Inside ‘Side by Side:’ A personal connection
Tom Holowach, pictured
When Paliki Theatre’s “Side by Side by Sondheim” premieres at Windward Community College, there’s an untold personal connection between the show and one of its performers and one of its creators that flash back to the musical’s London and Broadway roots, circa 1970s.
And it’s all about having friends in the right places, to come through at the right time.
The musical montage, of songs from the Stephen Sondheim repertoire of shows, will be staged for six performances over two weekends, in a somewhat of a hasty mounting following the death last July 7 of director Ronald E. Bright, the iconic force behind a lifetime of shows at the Castle High School theater that bears his name, and all the blockbusters he’s staged at Paliku prior to his passing.
No, he was never going to direct this one, but when he took ill and was unable to render his usual creative input in the theater’s fall attraction, it took some quick brainstorm to pinpoint a show with a hand-picked cast and limited rehearsal time to generate buzz and a following.
Enter, “Side by Side by Sondheim,” and Tom Holowach, manager of Paliku Theatre and a sometimes actor, who had a longtime friendship with an Englishman who assembled this montage/homage to Sondheim.
Ned Sherrin, who first directed this show (now deceased), had collaborated with British producer Cameron Macintosh in London, whose parallel producer in New York, the equally eminent Hal Prince, decided to stage the show on Broadway.
This is where friendship kicks in. As Holowach tells it: “My friend, David Yakir (my friend, because he was my wife Holly’s college theater friend at two schools) got a job as Ned’s assistant during the entire New York run and traveled to other cities around the word. Ned eventually arranged for David to direct a show Ned was producing in London called ‘Only in America,’ which Holly and I saw on opening night.”
With its manageable cast of stage professionals, “Side by Side” also happened to have the stars aligned “It’s pure coincidence that it also happens to be one of two Broadway shows put together by someone I actually know” — the other is Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” written by a friend, for which Holowach already has rights for next year.
The show boasts familiar Sondheim hits from “West Side Story,” “Gypsy,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “A Little Night Music,” “Follies,” and “Company.” Sondheim is regarded as one of America’s most clever lyricist; his trademark tune is “Send in the Clowns,” from “A Little Night Music,” though his words are among the most sung in shows like “West Side Story,” “Gypsy” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”
The composers include Leonard Bernstein, Mary Rodgers, Richard Rodgers and Jule Styne.
This will be the first staging of “Side by Side” in Honolulu since 1986, when Shari Lynn was in the cast. The Paliku cast boasts five formidable Po’okela Award-winning performers:
- Kip Wilborn, who was Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” at Paliku.
- Kim Anderson, who enacted Cosette in “Les Miz.”
- Shari Lynn, theater and nightclub chanteuse with numerous stage credits.
- Jade Stice, a former student of Ron Bright at Castle High, who finished high school to directly enter a “Miss Saigon” production on the Mainland.
- Holowach, the theater’s manager and a frequent stage actor, in the role of the narrator.
Holowach says the New York original was the first Broadway show in history to have every single cast member nominated for a Tony Award: singers Millicent Martin, Julia McKenzie and David Kernan and Ned Sherrin as narrator.
‘SIDE BY SIDE BY SONDHEIM’
A musical montage of compositions by Stephen Sondheim
When: Premiering at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 2; repeats at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, through Oct. 11.
Where: Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College.
Cast: Shari Lynn, Kip Wilborn, Kim Anderson, Jade Stice, and Tom Holowach.
Co-directed by: Kip Wilborn and Ramon del Barrio.
Choreographer: Ramon del Barrio.
Musical conductor: Emmett Yoshioka.
Lighting by: R. Andrew Doan, Lloyd “Sandy” Riford and Janine Myers.
Costumes by: Lacy Rohlf.
Tickets: $29 adults; $26 seniors 62 and older, active duty military, University of Hawaii faculty and staff; $20, students and children through age 25.
Reservations: www.eTicketHawaii.com (under Performing Arts/Paliku Theatre), or via the box office, 235-7310; a $3 fee per ticket for online sales.