By Wayne Harada
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.
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.”
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.”
“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
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