By Wayne Harada
Lucky you live Hawaii, because two current Broadway musical hits are playing on Island stages this holiday season.
One is “Wicked,” the perennial favorite on the Great White Way, which is ensconced at the Blaisdell Concert Hall through Jan. 12. A national touring company — this one is as good as it gets —is perhaps better for our local folks, because it features a homegrown actor in one of the lead roles.
The other is “Annie,” at Diamond Head Theatre through Dec. 30. It was included in this season’s slate of shows, well before a Broadway revival was launched in New York about a month ago, so the musical is as timely as ever — its vintage message about hope and optimism amid a season of Depression and pessimism still rings truths and touches nerves for the current generation of spectators.
Both are splendid holiday family-friendly fare, with gifts to spare.
In “Wicked,” a prequel to “The Wizard of Oz,” you’ll see elements of Dorothy’s colleagues the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion and learn why Elphaba, the Wicked Witch played by Dee Roscioli is green, and also meet the good witch Glinda portrayed by Patti Murin — well before the Oz of Dorothy’s fantasy and adventure immortalized in film.
Further, Kailuan Cliffton Hall stars as Fiyero, the princely leading man in the tale, who brings handsomeness and romance to the forefront. In character, he’s grand, he’s ambitious, perhaps lacking humility like Lancelot in “Camelot,” but those cheers are genuine, as many locals remember him from numerous productions under his high school era mentor, Ron Bright.
“Wicked” here has most of the wow factor of the original; the costumes and sets are eye-filling, and while the monkeys fly, they do so only in the confines of the airspace of the stage, not over the audience, as on Broadway. But no matter; there’s spectacle and splendid intrigue to spare, from start to finish. Caution: the very young may get a bit spooked by the theatrics.
By comparison, “Annie” doesn’t have all that sparkle and pizzazz with its hard-knock life ensemble of orphans led by Riley Newton as the titular character, but it does have spunky spirit and a relevant theme of a shaky economy and the see-sawing quotient of the rich vs. the poor.
The show, set in the 1930s of New York City, provides Lisa Konove (Miss Hannigan) another opportunity to strut her comic stuff, but also enables Autumn Ogawa, who played the carrot-topped tyke with a frizzy wig when she was a child, to return to the musical as Grace, the aide to Daddy Warbucks (Chris Gritti), a tycoon of his time who ultimately adopts Annie. But not before hucksters Rooster Hannigan (Drew Tandal) and Lily St. Regis (Leiney Rigg) attempt a scam to collect a fortune as fraudulent parents of Annie. It's a catalogue of old-fashioned fantasy figures, based on the comics cartoon, that resonates when the stage lights go on, forming a bond between on-stage and backstage amateurs with professional pride.
While there’s a Christmas scene, there are no holiday tunes in this one — but the songs endure, notably “Tomorrow,” “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” and “Maybe.”
So: you don’t have to trek to New York — and encounter the crowded airplanes and airports and winter chill — to see two current shows. They’re here. If you can secure last-minute tickets.
Times vary; Tuesdays through Sundays, through Jan.12
Blaisdell Concert Hall
745-300, ticketmaster.com, broadwayinhawaii.com
Times vary, Thursdays through Sundays, through Dec. 30
Diamond Head Theatre