Archive for September, 2013

'Five-0' on Friday nights: some things to ponder

September 28th, 2013

Expectations were high but numbers not so much when CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0” made its fourth season debut in a new time slot (8 p.m. here, 9 p.m. Mainland) on a new night (Friday instead of Monday).

Despite a somewhat exciting episode, the introduction of a new crimefighter (SWAT captain Lou Grover, played by Chi McBride) and the customary high-flying action scenes and special effects (car chases, a helicopter soaring and nearly crashing inside Aloha Stadium, car bombings, etc.), “Hawaii Five-0” finished with a 1.5 rating in the 18 to 49 demographics, attracting 9.8 million live viewers, based on preliminary overnight Nielsen ratings. “Five-0” won the viewership, but its chief competitor in the time slot was ABC’s “Shark Tank,” which pulled a 1.9 rating in the coveted 18 to 49 demos despite fewer viewers at 6.75 million.

For “Five-0,” the performance was three-tenths below the 1.8  rating of 18 to 49 adults last year (on a Monday) and the under-10 million showing  did not live up to the expectations for the new night. Or did it?

“Five-0” precedes CBS’ “Blue Bloods” at 9 p.m. (10 p.m. Mainland), which helped the eye network win the night with its 1.7 rating for adults 18 to 49 and 11.39 million viewers. This also is the fourth season for “BB.”

There are some things to ponder about the new time and the new night.

The shuffle to Friday has led to co-promotion of the two “island” shows, Hawaii and Manhattan, and Tom Selleck’s starring role as  Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Selleck was previously “Magnum P.I.” on the CBS roster) may help or hinder Alex McLoughlin’s new-generation Steve McGarrett.

Clearly, the bundling campaign may work —  or not — depending on your expectations and/or orientation.

When paired with “BB,” “H50” may suffer from script and story comparisons. Sure, they’re different procedurals with distinctively different pedigree, and the shortcomings of one may unravel when witnessed alongside the strengths of the other.

“H50” is heavily action-driven, with crashes and criminals, colliding with principals and principles, combined with aerial scenics of life in the tropics, day and night.  “BB” is fueled by family values and relationships, with friction between the core of the Reagan family police — the active and the retired — and the weekly perpetrators of crime.

In each show’s fourth season premiere on Sept. 27, the styles were noticeable.

McGarrett and crew huddle around their HQ computers or in moving vehicles, exchanging theories and barbs, with the vehicle pursuits and shootings characterizing and underlying the crimes. In this instance, terrorists take hostages, turn themselves in, make their escape and then momentarily elusive before their demise.

Enter SWAT captain Lou Grover (Chi McBride), an ally/colleague  of McG, but one with thorns and difference of attitude, so there’s needed tension and trauma somewhat. There’s also the lingering Wo Fat issue — who is he, what is his mission, what is his relationship with Mama McG, and whoa, does he share DNA with McG? — which are overflowing themes from seasons past, along with the tedious Kono Kalakaua-Adam Noshimuri romance now in jeopardy abroad and going nowhere all too slowly. Too many loose strings, fuzzy recurring figures and story arcs yet to be resolved.

“BB,” meanwhile, rotates on much more immediate and credible playout of the law, based on the prospectives of the layers of the Reagan family — police commissioner Frank (Selleck), assistant  prosecutor Erin (Bridget Moynahan), NYPD detective first grade Danny (Donnie Wahlberg), rookie police officer Jamie (Will Estes), father  and ex-commissioner Henry (Len Cariou), ER nurse Linda (Amy Carlson). One key recurring pattern: the Reagan clan talks shop and progress of cases with officers, kids and grandkids across the dinner table, with tidy resolution by the end credits. There are periodic story arcs, for sure, but generally speaking, it’s a clean slate by the next week.

To its credit, “HF0” should be a cozy fit for Friday, as its foray into TNT syndication helps galvanize a secondary audience. Its viewership this week among adults 25 to 54, not the key audience, was 2.2, but its headcount among viewers 55 and older are a significant 7.6. Perhaps if it skewers its efforts to the geezer-geriatric crowd, and downplay its 18 to 49 element, it will find its pace and place on Friday nights. And maybe it can build its foundation to reach or pass the 15.4 rating in the 55-plus of TV’s No. 1 drama on Tuesday night, CBS’ “NCIS.”

There’s still  unexplored power among the elders, after all. Ratings can be interpreted in more ways than one.

Review: A homegrown 'Les Miz' that we can all be proud of!

September 21st, 2013


“Les Miserables,” at the Paliku Theatre, is a lush production with passion, precision and professionalism throughout the ranks.

As directed by Ron Bright and produced by Tom Holowach under auspices of the Windward Community Theatre, the musical is beautifully sung by a cast of professional and theater devotees, some working for the beloved director for the first time, many returning to share the joy of community theater with their mentor over the past 50 years.

An amazing vocal ensemble, coached by Mary Chesnut Hicks, is also a high-water mark for this production, which retains the breadth and depth of the original Alain Bloublil/Claude-Michel Schonberg classic from the London and Broadway stage. The choral work by the company is superb, earning hearty applause and hurrahs.

The show is peopled with talent on all burners, led by Kip  Wilborn as Jean Valjean, the wrongly imprisoned soldier pursued by his nemesis, Leslie “Buz” Tennent as Inspector Javert. They are opera singers doing this one for the first time, and they deliver, as actors and as singers, punctuating the score with agility and mobility, with able and adorable assist from local actor Cliffton Hall, back from his normal job as a Broadway performer, who adds a smidgin of homegrown status and accomplishment to the plate.

And homegrown is the operative word here; this is purely and magically a concoction by locals, for locals, and if you ask me, it could easily tour with the cache of local artists aboard. I’m proud to say that this production easily is this community’s “line king,” with a sellout inevitable and available seats very scarce.

The plot, of course, is from the historic novel by Victor Hugo of wartime France focusing on student revolutionaries of the era and soldiers on both sides of the war. The template includes themes of right vs. wrong, broken dreams and broken hearts, freedom and dissension, greed and goodwill, and other human values still relevant today.

All  roles are wisely cast.

Wilborn brings reverence and calm to his Valjean, and his offstage religious beliefs creep into his performance. He has the pipes — and sensitivity — to make his “Bring Him Home” one of the weepers, but his versatility is admirable and surfaces in confrontational moments, notably when his character is caught stealing silver for survival, fighting for time to provide comfort and allegience while taunted by Javert, and providing fatherly solace to a young Cosette he eventually adopts.

His is the first-ever Valjean I've experienced whose hands go to prayer motif at the end of "Bring Him Home," accompanied by other religious gestures, adding relevance and naturalism to the moment. Valjean also gets into prayer mode, utilizing the candleholders given him by the Bishop early on, before his journey to the heavens. These additions work wonders from  the character's deeply spiritual standpoint.

Tennent’s height and deep tones, combined with his body language, makes his Javert a formidable figure, in his solo “Stars” as well as in a number of choregraphed combative moments with Valjean and the student revolutionists.

Hall, last seen here as Fiyero in a touring “Wicked” production, is a credible romantic with a tenor that melts hearts. His harmonies in occasional duets reflect his easy style, and his evocative “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” solo is dark, somber and expressive, undercoated by grief and guilt as the sole soldier surviving a bullet.

Michael Bright as Enjolras has that flag-waving memorable scene, “The People’s Song,” and though he’s been on the road a la Hall on Broadway tours, he makes his Enjolras a homecoming victory. Nothing like a hometown crowd to root for a warrior.

The women are equally powerful and memorable.

Jana Anguay Alcain delivers one of the signature tunes, “I Dreamed a Dream,”      bringing vulnerability and compassion to Fantine, the distressed, ill mom forced to sell her hair and her body to raise funds to pay an innkeeper and his wife to provide care for her young daughter, Cosette.

Shawna Lynn Masuda as the lovestruck tomboy, Eponine, is sweet and loyal towards Marius, who relies on her for friendship not romance. Masuda makes her solo, “On My Own,” all her own, and her dying scene with Marius is honest and poignant.

Kim Anderson as Cosette  brings grace and elegance in her unexpected romance with Marius, and their “A Heart Full of Love,” with Eponine’s intervention, shows sparks that evolve in Act II.

And that one-two punch, Thenardier and Mme. Thenardier, sung by a real-life married couple, Scott Moura and Zenia Moura, are perfectly suited for the show, bringing along a wealth of comedic tricks. They look, sing, sound and prance about perfectly in their classic and commanding “Master of the House” sequence and the smaller wedding party scene. They are folks you don’t want at your party, but spot-on for “Les Miz.”

The two tykes in the production, Oliver deClive-Lowe as Gavroche and Alyse Glaser as Little Cosette, are darlings in their roles, who could project a bit more to be heard. They alternate with Matias Durkin and Camille Perry (the girls take turn as Young Eponine, too).

Music and sound are key challenges for “Les Miz,” and Clarke Bright conducts a marvelous 14-piece orchestra, performing the luxurious and mood-evoking music, with resounding resourcefulness that never intrudes on the lead singers. Even on those resonating chorale chorus numbers involving multi voices.

Marcelo Pacleb recreates the iconic three-step choreography for the crusading scene; he is one of the three regular behind-the-sceners who are part of the artistic design crew for Bright’s shows.

Lloyd S. Riford II’s set and lighting design and R. Andrew Doan’s technical direction are part of the precision team that enhances the look and texture on stage. There were a few tech glitches on opening night, surely gone by now, regarding lighting and sound.

Lacy Rohlf coordinated costume design and rentals; yes, some were imported rather than built because of cost and time.

Director Bright has waited about 30 years to direct his dream show and his fortitude and style are evident with abundant joy from the front of the house.

Go see what the magic and applause and standing ovations are all about — if you can score a ticket or two. Tip: some walk-in seats are held for first-comers at the box office prior to curtain.


Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College
When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 27. (Extension dates included, though additional Wednesday shows are contemplated but not yet formally announced)

Info: 235-7310,

'Les Miz' unabridged: Why all the buzz? Read on...

September 20th, 2013


Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College

When: Opens today (Sept. 20); 7:30 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 27. (Includes extension; call for availability;  watch for more playdates).
Cost: $30-$49
Info: 235-7310,

Note: An abridged version of this story appears today in the print edition of the Star-Advertiser, in the TGIF section.

ValjeanJavertMusket Far left, Kip Wilborn is Jean Valjean, and near left, Buz Tennent is Inspector Javert.

A religious undercurrent prevails at the rehearsals of “Les Miserables,” the acclaimed Tony Award-winning musical, opening tonight (Sept. 20) at Paliku Theatre.

It can be heard in the music and felt in the performances.

The actors worship “Les Miz,” shedding tears at precise emotional moments, and most are visibly moved to finally have the opportunity to be in the musical, which has never been performed at Paliku before.

For Ronald Bright, directing the show for the first time, it’s been a somewhat of a spiritual journey  that began in London  several years ago. Mr. B, as he is called, is like a kid in the candy store as he crusades to make this his career pinnacle, and his crew treats him like deity.

Some of the music is performed joyously with the conviction of church gospels. That’s where the cultlike devotion emerges.

“I’ve had to wait over 20 years to do the one musical that rips my heart apart every time I experience the touching, most heart-wrenching moments the human heart, body and mind endures,”  says the legendary director Bright, 80, about the phenom and spectacle that are “Les Miz,”

Producer Tom Holowach, who is manager of the Paliku Theatre, has said a prayer and a Hail Mary or two in his vigorous efforts to land rights. With royalties at the $25,000 level, this is gigantic, an Event.  “We’re on the cutting edge,” Holowach says, noting that his theater at Windward Community College is first within the University of Hawaii system to take on a show this big.

The five-week run is expected to sell out, with a one-week extension just confirmed through Oct. 27.

After a 50-year career mounting musicals at public school venues before retiring from Castle High School (where a theater now bears his name), Mr. B is going full throttle  with “Les Miz.” He dubs it “a masterpiece of a musical.”

Actor Michael Bright, the director’s son, was there with the family and a Castle contingent in London in 1988, when they first encountered “Les Miz.” “The air was stifling; we were in the last row,” says Michael. “The impact was riveting, from start to end. And when it was over, we all thought: ‘Dad could do this;’ God was going to make it happen. With faith, there were no barriers.”

Prayers were answered when Paliku secured the rights. It was on Mr. B’s bucket list. Though he’d directed such plums as “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Miss Saigon,”  “Les Miz” was No. 1, and not yet conquered.

The director says the allure is in the production’s sweeping message.

“When Victor Hugo penned ‘to love another person is to see the face of God’ (one of the oft-quoted lines in the musical), he wasn’t just being poetic. He wrapped his life in support of the common man.”


Director Ron Bright: Finally, his dream show has arrived.

Bright is guiding an expansive cast of nearly 50 through song, dance and roller-coaster of emotions. The musical, with its  beloved Alain Bloubil/Claude-Michel Schonberg score based on the Hugo novel taps themes of faith, guilt, war, freedom, redemption, love, heartbreak, patriotism and honor. Its tale is  set against a French war and follows dissident students eager for a revolution. Think Occupy movement, in another era.

“We have gathered the best cast and crew I’ve ever worked with in my entire career,” Bright says. “It’s not to slight the many youngsters we’ve helped succeed in theatrical careers, but this cast is invested, committed, professional and so happy to be in this musical.”

Most of the actors  didn’t already knew the score by heart when auditions were held. “When people come to blocking rehearsals free of carrying their scripts, you understand their sincere commitment,” Bright says.

The “Les Miz” lineup includes two operatic singers in the key lead roles they’ve never played before: Kip Wilborn, 51, is Jean Valjean, the protagonist, and Leslie “Buz” Tennent, 59, another crooner with operatic roots and a secondary career in local musical theater,  is Valjean’s nemesis, Inspector Javert .

Their time is now.

THE PRODUCTION taps two of director Bright’s sons, Clarke Bright, 51, the musical director in the orchestra pit; his daytime job is maestro of the Royal Hawaiian Band. And the aforementioned

Michael Bright

Michael, left,  who just turned 46 this week,  is a seventh grade math teacher at Kamehameha Schools’ Kapalama campus, who learned his acting chops — like scores of his peers  —  during dad’s Castle High School’s Performing Arts Center era. He is playing Enjolras, the leader of the French student revolutionists; he earlier went on to tour in such Broadway shows as “Miss Saigon.”

Clarke Bright’s mercurial research, studying and familiarizing himself with the musical score for “Les Miz,” is “the most intense and massive effort I have ever put forth for a musical. It is rich with emotion, passion, energy, color and power.”

His conclusion: “One of the revelations was the care taken to tell the story musically. Yes, we need the lyric, but you can almost listen to the music by itself and hear the passion behind the story. The lyrics are unbelievably powerful. It is our job to insure that we provide an orchestral bed upon which the performers can tell their story.”

He’ll conduct a 14-piece orchestra and says, “When you have a combination of excellence and joy in the pit, you can make beautiful music. It is an honor for me to partner with them in telling this amazing story.”

MAESTRO BRIGHT also explains why this is his favorite of all musicals: “I believe this musical is appreciated by so many because of the way everything works. The combination of acting, singing, orchestra, sets, lights, props, transitions ... is amazing. But above all else, it is the best story to ever be portrayed on a musical stage. It contains passion, sacrifice, love, forgiveness, fighting for your freedom, right vs. wrong — and how sometimes wrong seems right and right seems wrong.”

It’s all relatable and this sentiment percolates among the performers.

Cliffton Hall, 38, another CPAC alumnus who understudied and portrayed Marius on Broadway and on tour, is back from California as an Actors Equity guest artist inhabiting the same role; he portrayed Fiyero in “Wicked” here last year at Blaisdell Concert Hall, but a reunion with his high school chums in the cast  — the first time in 20 years, under the mentorship of Mr. B — was a dream come true.

Clearly, Mr. B is the glue that keeps the cast cohesive. His enthusiasm on the sidelines is contagious and he has the stamina of someone half his age. He is quick to applaud, offers generous comments whenever something clicks, and provides latitude and space to his players he counts on to tell their stories via their roles.

“Chicken skin,” he cheers like a proud papa, when the ensemble — in luminous and glorious bursts of harmony and dancing, without  costumes and props yet — set the bar for “Do You Hear the People Sing?,” led by Mary Chesnut Hicks, the vocal coach who put the finess in the finale of Act I, coupled with Marcelo Pacleb’s choreography.

Kip Wilborn

SWEET-VOICED Wilborn, left, usually one of the first arrivals at rehearsals, goes over lines in his car then does warm-ups in the corridors, to get his pipes purring.  “In opera, generally speaking, the voice and its use is the primary priority, followed by the music, then the text, then the acting. In this particular musical, I would say that the text is the primary, followed by the acting, voice and music,” says Wilborn.

An opera vet schooled to sing over the orchestra sans amplification, Wilborn lets the mike do its job. For  two years in a Hal Prince production in Toronto of “The Phantom of the Opera,” first as Raoul and then as the Phantom, he learned “a great deal about letting ‘Mr. Microphone’ do a lot of the work.”

Though he missed an opportunity to sing Valjean in Canada, he  now feels better prepared to do it now — because he’s older.

“As a classically trained singer, I have to constantly remind myself that in the very dramatic parts, I don’t have to produce the volume to sing over an orchestra,” says Wilborn. “I think most people identify with Valjean and I know I certainly do. He’s a good man driven to bitterness, anger and desperation — so much so that he robs a  Bishop. Then the Bishop lets him off the hook but gives him the means (silver) to change his life; this is one of my favorite moments in the show. The Bishop says, ‘By the witness of the martyrs, by the passion and the blood; God has raised  you out of darkness, I have brought your soul to God.’ Valjean is faced with the fact of God’s grace and mercy, in his subsequent soliloquy he has to decide what to do with it.”

That’s an opportunity to right a wrong, says Wilborn. “We all need a second chance now and then.”  Valjean has dreamed of getting his “yellow ticket of leave” (the release papers from prison) and when he has them, “he finds that it is poison ... (the forms) prevent him from gaining employment, shelter, companionship.”

ABOUT THE book and play’s title “Les Miserables,” Wilborn shares a revelation: “We don’t have an accurate translation of the original French; the essence is: the poor, marginalized, homeless; in the epilogue, at Valjean’s death, he is freed from the ‘miserable’ struggles and trials of life and is liberated to the indescribable joy of finally being brought ‘home.’”

For him, that’s a religious punctuation point.

Were it not for his friend, vocal coach Hicks, informing him of the final auditions for the iconic play, Wilborn would have missed the tryouts altogether. When? “Tonight,” he was told.  He made it, got a callback and earned the nod a few days later.

Bright says of Wilborn: “He was sent to us by God! I can’t understand why we have been so lucky to have him aboard; he is learned, invested, and so willing to share his professional experiences with the cast ad crew. What a role model for the rest of the cast; people have begun to emulate him.”

Buz Tennent

DEEP-VOICED Tennent,  left, who teaches voice at Chaminade University, doesn’t view Javert as a villain — he sees him more as a tortured soul. “He’s 180 degrees from Captain Von Trapp (a role he’s sung in “The Sound of Music”),” he says. “The challenge is in exploring the dark places in his psyche, getting to the core. And because the role is operatic, I’m in my comfort zone; I really feel at home.”

Tennent’s loving it that “Javert deals with elements of grace, redemption and passion. He feels ‘my duty is to the law,’ and (when) Valjean grants him his life (allowing him to elude the bullet), he just doesn’t want the compromise of pity.”

The director also raves about Tennent, and his presence — “voice, stature, demeanor” — but “he’s quite the joker, a lifter of people’s spirits, sharing one-liners that crack us up.”

Cliffton Hall

BROADWAY-SAVVY Hall’s, left,  last show with Mr. B was two decades ago in “Carousel,” and coincidentally, he’s on a homecoming merry-go-round as he plays the romantic Marius. Not just because his school chums Michael Bright, Allan Lau and Leonard Villanueva are all in the cast, “but it’s a chance to give back to the community, to come back (after doing Broadway stints) as a visiting artist and working with the kids in the show.

“This (doing shows) is my 9 to 5, my livelihood, what I do; and God makes decisions sometimes that makes everything come together,” says Hall, a one-time military brat. “And I like paying to forward; it’s a lot of pressure, being an acting professional, but words can’t express the reception I’ve had from the cast and I can’t believe the caliber (of commitment) these people have. We’re all in it together and this is one of the reasons I love my job.”

However, there are caveats of being a role model: “I didn’t plan for anything else, other than acting, and it’s something my family constantly worries about — me getting another job. If you prepare for failure, then you will fail,” says Hall. “There is no security in this job; once you end one show, you start looking for another. To me, 80 per cent of acting is knowing who you are; 15 per cent is having a business sense; and 5 per cent is about talent.” So he accepts the challenges and cadence of his livelihood.

Shawna Masuda

SHAWNA LYNN Masuda, 26, left, dyed her black hair blonde a while back, mostly because she needed change as a club singer, but she’ll don a dark-haired wig  to play Eponine, the same role she  did with DHT — her last time on the local stage.

“Eponine is big shoes to fill, especially since I did it before, but it’s the role I sought and still am personally drawn to. You don’t want her to be the same, so I’ve been trying to look for shades of character,” says Masuda.

She approached the auditions with trepidation and fear “because I hadn’t done a show for quite a while. Eponine feels older, because I am older, and she’s not as childish as I felt she was earlier. She’s strong-willed, a very strong person, and she’s much in love (with Marius), and wants him to be happy even if he doesn’t return the love,” Masuda says.  “I feel like I know the show, but I’ve never really seen it, because I’ve only been in it. And I was too young when the touring shows played here (in 1992 and 1996).”

Working with Mr. B in one of his shows has been a goal, so she’s happy to participate “even if it means dying again.”

Kim Anderson

CAST AS COSETTE, Kim Anderson, 23, left, has discovered meaningful insights: “This is absolutely a dream show of mine...a story about love and the sacrifices that must be made to preserve the things you love. Everyone in this story is fighting for freedom. Freedom as a people, long repressed by government; freedom from our past; and the freedom to love. Combine this story of humanity with equally timeless music and it creates a tangible manifestation of what every human in every generation and country is longing for.”

Of the grownup Cosette she plays, Anderson says: “What I love most about her is that she is the symbol of hope in this story of misery. She represents the longing we all have for freedom and the joy that we can experience after fighting for it.”

She is very aware of the swarm of talent surrounding her every night. “It’s definitely intimidating being surrounded by so much professional talent but I am timidly acting like a sponge and absorbing every note they sing and expression they make. It’s a rare opportunity to be working so closely with this many veterans on stage. It’s a talent overload at rehearsals.

“I have beautiful solos that I am honored to sing but it’s when I’m singing with the entirety of the cast that I truly feel like I’m a part of something that matters. This is a lesson I have realized applies to life in general,” says Anderson.

Jana Alcain

JANA ANGUAY Alcain, 29, left, also can associate with her Fantine character, the ill-fated mother of Cosette, because she is a mommy of two daughters. “I absolutely love Fantine’s strength and the vulnerability that comes with it,” she says. “Being a mother, I can understand the desire to provide for my girls everything that I possibly can. Fantine is on stage for about 25 minutes, but those 25 minutes are crazy! It is vocally demanding (her solo is “I Dreamed a Dream”), and I am trusting and believing that Jesus is keeping me healthy and keeping my voice safe.”

She worked with Mr. B as a Castle student — “he is incredibly nurturing” — and finds her castmates “indescribable, being able to share this stage with people who I looked up to while growing up.”

In addition to her roles as wife and mom, Alcain is a fulltime volunteer as vocal director of New Hope Oahu.

Scott Moura

A real-life husband and wife duo is portraying Thenardier and Mme. Thenardier, the comic relief pair operating a tavern in “Les Miz.” Scott Moura, 51,  left, and his wife Zenia Moura, 40, two veterans of the local stage, take on the clowning on their “Master of the House” duet.

They share their relationship as new parents of an infant daughter, as community actors, as baby-sitters.

“Originally, Scott and I decided to both audition but let the deciding committee choose only one of us,” says Zenia Moura. “But I guess they liked the chemistry between us and (we) couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this so we both said yes. I like Mme. Thenardier because she’s loud, funny and doesn’t really care what people think of her. Comedy is always fun to do but I like this role because there is definitely some dark humor that I usually don’t get to play.”

SCOTT MOURA admits that the “House” tune was a challenge to master “and one of the most difficult but fun to learn because of some logical sequences,” he says. “It certainly keeps me motivated.”

Zenia concludes that the Thenardiers “are pretty horrible people,” with questionable motives in raising children. “However, one line of a song she sings says, ‘I used to dream that I would meet a prince,’ and that humanized her for me. She obviously had dreams about how here life would be or wished it could be, just like everyone else, and because of her circumstances and most likely bad choices, she ends up having a very different life than what she dreamed of — a little like Fantine.”

Despite Thenardier’s craftiness and greed, he does have a good side to balance his rough edge, said Scott.

The Mouras have brought their 4-year-old daughter Isabella to rehearsals when they couldn’t get a sitter and other parents have pitched in on babysitting. Besides, she  loves the theater. “I think taking her to rehearsals and exposing her to the ins and outs of theater is a very unique thing that not all kids get to experience,” says Zenia. “I hope someday she will look back on these times and have some really fun memories.”

Zenia Moura

Zenia, left,  had been a stay-at-home mom, but has rejoined the work force as an assistant kindergarten teacher at Trinity Christian School, where Isabella is a student. Scott is an electronics technician for the Honolulu Fire Department.

As a stage icon, “Les Miserables” continues to be an enduring and endearing player. It still is running in London in its original splendor, with the turntable stage and barricades;  a brand new version previews March 1 at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway, leading to a March 23 premiere that will mark the show’s 25th anniversary, presented  by original producer Cameron Mackintosh in a reimagined version said to be minus the barricades and with a “look” of French paintings in the time frame of the French revolution. A cast has yet to be announced.

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Here comes McBride: is he a key to 'Hawaii Five-0's' future?

September 15th, 2013

mcbride.jpg.gAlex O'Loughlin (Steve McGarrett), far left, confronts Chi McBride (new character Capt. Lou Grover), near left, as Dennis Chun (Sgt. Duke Lukela), center,  looks on in this scene from "Hawaii Five-O's" season opener.

Chi McBride —  do you  remember him on the short-lived “Golden Boy” drama?  — just might emerge as the “new” character to watch on the first episode of the fourth season of  “Hawaii Five-0,” premiering Friday (Sept. 27) on CBS.

Remember, it’s a new time slot (8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. here) on a new night (Fridays instead of Mondays) and the first year for the CBS series to be anchored at the Hawaii Film Studio lot on the slopes of Diamond Head.

A recurring role played by McBride on the struggling reboot may not be all that startling; heck, so many newbies,  some admittedly unnecessary with fabricated ties to the current cast, some initially fascinating  but overstaying their welcome — have been introduced so far.
But this one — a SWAT police offer named Capt. Lou Grover — just might have the mettle to matter.

Why?  It’s the second character extracted from the Jack Lord-era “Five-0,” from episode No. 165 entitled “The Hostage”  — in which Capt. Grover, an old-school cop, agitates Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord), who, at that time, was a no-frills, new-school investigator. The segment first appeared on March 11, 1975.

But as perceived by current  producer Peter Lenkov, McBride as Grover is supposedly a bad-ass Chicago cop assigned to “Five-0” as the SWAT officer who rankles McGarrett’s chains, with little or no regrets.

Perhaps this is just the invisible vinegar Alex O’Loughlin’s McGarrett needs to maintain his brand of orderliness and control, a demeanor which might have been diluted over the first three seasons by the constant and ongoing bickering/nagging bro-romance with his Danno Williams (Scott Caan) teammate.

McBride brings attitude along with agitation to stir the pot, and he’ll be a notable ingredient in this season’s playout. I’d put my money on McBride as the character to watch, the one you’ll remember, for better or worse. There’s been no confirmation that this will be a recurring role, but it's one that should come back.

Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) appears on the new episode, too, picking up where season three’s finale left off. But face it; as an antagonist of McG, he's never been the menace he should  be.

For his part, Lenkov previously jumpstarted a flashback character — as a matter of fact, an entire episode from the original “Five-0” template —  when Ed Asner (Lou Grant on the “Mary Tyler Moore” series) — who played the role “then” and in the retelling, with the producers meticulously recreating the action, point by point, scene by scene. Though it wasn’t a ratings hit, it certainly was a curiosity and risky proposition, earning an A for effort, if nothing else.

The upcoming show, entitled “Aloha ke kahi I ke kahi,” Hawaiian for  “We Need Each Other,” forces McG to break the law to locate a kidnapped Catherine Rollins (Michelle Borth) when gunmen storm H50 headquarters, compromising the safety and whereabouts of Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) and beau Adam (Ian Anthony Dale), situated somewhere in Hong Kong. Kinda like the old gang going through familiar motion and expected commotion.

But with McBride's arrival, he's no carryover; best of all, he isn’t being somebody’s father or brother or ex.

His presence, in his debut,  hopefully will ease the other problematic add-ons so far this year.

Since we’ve previously been introduced to Danno’s dad (real life dad James Caan), this year his mom (played by Melanie Griffith) makes her debut in what presumably will evolve into a recurring role. The show might have booked, instead, her hubby, Antonio Banderas, who,  at least, would  bring an ethnic, exotic element to crime or crime-fighting here, devoid of  family ties.

Mom’s not been a good word on the show, after all; think Mama McG (Christine Lahti). She was mostly dullsville in a story arc that plagued the storytelling flow and she brought hell and headaches to sonny boy McG.  Whether she’ll be a show or no-show this year, remains, well, mum. The actress had banked on a new pilot, which was not picked up, so presumably is available for hire.

We previously also have been introduced to John McGarrett (William Sadler), Dad McG, who died in the pilot episode, but managed to reappear in flashbacks a couple of times since.

So what’s next? A dad for Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim)? Perhaps portrayed by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa?  And a mom for Kono Kalakaua, maybe enacted by Nancy Kwan? This progression to expand back stories of the lead characters has created unwanted clutter and caused unneeded detours into the closets of the “Five-0” team  since the invented roles have been short on dynamics, long on screen time.

Oh, one more kin will be introduced this season: McG’s aunt, portrayed by Carol Burnett, who figures in a Thanksgiving-themed show in November. She’s a favorite of yesteryear’s TV viewers, so skewers older in demographics, so her inclusion as a new relative seems to reach out for older viewers. Does this portend an uncle down the way? Yikes.

Also signed to guest roles: Daryl Hannah, Tim Daly and Nick Jonas, not exactly names appealing to the show’s key 18 to  49 demographics. A mermaid from “Splash” (OK, she was in “Kill Bill,” too);  Daly also is an older TV face, who’ll play a  Texas ranger; and an ex-Disney Channel boy bander from The Jonas Brothers are so, well, sorta yesterday. But the Jonas clan also will perform in the annual Sunset on the Beach premiere of “Five-0” Thursday night (Sept. 26)  preceding the Friday premiere here and nationally.

But back to McBride: in the end, he just might be the soul “Five-0” needs to shape and plan for the future. Best of all, he brings no baggage; he is relative-free.

Book ‘em, Lenkov.

Dave Shoji, the miracle worker of UH wahine volleyball

September 5th, 2013

Mention the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine Volleyball, and invariably, coach David Shoji’s name pops up. The game is synonymous with his fame.

This, despite the scores of Wahine team players who have graced the rosters over the past four decades.

Shoji, after all, has been the centrifugal force behind four national championships for the team, guiding the Wahine to back-to-back triumphant seasons for nearly 40 years.

And perhaps this week, still early in the 2013 season, Shoji’s remarkable reign as a Hall of Fame coach may add another milestone to his lei of orchids: he is destined and poised to become the winningest NCAA volleyball coach, surpassing the 1,106 victories amassed by UCLA’s legendary coach, Andy Banachowski’s, who is a booster of Shoji’s style and legend and happy to relinquish the “winningest” title to Shoji.

That premise, and possibility, is part of the wonderment and wishes of “Dave Shoji: The Man Behind the Miracles,” a TV special airing twice —tonight (Sept. 5) and Sunday (Sept. 8). Could happen tonight (Sept. 5), or in the days ahead.

Most of us know Shoji largely through his courtside dynamics, a powerful leader who recognizes and develops blockers, setters  and hitters on his team, an intense and resourceful wizard who cares about his athletes on and off the playing field.

Cobey Shoji Hutzler, the coach’s daughter, describes him as a “quietly intense person” who masks his emotions. “He has a lot of peculiar traits only we see at home.”

Tom Selleck, the one-time “Magnum P.I.” actor (and volleyball player) now starring on CBS’ “Blue Bloods,” says of Shoji, “he’s so centered as a person, so centered as a coach.”  He knows, having played with the coach as a teammate at the Outrigger Canoe Club.

Stanford women’s volleyball coach John Dunning says Shoji’s triumphs are due to the fact that “he was a great strategist.”

Robyn Ah Mow-Santos, now an assistant Wahine coach who was a player while a student, opines:  “Coach Shoji is a task master ... (who) comes off as mean and grumpy” because of his high expectations of his players. But “how can you not love Dave?”

The documentary, by Phil Arnone, assembles coach Shoji’s family, current and former Wahine players, fellow coaches who were previous competitors, who provide candid and anecdotal reflections on Shoji. Ex-local Larry Fleece produced segments taped on the Mainland.

Combined with vintage and recent footage of the Wahine in action, the show speaks volumes of a UH entity that is a rarity today: the team and the sport actually make money for its university, a feat unquestionably linked to Shoji’s dedication and his team’s performance record.

Shoji, 66, was born in Upland, California, but his parents moved to Hawaii, settling in Kapahulu. Dad’s job with C. Brewer sent the family back to the Mainland for a period, but be and his wife Mary settled in Niu Valley.

He was a tri-sport athlete at Upland High School, but volleyball was not on his radar then. It was at UC Santa Barbara that Shoji learned of beach volleyball, where his now-friend Dennis Berg was PE teacher, so he took a course — the roots of his journey that would become Shoji’s franchise.

After a stint as an infantry officer with the Army at Fort Ord, a jobless Shoji returned home and found work as an assistant coach at Punahou School, where Chris McLachlin was head coach. He recommended Shoji to UH athletic director Donnis Thompson,  who was searching for a volleyball coach in the era of Rep. Patsy Mink’s historic Title 9 program mandating equal opportunities for female athletes. She hired Shoji in 1974, but the job included coaching the men’s volleyball team, too, with a paltry $1,000 salary.

Because of his youthfulness, coach Shoji looked like and blended in with the students. “He had black hair— and a chawan haircut,” said Wahine player Terry Malterre, a middle-blocker from 1975 to ‘79, about Shoji’s head of bowl-style hair. She was part of Shoji’s first NCAA win, in a season not without challenges.

The spiker miracle was only beginning.

Shoji’s savvy as a coach was obvious early on. “He had a great way with finding players,” says UCLA coach Banachowski, who unsuccessfully tried to recruit Deitre Collins-Park, a middle-blocker (1980-‘83), who opted to become a Wahine. “He was a strong leader, a strong coach ... I was there to do what he told me to do,” Collins-Park says. “He led me in a great direction... it just clicked.”

Shoji  led the Wahine to the NCAA championship in 1979, ‘82, ‘83 and ‘87. In ’81, the team won 37 and lost two, was undefeated before going into the finals, and was upset by USC, so the trophy eluded Hawaii.

The TV special hones in on the obivious: the loyal fans, like Aunties Lauretta and Lenora, are up and and center, in their green and white garb, flashing “Shoji No Ka Oi” signs; Jim Leahy, a longtime broadcaster, who narrates; footage at the old Klum Gym and the current Stan Sheriff Center, reflecting the old and new generation of fanship; the script by Robert Pennybacker,  rightfully paying homage to the steadfast UH coach whose record speaks for itself.

And then there’s the clip of the UH-New Mexico State game on Oct. 17, 2009, when Shoji logged his 1,000th win before 9,000 screaming fans at Stan Sheriff.

The Rainbow Wahine have been to the NCAA tournament 31 times, so one more championship would be nice, say his friends, colleagues and family. Ben

Jay, current UH athletic director, “I mean who does that, who has that kind of longevity?”

Scott Wong, who played on the men’s volleyball and basketball teamsand now serves as an assistant coach, said Shoji was the magical ingredient in the winning formula: Wahine volleyball always had a direct correlation with Shoji.

On the private and personal side, Shoji admits family is first and foremost. Golf, too — “my exercise,” he reveals.

“He’s my best friend and a wonderful husband,” says wife Mary. She has an athletic background and also coached at Punahou, so they understand each other’s needs.

“He’s so humble. He’s such a regular guy,” says daughter Cobey.

And sons Kawika and Erik, athletes in their own rights at Stanford and now in Europe, admit that family ties are strong — a key linked to a Christian upbringing.

Shoji watches taped golf matches in his man cave, after the family is asleep.

And yes, he’s contemplating retirement, but there’s the issue of a fifth championship first.

Stay tuned; the marvel of the miracle worker still is in the works.


9 p.m. today (Sept. 5), KGMB; 9 p.m. Sunday (Sept. 8), KHNL

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