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Broadway addendum: here are four more show reviews...

June 26th, 2016
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What follows are mini-reviews of four other Broadway shows I saw earlier this month —an addendum to the full story appearing in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Today section on June 26.

Reasons for closings vary; some shows are on limited run, particularly when
“name” actors are in the cast; others shutter because of shrinking ticket sales that threaten profit levels; still others simply decide to shut down after an extended run to kick off a national tour.

 

kingKim

>> “The King and I,” Vivian Beaumont Theatre, Lincoln Center

lct.org; 150 W. 65th St.;

Daniel Dae Kim and Marin Mazzie as the King of Siam and the Brit school teacher Anna brought their own aura and chemistry to this impeccable Bartlett Sher-directed Rodgers & Hammerstein evergreen. Kim was perfection and a suitable match for Mazzie, and their swirling waltz was a crowd-pleaser. As the King, Kim had a memorable line, “One day I wish to build a fence around Siam; next day, I think maybe let the rest of the world in,” greeted by chuckles because of the prevailing political climate. Hawaii’s Ruthie Ann Miles as Lady Thiang, the head wife, served wonderfully and regally for the full run of the show. The rich R&H score, and overtures, are classic.

(Closed June 26 after 538 performances and four 2015 Tony Awards; the plug was pulled to focus on a national tour beginning Nov. 16 2016).

 

psycho

“American Psycho — The Musical,” Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre

americanpsychobroadway.com; 236 W. 45th St.

If only “American Psycho”could have run longer; its body-beautiful star Benjamin Walker, portraying Patrick Bateman the serial killer from the Bret Easton Ellis novel, is more mannequin than leading man. Nonetheless, Walker was spot-on made for this imperfect glimpse — MTV video style, of the 1980s — of a shallow but fascinating antihero with bloodshed in his daily routine.

Directed by Rupert Goold, and featuring thumping, pumping electro-pop songs by Duncan Shiek, the musical had an edginess set against a cold monochromatic set and lit with stark brightness and blackouts and even a Plexiglas front shield that keeps fake blood within the stage instead of splattering into the house.

Bateman was an obsessed Wall Streeter with the six-pack, chic designer clothes and pristine office peopled with competitive on-the-rise phonies trying to out-do each other. Amusing, too, that nearly everyone walks like runway models fresh from the spa. Obviously, with “Hamilton” nabbing most of the box office ka-chings, “Psycho” couldn’t compete. Clever gimmick: Faux $100 bills are shot into the audience, a stage prop that doubles as a take-home souvenir.

(Closed June 5, after 58 performances and two Tony nominations; received mixed reviews and had difficulty attracting audiences heading to “Hamilton” at killer prices).

 

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>> “Blackbird,” Belasco Theatre

blackbirdbroadway.com; 111 W. 44th St.

What happens when lovers meet 15 years after an affair gone sour? Was it love? Or was it rape? That was the premise facing Ray (Jeff Daniels), 50ish, and Una (Michelle Williams), mid-20ish, in Joe Mantello’s stunning, bizarre and intense drama, where little is known about him or her.

The obscure, non-descript setting — a pharmaceutical house — also was bewildering; it was after hours and as vacant as the unfolding emotions and factoids She was 12, he was 40, when something sexual exploded, festering an ugly smear of uncertainty.

It was a situation of a tense present dealing with a fuzzy past, where words and charges of pedophilia and abuse and seduction were blurred.

Harrowing, too, with a conclusion not expected, with the two actors exchanging physical and verbal fisticuffs as they filtered and tried to sort out a polarizing incident.

Both Daniels and Williams were at sparring best, with some rough play interspersed among the rabid words.

Love here was a many splintered fling.

(Opened March 10 and closed June 11, after a limited-run 18 weeks; critically praised, with three Tony nominations).

 bright

>> “Bright Star,” Cort Theatre

brightstarmusical.com; 138 W. 45h St.

I was charmed and delighted by this bluegrass musical, with tunes by Steve Martin and Edie Brickwell (they didn’t appear on stage), that captured Americana with the calm of a hootenanny. A complex melodrama of an infant boy thought to be lost, the plot intertwinedand linked folks who don’t know they have connections. There was a mood-setting train that chugged along the top of the proscenium.

Billy Crane (A.J. Shively) was a war veteran returning home in 1945 to Hayes Creek, N.C., and learned that his dad could not bear to tell him his mom had died. A writer at heart, he delivered scripts to the Ashville Southern Journal, hoping for publication, where he met Alice Murphy (Carmen Cusack), a fussy literary editor who dallied about printing his stuff.

There were repeated flashbacks, and the score was rich in optimistic songs delivered by a splendid cast and rendered by a house band (in a rotating/revolving house) all smartly directed by Walter Bobbie in a package with the vibe of a Hallmark musical, right down to the denouement. Perhaps “Star” needed a bright name for marquee power.

(Closed June 26, after 109 performances and five Tony nominations; possibly lacked box office appeal because of an ensemble cast without a mainstream star).

Shari Lynn at Medici: A genuine jewel of jazz

June 26th, 2016
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Shari Lynn, at Medici's; background, bassist Jon Hawes

shari2

 

 

Shari Lynn, with bassist Jon Hawes, at her monthly gig at Medici's at Manoa Market place; the view of the stage from the balcony.

 

Shari Lynn’s monthly stint at Medici’s at Manoa Marketplace — she’s normally warbling on the last Friday of each month, and I took in last night’s (June 24) event — was wonderfully relaxing and a super site to soak up her polished and powerful artistry.

Her devotees make this almost like a jazz club’s monthly meeting, a mecca for sharing good jazz vibes with a well-stocked buffet of nibbles. A balcony level perch gives you a bird’s eye view of the proceedings on the second-level floor where circular tables are communal worship stations for Shari’s generous and glorious performance of songs you know from her repertoire of the Great American Songbook.

The Shari Lynn Trio this evening featured her regular cohort on piano, Jim Howard, and Jon Hawes on a stand-up bass once owned by the late Steve Jones was a newbie. “Did you steal it?” Shari jokingly asked the young dude deeply tuned in to the ritual of maintaining that undercoating of deep bass riffs. No, he didn’t swipe the stand-up fiddle; Jones earlier “retired” that instrument and Hawes became its lucky recipient to carry on it and his legacy. Huge responsibility on his shoulders; or fingers, I should say.

Certainly, Jones had been a frequent musician supporting Shari, so an appropriate note of appreciation was paid to the well-loved accompanist who lost his battle to cancer recently.

And, of course, Shari continues to salute, respect and reflect on the late Jimmy Borges, whom she called a “world-class jazz singer” who “bravely and publicly” waged his own battle against cancer. The chanteuse chose Cole Porter’s “Night and Day” as the ditty to cherish the memory of Borges, with whom she had done this song as a duet over the decades.

Shari’s m.o. is much like Borge’s — heck, the association made one influence the other, in a mutual admiration society of sorts. Similar menu of resourceful standards that touch the heart, have something to say, acknowledge the composer, and delivered with earnest soulfulness. The formula continues to work; that’s that genuine magic of two classic jazz singers who share storytelling skills in her vocal delivery.

When Shari offers “I’ve Got the World on a String,” there’s a ring of truth; she’s unmistakably the prevailing jazz female jazz artist; she’s a favorite on the club circuit; she mixes her daytime job as a teacher with her passion to grow as a vocalist; she periodically basks in the spotlight as a musical comedy star in local theater; she spends her vacation expanding her horizons of her craft by immersing in self-improvement workshops and research to mount future projects.

For instance, George and Ira Gershwin are among her favorite resources; during a June trip to Washington D.C., she touched (and photographed) the actual piano the George composed “Porgy and Bess” and saw the typewriter and pen that Ira owned to compose the lyrics.

This reflection was a terrific intro to the Gershwin brothers’ “The Man I Love” ballad; Shari captures the nuances of the poetry and rides the waves of those juicy blues notes.

“Send in the Clowns,” from “A Little Night Music,” is one of her signatures that bring out her prowess and depth as a stage actor; there’s such a range of emotions in her delivery, from subtle to coy to romantic. Her enunciation and vocal punctuation truly bring out the essence of composer’s Stephen Sondheim’s drama-in-song.

“That Ol’ Black Magic” is another specimen of how swell her spell is; she moves and grooves, and demonstrates why titles like this never fade.

With husband Michael Acebedo in the house with a group of friends, Shari got personal with the acknowledgement that they just marked their 41st wedding anniversary, recalling their marriage at Kauai’s Fern Grotto four decades ago. And she dedicated “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?” to him.

Shari never takes her backup gents instrumental for granted, always giving them solo moments in nearly all tunes, giving credit where it’s due.

Such is the generosity of this genuine jewel of jazz.

Jimmy Borges services and a salute, slated over three days

June 7th, 2016
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jimmee

Michelle Honda photo

 

 

Funeral services and a salute to the late jazz icon, Jimmy Borges, will be held over three days this weekend, according to his family.

An invitation-only Mass, for family and close friends, will be held at 6 p.m. Friday (June 10) at Sts. Peter & Paul Church, at 800 Kaheka St. Visitation will be from 5 p.m.; Sts. Peter & Paul is where Jimmy and wife Vicki are parishioners.

A public Mass will be held at noon Saturday (June 11) at the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, at 1184 Bishop St. Visitation will be from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

A Celebration of Life program, is scheduled from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Sunday (June 12) at the Monarch Room of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel; the program still was being finalized this week. The scattering of ashes by canoe off the Pink Palace will be from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The public may attend and there is no admission, but aloha attire is suggested (no shorts or slippers).

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to The Jimmy Borges Endowed Scholarship for vocal music students at the Department of Music at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Checks may be sent to the University of Foundation, Attn. Malia Peters, P.O. Box 11270, Honolulu HI 96828-0270. Or visit http://www.uhfoundation.org/

 

Applause, applause! Arcadia troupers take on ‘Broadway’

May 15th, 2016
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Scenes from the show; Dancers Joh and Karen Kotake, a  pair of "Lion King" moments with a cheetah puppet and zebra character, Anne Hedani as "Annie," Sheila Black as a Pink Lady, the rooster in the "Chicken Dance" number, and Yvonne Toma in a hula moment.

Cover of "Lulllaby of Broadway" program

Cover of "Lulllaby of Broadway" program

kotakes lionking zebra annie pinksheila chiciken yvonne

 

Jack Cione’s “Lullaby of Broadway” edition of his “Follies” show, playing three weekends through May 29 at the Arcadia Retirement Residence, is easily the best in the series. This 11th annual extravaganza, largely featuring the retirement troupers of the Arcadia, is a pastiche of some of the memorable songs from the Great White Way, with songs and dances from familiar shows along with snippets from the Great American Songbook.
The highlight truly is a “Lion King” adaptation, with the 34-member cast parading in eye-popping costumes rendered by Bill Doherty, parading to the refrains of “Circle of Life.” There are several iPhone moments: a voodoo priestess, a large king of the jungle, a cheetah puppet with moving legs, two giant rams with curly-cue horns, a zebra with spot-on stripes. So what if there are no giraffes (wouldn’t fit in the Arcadia theater, or that iconic elephant that wouldn’t be able to roam through the aisles). A few unexpected guests, like a snake and a gorilla, clearly are add-ons to the Disney original.

Running through the show: passionate expression and professional pride among the mostly amateur cast, notably clad in superb costumes with Cione trademarks galore. Feathers. Sequins. Exotic dancers. Minsky show queens with bejeweled gowns and glitz. Beloved Hollywood and Broadway luminaries bewigged and bejeweled. Punches of vivid colors throughout the ranks.

“It would take a $50,000 budget to get these costumes for a show,” said Cione of the eye candy. Doherty and his aides, including Becki Cuellar-Han and Derek Daniels, fashioned the costumes with volunteers from the cast helping to stitch, assemble and glue-gun fabric and frou-frou to create that swanky finished look. Some garb were rented, but most were expressly created for this venture.

Doherty designed the difficult and whimsical costumes for “Lion King.” And United Laundry Services donated a 50 white linen sheets which were transformed into eight chicken costumes for a barnyard hoedown to the “Chicken Dance.” Willard the Rooster and Henny Penny also appear in yellow, and the fowls even have spunky beaks. Savers, the resale garb store, also donated odds and ends to accentuate and adorn the varied costumes, and ingenuity and recycling paid off, too — the stage curtain backdrop originally were Arcadia drapes discarded for a renovation.

If you’ve been to a previous “Follies,” you know the drill: cast members lip-synch to a variety of familiar music, in lavish dress not commonly seen on a local stage, and desire is part of the design and delivery. It's director Cione's antidote to prevent senior stagnation: if you're active and productive, you'll doubtlessly feel young and relevant; the concept works.

This is a crew accustomed with little, but makes it go a long way. Cione scopes music and mines his imagination a year ahead, to mount a musical with 15 scenes.

The opener focuses on “Something Rotten,” last season’s Broadway biggie, with emphasis on “God, I Hate Shakespeare,” a lament by competing playwrights who figure the only way to outdo The Bard and his prose is to present a musical with lyrics that are sung, not spoken.

This gets faucet flowing with parodies galore, with signage-posters from Broadway shows like “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera” adding credence to the theme.

Midway, there are additional pokes to the Great White Way, via “Forbidden Broadway,” a New York brand that satirizes classic stage stars and iconic tunes. So Sheila Black and Betty O’Rourke make like a pair of Carol Channings, with a track of “Hello Dolly” in raspy voice; Patty Dela Cruz enacts “I Could Have Danced All Night,” in Julie Andrews mode, Anne Hedani in red wig and red dress renders “Tomorrow” in the guise of “Annie,” and Chuck Lewis, with a black cape and a half-face mask, enacts “Phantom of the Opera.”

Applause, applause.

There are prancing nunsence nuns, pink-cladded ladies in a “Think Pink (50 Shades of Pink)” parade that includes a quick refrain from John Rowles’ “Cheryl Moana Marie” (a departure from the Broadway theme) and beads and baubles in a tableau of dance and ritiuals of India, with Allyson Doherty, a future senior in the “Follies” company, in a splendid exotic dance of charm.

A round of burlesque is skittish and uneven, though the classic take-off from “Gypsy,” embracing “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” showcases abundant show- and glow-manship from Geovanna Lewis, Bonnie Parsons and Marci-Taylor-Kaneshige, re-inventing the three gimmick routines from the original show.

A brief scene dubbed “Walk Through Paradise” features Elaine Stroka mouthing Melveen Leed, with Yvonne Toma rendering a hula — another instance of an “extra,” as opposed to a legit Broadway moment. But so what?

As usual, prime dance soloists such as John and Karen Kotake take on several leads, demonstrating their long ties with the Hawaii Ballroom Dance Assn., whose members solidify the dance element of the show. “Lullaby of Broadway” will evolve into an expanded show, “Mardi Gras Follies,” when a cast of 60 dancers and performers from Arcadia unite with HBDA dancers in a concert at 7 p.m. June 25 at Kaimuki High School Auditorium. The Kotakes are the most prolific HBDA soloist who have a featured mambo number in the “Les Girls” segment and they have numerous ensemble moments, too.

“Follies” is primarily intended to be an in-house show for Arcadia residents and the folks from the sister residence 15 Craigside. You need to know someone at either facility to score a ticket and gain entrance; otherwise, you’re out of luck. There is no admission free, but donations are gladly accepted following the performances, during a meet-and-greet session with the cast. Sellouts are common.

If you’re planning ahead, log these details: “Follies” 2017, the 12th annual show, is set for an April 27 to May 7 run next year. Its theme: “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries.”

 

 

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“LULLABY OF BROADWAY”

What: A musical spectacle, featuring a cast of 34, to raise funds for the Arcadia

When: Remaining shows at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm. Sundays, through May 29

Where: Arcadia Theatre

Information: 983-1808

Cost: Free, but staged expressly for Arcadia residents; you need to know an Arcadian to secure admission

 

“MARDI GRAS FOLLIES”
What: An expanded version of the Arcadia show, featuring 60 performers, bolstered with dancers from the Hawaii Ballroom Dance Assn.; also featuring guest singer Joy Abbott, comic Bo Irvine and Frank Sinatra stylist Randy Smith

When: 7 p.m. June 25

Where: Kaimuki High School Auditorium

Tickets: $35 general admission, (open seating), $50 quick step premium, including reserved parking, priority entry and front row seating

Reservations: Hawaii Ballroom Dance Assn. at 753-8673 or Shirley Ota at 456-2129, www.hbdahawaii.org

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Robert Cazimero brings sing-along to Blue Note Hawaii

May 10th, 2016
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Robert Cazimero: Terrific and textured in his Blue Note debut.

Robert Cazimero: Terrific and textured in his Blue Note debut.

robt2

 

Robert Cazimero demonstrated trusty new layers of artistry in his terrific and textured Blue Note Hawaii debut last Friday (May 6).

Sing-alongs! Nostalgia! Crib notes!

He seemed a tad queasy initially, about working what truly is a nightclub/showroom venue, at the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel. You know the space — the shoe-box site formerly known as the Main Showroom.

Cazimero pranced through 90 minutes of pure fun, occasionally becoming a piano bar trouper (he played keyboards, instead of his stand-up bass) but also an upfront soloist to test his pipes.

He was a genuine chameleon. With two young sidemen — Halehaku Seabury on guitar and Nicholas Lum on bass — he essentially appeared as singer fronting a trio.

From his keyboards, he occasionally led piano-bar type sing-alongs. Folks didn’t need much prompting to join the serenades

He hauled up two of his trusty hula halau dudes, Keola Makaiau and Alaka‘i Lastimado, to bring motion and mobility during a medley Hawaiian swing tunes, including “Hawaiian War Chant” as traditionally rendered. After all, it wouldn’t have been a Cazimero fest and feast if there wasn’t hula!

He talked story frequently with a charming tidbit involving beloved actress Betty White, who apparently frequents his Whittier College (California) shows where she sends requests/notes “to play ‘Misty’ for me,” referring to the ol’ Johnny Mathis classic that ripples through all kinds of musical genres, including jazz, which is a perfect fit for the club.

For “Misty,” however, dancer Sky Perkins was tapped from the audience to render a sit-down hula, the way White adores his“Misty.”

It was a revelation. And a realization of how precise and expert Cazimero can be when it matters.

With somewhat of a planned script, duly noted on slips of paper he consulted periodically (an iPad could work, too!) Cazimero played it loose with impromptu plan switches along the way. The uncertainty worked, as viewer anticipation mounted.

An award-winning singer, composer, musician, kumu hula and legend in the annals of Hawaiian music, Cazimero also is a huge fan of Broadway music and American standards. And this expedition included these resources that punctuated his artistry.

This Blue Moon outing was a new experience for him — and his fans.

It began with a zip, or should I say “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” behind the keyboards, which was a sprightly starting point. Cazimero then glided into a verse or two of “On a Wonderful Day Like Today,” formulating and expressing his joy of the moment. “Our Love Is Here to Stay” was also uncorked, and then a reprise of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” (from Disney’s “Song of the South” film) with that memorable line, “Wonderful feeling, wonderful day.” More wonderfulness followed with “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” as if he were shaping his own review, with bountiful wonderful feeling and loverly thoughts.

He relied on his notes — well, a rundown list of songs — as well as lyrics to some rarely-performed tunes. Thus, he hopscotched a skosh,  rustling through papers and sighed: “My ass is on the line.” Laughter abounded.

It was a lament he wouldn’t commonly utter, but reflected the tension; knew the importance of making good, not making A.

He turned the somewhat show space into his personal living room, as if he were the focus of a casual jam in his apartment.

“I hated playing piano,” he said about his grade school era, when he took lessons. In retrospect, he said, it paid off because of some his later-in-life-mentors, like Mahi Beamer and Loyal Garner, both pianists.

Cazimero certainly is an ace communicating with an audience, which he said he learned from Jimmy Borges, who embraces lyrics to forward a story. “Jimmy could read the telephone book and it would be amazing,” he said in homage to the jazz great.

Then he cruised into “Tenderly,” with a nod to one of his fave singers, Rosemary Clooney.

In retrospect, the show alternately had the intimacy of a cozy piano bar, the pulse of a main showroom, and the informality of a free-wheeling karaoke bar.

“When I was growing up, I thought Chubby Checker was the bomb,” he exclaimed. I expected a morsel of “The Twist,” but this was Cazimero goin’ round and round with chime-alongs, inviting his audience to channel Paul Anka’s “Diana” and Lenny Welch’s “Since I Feel for You” hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s. The preacher had the churchgoers wailing!

The spotlight momentarily focused on bassist Lum on “On the Street Where You Live” (he had a charming presence and an equally appealing manner and voice), prefaced with a footnote from the kumu that Lum didn’t know (because of his youth) the ditty from “My Fair Lady.” Lum also sang lead on “The Nearness of You,” with Cazimero in the harmony slot. Lots to learn, if you're young and working with a vet.

Before exiting the stage, Cazimero further referred to his notes for the not-commonly-rendered introduction to “Over the Rainbow.” Then he followed with that timeless classic, his sweet voice working its magic, radiating imaginary hues from "The Wizard of Oz."

Since his first gig, The Blue Note has offered Cazimero playdates at least once a month, through December, but he has yet to finalize his calendar. So there’s hope the club will get this blues bird chirping again.

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