit, humor, and vision of Matsumoto, who died tragically in an H1 auto accident in December, 2007, when she was driving in the wrong direction on the freeway in the wee hours.
Other regulars, like Eddy Gudoy and Devon Nekoba, return like the tide whenever a once-upon-one-time or noddah-time is in production. They feel worth and communion in returning to the stage; it’s the camaraderie, the chance to reconnect, the op to communicate with keiki and family audiences, the mainstay of ‘Ohi‘a.
“I really do enjoy being with fellow cast members, talking story and hanging out,” said Gudoy, known for his outrageous characterization. “I don’t know if it changed my life, but I do know that being with ‘Ohi‘a has definitely enhanced it.”
Nekoba, who commonly plays the narrators in the Matsumoto shows, supports the mission of maintaining a link with audiences. “It’s definitely the feeling of carrying on something that was positive and passing it on to younger generations to discover. A sense of responsibility to the idea of educating and entertaining families through the performing arts.”
Timtim experienced an “aha” moment over the decade of participating in the beloved productions featuring music by Roslyn Catracchia, the other half of the Matsumoto creative team. “The first time I realized what an impact the shows made on individuals (was when) a woman sent a thank you note and flowers, thanking everyone for giving her and her husband a wonderful night full of laughter,” said Timtim. “She especially wanted to thank us because her husband unexpectedly passed away the next day and she was grateful she had one last special night with him. Ever since then, I walk on stage knowing that we’re going to positively affect people’s lives.”
Among the actors, Matsumoto’s presence and support are felt, particularly when the playwright’s iconic Da Wicked Queen is centerstage. “The role will be played by Holly Araki, who was Lisa’s understudy in ‘Happily Eva Afta.’ Lisa may not be with us in person, but her spirit is definitely all around through the individuals bringing her characters and stories to life. I feel she’s always with us.”
Gudoy concurs. “Memories of Lisa is always everywhere. Whether it is reading her scripts, listening to heron the CDs or saying our lines while performing our roles, Lisa is always around.”
“No one can replace her,” said Nekoba. “But feeling like we are carrying on her legacy does help us keep our eyes on the goal, which is to do the very best show we can for the families of Hawaii.”
Timtim said new shows — “TiQri: the Little Snow Fox” and “Superhero Smarts” — are being developed, with other local authors collaborating, destined for a pair of school shows.
‘DA ANNIVERSARY SHOW’
2 and 7 p.m. Saturday (Aug. 28)
$25-$50; youth tickets $25