Archive for December, 2010

About that tire in ‘Cats,’ and other show gimmicks

December 29th, 2010
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The strippers in “Gypsy,” who knew a thing or two about show biz (especially burlesque), sing “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” as an option of getting noticed.
Decades later, a number of shows — including the visiting “Cats” playing through Sunday at Blasidell Concert Hall — have a gimmick. A moment where something out of the ordinary, and even extraordinary, occurs, to become a trademark of the production.
This touring “Cats” is the cat’s meow, a musical that thoroughly entertains.
Despite opening night glitches with lights (some spotlight miscues) and sound (crackling mikes, a brief unheard line or two), the show boasts an ensemble both nimble on feet and in voice.
While Mr. Mistoffelees does not leap as high as some as I’ve seen, he is magical and mesmerizing. Throughout the company of about 20, everyone lives up to the esprit of the show — Munkustrap, Rum Tum Tugger, Mongojerrie, Rumpleteazer, Gus/Growltiger, Old Deuteronomy.
And Grizabella, tarnished glamour and all, surprises vocally with such power and potency, in her final “Memory” contribution.
If the show has a negative, it’s that junkyard set — while it boasts the car trunk and stove, for feline entrances and exits, the heap of “stuff” looks more like a collage of rubbish. Seek, and ye shall find Coke bottles, Raisin Bran cereal box and more — seemingly like molded sculpture rather than a stash of trash. See if you agree.
And oh, what about the gimmicks?

Here are some classic and remarkable theatrical moments:
“Cats” — A junkyard tire prop ascends up, up, up to the Heavyside Layer, accompanied by a smokescreen.
“Phantom of the Opera” — The fabled chandelier, hanging over the orchestra section of the theater, falls ... bringing Act I to a climax.
“Mary Poppins” — The supercalifragilisticexpialidocious nanny “flies,” toting umbrella, of course.
“Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” — The only musical, which played only on Broadway, boasted a car that chugged and danced over the folks in the orchestra section.
“Starlight Express" — Actors are different train cars, and they skate — with roller derby speed, sometimes — on on-stage tracks that often have audience members sitting in close proximity, as well as in the aisles.
“Miss Saigon” — The fall of Saigon also includes a flight of a helicopter, with requisite noise, wind and spinning “blades.”
“Les Miserables” — The show is known for its turntable stage, as well as its opening and moving barricades.
“Singing in the Rain” — With water an integral part of its storyline, “rain” falls and glistens and splatters on the lamppost, sidewalk and gutter.
“Tarzan” — While there’s not much that can be done, about a figure growing up amid apes, most of the cast whisk from the three “walls” of the stage, bungee style.
“Peter Pan” — While Tinker Bell is mostly a glistening and glowing light, Peter’s the one who goes aerial, along with the kids, in the theatrical retelling of the ageless literary figure.
Any more stagecraft moments that you remember? Share 'em.

9 things I love about feline phenom ‘Cats’

December 26th, 2010
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“Cats,” the Andrew Lloyd Webber take on a junkyard of felines, may not be purr-fection for everyone, but offers a meow-mix of pleasures, if only you give it chance.
I’ve seen it more than a dozen times, here and elsewhere, and continue to marvel at its ingenious idiosyncratic treasures.
The show opens a week’s run Tuesday (Dec. 28) and at Blaisdell Concert Hall, so go explore on your own.

Nine reasons why love it:

1 — Its vision is based on T.S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” reinvented by Lloyd Webber (who loved the poems as a child) for the stage, where virtually it unreels like an opera (all singing, no dialogue) with a pop overcoat.
2 — It’s as much as a dance show as it is a musical with singing characters. Jazz. Ballet. Modern. Hip-hop. Gospel. Rock. You’ll find fragments in a glorious quiltwork of motion and action.
3 — Costumes are spectacular, each one different, each one defining a character. The dark, greys and black, representing an aging Grizabella; the bountiful, grand furriness of the sage Old Deutoronomy; the magical glitz, for Mr. Mistoffelees; the rock ‘n’ roll glamor, for the Mick Jagger-like The Rum Rum Tugger.
4 — It boasts a show within a show; “Growltiger’s Last Stand” is a theatrical caper with pirates, an Italian aria and Siamese cats.
5 — The characters have names that are, well, names you either never forget or never remember, so try these on for sighs: Bombalurina, Demeter, Bustopher, Asparagus (Gus for short), Jennyanydots, Skimbleshanks, Jellylorum, Munkustrap. And don’t forget Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer — could be names for Ben and Jerry ice cream, don’t you think?
6 — The cats are like people; some good, some bad. Some help others, one causes havoc for everyone. They live in hopes of traveling to the Heavyside Layer.
7 — Until it was bypassed by “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Cats” was the longest-running Broadway music (now second) between 1982 and 2000.
8 — It has a signature song, “Memory,” but for the record, the lyrics are by Trevor Nunn, who directed the production, not the poetry of Eliot, whose verses fill all other Lloyd Webber compositions.
9 — It features an oversized (well, by cat standards) tire that rises to the heavens, a la “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” with Old Deuteronomy and Grizabella on a chosen journey; I mean, how many shows have embraced wheels for a grand finale?

Island Sounds: Christmas by Sista Robi, ukulele soloists

December 22nd, 2010
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In an earlier blog, we reviewed Willie K’s “Willie Wonderland” Christmas CD.
In a state where culture is unique and special, here are two more holiday albums for Christmas 2010.
Consider this a holiday Island Sounds wrap.
So visit a music store in-between your yuletide shopping, and give either or both a try:

“An Island Christmas,” Sistah Robi, Neos Productions

Robi Kahakalau, aka Sistah Robi, is a former Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner and thus brings an nner-circle pedigree to her holiday calvacade.
She brings out the holiday mana’o on “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Christmas Island,” “Holiday Hula,” “Blue Christmas” and “Blue Christmas.”
A note of solemnity taps warm emotions on “Silent Night,” the latter a multi-tongued wonderment (German, English, Hawaiian) with guitar solo by Jeff Rassmussen, and surely the highlight of the disc.
Heavenly and peaceful.

“An Ukulele Christmas,” various artists, Neos Productions

Ukulele strummers let their fingers do the talking, and there’s bountiful “chatter,” if you will, with the likes of Troy Fernandez, Taimane Gardner, Jan Luna, Gordon Freitas, Herb Ohta Jr., Kapena and Kalei Gamiao among the contributors here.
Titles include traditional carols like “We Three Kings of Orient Are,” “Silent Night,” “What Child Is This,” “Carol of the Bells” and “O Holy Night.” Plus pop classics like “Up on the House Top,” “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland” and “The Christmas Song.”
The method is simple, sweet, succinct — with precision in artistry outweight flashiness.
The perfect CD to accompany gift-opening ’round the Christmas tree.

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A whale of a time, at breakfast and lunch

December 21st, 2010
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Whale-watching season is under way off Oahu.
Atlantis’ Navatek Cruises kicks off the season Dec. 22, with the Whale Watch Lunch Cruise, providing viewing and photo-ops of whales wintering in Island seas.
But starting Jan. 14, you can also enjoy a continental breakfast and watch the whales on the Navatek’s new morning voyage, which will continue through March 31.
The morning tour complements the customary Whale Watch Lunch Cruise, which continues through April 10.
The morning or noon options enable visitors and locals an opportunity to see one or more of the 10,000 humpback whales that annual migrate to Island seas from the chillier climes and waters of the North Pacific to breed and nurse their young in the warmer waters here.
The breaching, spouting whales, splashing their tails in the surf, are the usual photo-op that tour signees hope for.
“Seeing these magnificent humpbacks is always a memorable experience, and we
believe the morning views heading toward East Oahu with the sun rising in the backdrop will
make this even more special,” said Ken Kessler, general manager of Atlantis Navatek Cruises, in a statement. “Whale watching is such a popular activity, especially with visitors.”
The Navatek is a double-hulled vessel, proving a smooth ocean experience, and sails along East Oahu’s scenic coastline, beyond Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head Crater, toward Koko Head.
The breakfast option includes a continental breakfast buffet with pastries, muffins, bagels, yogurt, cold cereal, tea, coffee and juice.
The lunch trek includes an all-you-can-beat buffet with teriyaki chicken, fresh cach, dessert and soft drinks.

Whale Watch Lunch Cruise
Departs at noon daily, beginning Dec. 22, from Pier 6, Aloha Tower Marketplace, and returns at 2:30 p.m. Cost: $69 adults, $35 children 2-12.

Whale Watch Breakfast Cruise

Departs at 8:30 a.m. daily, beginning Jan. 14, from Pier 6, Aloha Tower Marketplace, and returns at 10:30 a.m. Cost: $49 adults, $25 children 2-12.

Information:
www.atlantissubmarines.com.

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Obamas at ‘Nutcracker;’ Mars, pro surfers at EDITION

December 20th, 2010
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SHOW BIZ EXTRA: ’Tis the season. You know it’s the prime celebration and going-out time, when the famous get a bit visible in the community.

HOW SWEET IT WAS:
Like, Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia, took in the closing matinee performance of Ballet Hawaii’s “Nutcracker,” along with some family friends, this past Sunday at Blaisdell Concert Hall. It was a savvy outing, during Sunday’s wicked weather, to get into the Christmas spirit with the traditional holiday ballet.
The VIP presence meant some patience for locals closely seated to the First Family (plus a cluster of Secret Service personnel). There was some pat-downs and security double-checking, the usual routine whenever the Obamas attend a show. President Barack Obama, of course, is not yet here (due Wednesday). Arcadia resident and veteran entrepreneur Jack Cione was among those in the row in front of the first lady and first daughters and was tickled by the buzz they created at “Nutcracker.” How sweet!

SURFER'S PARADISE:
The Waikiki EDITION was the scene when pro surfer Fred Patacchia celebrated his bachelor party this past Friday night, with his surfer pro pals Kelly Slater, Joel Parkinson (2010 Triple Crown Winner), Sean Moody, Noah Johnson, Benji Weatherley, Kekoa Bacalso, Jason Shibata, Jesse Merle Jones, Mickey Bruneua, and Marcus Hickman in attendance. Patacchia and his party had dinner at the Sunrise Pool and then headed down to Crazybox.
Oh, and Slater, the world champ, was kind enough to put his John Hancock on his surfboard in the lobby of The Waikiki EDITION. An addition worth noticing, on your next stop.

OUT OF THE CRAZYBOX:
Pop sensation Bruno Mars, the local boy, checked out Crazybox prior to his Sunday concert at Blaisdell Arena. Not much action; he and his party stayed for an hour in the wee hours, ordered two bottles of Patron; but a friend picked up the tab.
He seemed to be reclusive and shy, considering he’s a Grammy nominee (seven-fold).