By Wayne Harada
“Broadway @ Paliku: 10 Years of Bright Lights” is resourceful and robust — a tidy and thorough recap of the past decade at the Windward Community College theater as well as a road map to the next 10 years of stage magic and art.
This stroll down memory lane is jammed and crammed with Broadway music from the past; it assembles a formidable roster of performers of all ages and talent and instantly tracks footsteps from recent history. But it’s a blueprint for the future — excerpts of shows that have not played here are a genuine bonus and a mesmerizing pupu for the upcoming enjoyment — and establishes Paliku as a theater on the edge.
It needs financial support, funding, an angel — or, at least, a houseful of enthusiasm at each performance.
If you have tickets, you’re lucky; the show’s virtually sold out, including a special Wednesday (Oct. 3) performance this week (Friday through Sunday are also sold out). But: Tom Holowach, theater manager, said 40 tickets are being held for walk-in patrons, one hour before curtain (7:30 for nighttime shows, 4 p.m. Sunday matinee) — your last hope to get in on this sizzling and robust special.
Go early; score a couple of ducats. You won’t regret it.
As mounted by director Ron Bright and facilitated by Holowach, who doubles as Paliku’s solitary and dedicated general manager as well as a cast member, “Broadway @ Pakiku” offers resounding validation of the singers, actors and dancers who have graced this stage before and surely portends to another couple of decades of craftsmanship and wizardry to come.
It’s the best idea (a revue) for a lousy situation (no funding for a traditional “book” show, in this fall slot) and thus is a wonderful opportunity to get reacquainted with Paliku if you’re been a follower for the past decade, or get introduced to it — better late than never.
Oh, are you in for a treat. It’s a stellar, superb cast which functions as glittery stones on a diamond ring. There’s sparkle, yes; but substance, too. From start to end.
• “Les Miserables,” with Doug Scheer and Cathy Foy Mahi as the Thernardiers, are masters of the house — a solid demonstration of theatrical bliss, with that café scene brimming with fun and life thanks to the ensemble. You not just see the celebratory joy, you feel it.
• Broadway vet Mary Gutzi takes two star turns, performing “I Dreamed a Dream” from “Les Miz” and “Memory” from “Cats,” with subtlety, power and grace in delivery; she is the essence of a true stage star with golden pipes. (Note: she’s not on every night).
• Jade Stice is a jewel on “Rosie’s Turn” from “Gypsy,” hitting the emotional punch required from that belting, take-charge tune from all spots on the stage. Her “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from “Evita” also is also a homer out of the park — in a less animated posture.
• Shawna Masuda, under-used but memorable, is a whiz of eloquence and control on “Home” from “Wiz.” And yes, she brings it home — on her own turf.
• Kristian Lei’s “A New Life” from “Jekyll and Hyde” soars and floats, and makes you wonder why she’s not in more community productions. (She also isn’t in all shows).
• “For Good,” that ballad from “Wicked” (opening at Blaisdell Concert Hall in November), pairs Jana Alcain and Tori Anguay with bewitching prowess. It’s a grand introduction to the show’s score for those not yet exposed to it.
• Leonard Villanueva owns the stage with his “American Dream,” from “Miss Saigon,” with his oily brand of comedy and message of hope. Yep, a simpler but still slick reincarnation of his earlier work in the full musical at Paliku.
• Michael Bright’s “Oh What a Beautiful Mornin’” from “Oklahoma” earns a big OK with his sunny disposition. With brother Clarke Bright conducting the six-piece on-stage bandstand type orchestra, it’s truly a formidable family funfest — dad, of course, is director Ron.
• Liam deClive-Lowe and Ian Simon, the only two lads in the otherwise adult cast, are a joy on “Expressing Yourself,” from “Billy Elliot,” a Tony winner not yet exhibited here. This is a show-stopper, with Liam in drag singing and tap-dancing with Ian, in a show tune that upholds personal choices of expression.
• Tom Holowach makes two delicious appearances — as the emcee in “Cabaret,” where he opens the show with “Wilkommen” complete with appropriate Germanic accent, then segues into the customary announcements of house rules (no phones, no texting, no photos), and does a textbook version of “Ya Got Trouble” from “Music Man,” which begins with T (for terrific) and rhymes with P (for powerful), and supported by a wonderful and agile marching-singing ensemble.
Speaking of ensembles: the versatile and energetic singer-actor crew augments many solo numbers, and the indefatigable Marcelo Pacleb’s 24/7 Danceforce crew somersaults and leaps in two incredible dance pieces via musical tracks — a “Chicago” medley and two explosive “Hairspray” numbers, “You Can’t Stop the Beat” and “Baltimore.”
At some moments with a couple of dozen troupers, the production seems to be a live take on “Glee,” with spontaneous and ambitious interpretation of stage music. At other times, there’s deliberate pause and reflection — like Miguel Cadoy III’s “The Impossible Dream” from “Man of La Mancha” and Villanueva’s duet with Nikki Yamamoto on “Wheels of a Dream” from “Ragtime,” another award-winning musical which has not been showcased locally.
Lloyd S. Riford III’s set and lighting design are crisp and clean, providing a neutral pallet on which the actors and singers paint their Broadway hues, with a black-and-white prevailing costume choice augmented by special mood-setting and eye-filling garb coordinated by Christine Valles.
All this is a cohesive team effort anchored by desire, and yes,
it takes funds for this kind of dedication. Since the theatrical performances are not funded by arts organizations or the University of Hawaii (WCC is one of the state’s community colleges operated by UH), monies collected from patrons and theater-goers are the lone source of support.
So applause, applause to the menagerie of magicians, who have kept the Windward theatrical dream alive. It’s a big miracle created from a small pocketbook.
I don’t understand why the actors don’t pass the calabash around, so to speak, at the meet-and-greet after the performances. It’s the best time to accept a meaningful handout — for the breathtaking two hours of top-tier stage magic. In these tough economic times, every $5 collected means a step closer to the next “book” show.
I've sent the theater a check; you should kokua, too.