Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

She's somebody doing something about fans. Cooling fans

August 30th, 2015
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I have been a fan — and friend — of singer-actor Loretta Ables Sayre, from way way back.

I’ve seen and applauded her performances not only in clubs and stages in Honolulu, but in the prestigious Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center, where she co-starred as Bloody Mary and was nominated for a  Tony Award in the beloved “South Pacific.”

So when she sent me a note, about raising funds to buy fans for the students of the Nanakuli Performing Arts Club, who sweat like a dickens in these hot and humid times, I have to support her. And now I ask that you pitch in, too.

Loretta has posted this campaign on her Facebook page. Ditto, me. She is somebody who can get a project like this whirring.

She she speaks from experience; she knows that pupils in sweltering classrooms, without AC or fans, cannot fully function, when temps reach 100 or more degrees.

“This is not a situation that is conducive to optimum health or optimum learning,” she posted. “These students need our help now.”

She and hubby David have priced fans from local merchants, where costs range from $20 to $60. She hopes to raise enough money so 250 fans can be purchased. Sure, the Department of Education should be funding these band-aids for the problem, but you know how bureaucracies work. You wait and wait and … you get the picture. She is coordinating her fan funding with Robin Kitssu, director of the Nanakuli Performing Arts Club, anticipating immediate delivery of fans as soon as checks roll in.
So here’s how to help.

Write a check to CASH (but don’t send cash),  with a Fans for Nanakuli in your check’s memo line.

Mail to Loretta Ables Sayre at P.O. Box 893070, Mililani HI 96789.

Upon receipt, she will mail you a Xeroxed copy of your check, along with a receipt for fans purchased, to an address you provide.

Cool idea, in these hot and sticky times.

 

 

'Te Moana Nui:' one-stop journey to savor South Seas

August 26th, 2015
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Maori New Zealand  and Tuamotus dances from "Te Moana Nui." — Eugene Tanner photos courtesy Tiahti Productions.

Nobody does it better than Tihati Productions.

And with “Te Moana Nui”  — Tihati’s flagship show created slightly more than a year ago for the Pacific Beach Hotel — sailing  back to the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel’s Ainahaua Ballroom, it’s cause for celebration.

Tihati has raised the bar when it comes to the syncopation and splendor of authentic South Seas culture and artistry.

The opportunity to renew ties with the Princess Kaiulani, and revive “Te Moana Nui” in Tihati’s previous home for 30 years, make this a welcome homecoming. Preview performances are pau; the public can attend “Te Moana Nui,” beginning Friday (Aug. 28), where it will run Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The cornerstone is the behind-the-scenes team of Afatia Thompson and Misty Tufono, the son and daughter of Tihati Productions co-founders Jack and Cha Thompson, who skipper this production with new insights grounded by a time-honored success formula: do it all with awesome artistry, rooted in the traditions of the South Seas people, and complemented by new-fangled technology including high-definition LED video.

The combination of genuine cultural artistry, combined with eye-filling and mood-setting costumes, elevate the show to bona fide theater. All the music is live, performed by an unheralded combo sitting in the dark backdrop of the stage, and the tales and themes are grounded in ancient Polynesian tradition. Thus, this fascinating and a timeless  journey of  living culture.

The show, canvassing the rousing songs and dancers of Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti, Fiji, the atolls of the Tuamotus, and Maori New Zealand, shares some key elements of life:

  • Voyaging: An opening about voyaging on double-hulled canoes throbs with drumbeats and percussion, setting the mood and rhythm of paddling from Raiatea to Hawaii, dancers clad in blue and white costumes representative of the seas.
  • Fishing: A spirited number, the kaparima, depicts the daily livelihood of fishermen trying to net-cash the evasive fish in the reefs of  the Tuamotus, richly enacted with women dancing in yellow costumes and bras fashioned from fish nets, pursued by a fisherman with his net.
  • Dressing the high chief of Fiji: The Meke  dance, composed by Emosi Damuni, is rich with ceremonial tradition — a leader is prepped for an ocean voyage by four attendants dressing him with lauhala, fabric, and fish teeth, with an ominous Kula Marawa bird signaling an ominous wayfaring journey.
  • Reminiscing the past: Tonga serves as a stop where drumbeats offer symmetry and tempo befitting monarchial memories, performed by six wahine smartly clad in red and beige costumes with headpieces that swing and sway with the motion.
  • The tides of time: “Te Moana Nui,” the show’s centerpiece title song, involves an ahuroa dance of Tahiti that compares the idiosyncrasies of women with the beckoning currents of the ocean waves. The women dancer’s turquoise costumes reflect the hues  of the seas, and shell headpieces complete the nautical theme.
  • Honoring the mariners: This probably is the most electric, vigorous element of the show, with the dances of Aoteroa New Zealand seafarers are honored for their wisdom of reading the map of the stars, building canoe vessels, and determine currents of the ocean. Six gents, one with a spear, enact the tongue-sticking warrior ritual, and six women perform the popular twirling poi ball dance.
  • Recalling the golden era of Waikiki: Though the signature South Seas destinations are Tihati  cornerstones, a trek to Oahu’s Waikiki, complete with a rainbow of holoku-clad dancers, reflect the hapa haole soundtrack of the times, with “Waikiki,” “Hawaii Calls” and “The Golden Sands of Waikiki” among the highlights.
  • Saluting Samoa: Of course, the post-seafaring celebrations of Samoa are fitting for the fiery finale. First, women offer the maulu‘ulu with contagious dances; then the men engage in the siva fa‘ataupati, or slap dance, leading up to the siva afi, the fire knife dance featuring Mikaele Oloia, four-time world fire knife champion.  He not only hurls and swirls one or two knives, he eats fire, places the flaming blades on his feet, and uses his body as tunnel through which those knives are passed. Amazing, no matter how often you witness this feat.

Micah Tiedemann has the demanding role as the emcee who also is the running thread through this lei of pageantry;  he appears before most of the interludes to introduce the segments and dons exquisite, rarely-seen costuming (much of which he created). The title song was composed by Afatia Thompson, the eloquent, instructive narrative written and shaped by Misty Tufono.

The only other way to experience this kind of authenticity is to hop on a plan and head to the South Seas nations; this is a one-stop treat.

 

 

 

‘TE MOANA NUI’

 

Where: Ainahau Showroom, Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel

When: Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, beginning Aug. 28

Time: Buffet dinner is served from 5:30 to 6:30 at the lobby-level Pikake Terrace; pre-show events (music, lei-making, kapa-making, Polynesian tattooing), in the Aihahau Showroom, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.; performance from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Cost: Dinner show package, includes prime rib and crab legs feast — deluxe package, $155 for adults, $116.50 for children 5 through 12, with preferred seating; regular seating, $105 for adults, $78.75 for children. Cocktails only: Adults $60, children $45.

Information: 921-600, www.princess-kaiulani.com

Disney's 'Moana' lands Johnson and Miranda

August 17th, 2015
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Two box office champs will take pivotal roles in Disney’s upcoming Hawaii-themed animated “Moana” film, due to be released Nov. 23,  2016.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, the magnet behind this year’s “San Andreas” disaster film and a staple in the “Fast and Furious” adventure franchise, will provide the voice of legendary Maui the demi-God figure depicted in hula and mele in island song and dance.

And original music will be by Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator-star of the current Broadway hit “Hamilton,” told in hip-hop raps, about the founding father of America. Miranda is a previous Tony Award-winner for his “In the Heights” musical, which he wrote, starred in and choreographed in the first-ever Broadway musical focusing on his hip-hop style in storytelling on Broadway.

“Moana,” of course, poses a cultural challenge, introducing a new Disney Polynesian princess along with the demi-God Maui figure rooted in island mythology. Whether the mash-up of the brawny former wrestler-actor and the masterful darling of contemporary Broadway musicals can muster up a credible sense of Hawaiiana  remains to be seen.

We can hope, of course. The concern is: Will there be an underlying sense of Hawaii and its treasured hula culture?  Or does it matter, since Jawaiian — with a Jamaican flavor and some measure of the hip-hop culture — have already become the “island sound” of a changing modern-day Hawaii?

According to Disney, “Moana” follows “a spirited teenager who sets out to prove herself a master wayfinder.”  Moana has been described as a “sea voyaging enthusiast and the only daughter of a chief in a long line of nagivators.”

The lead voice of the title character has not yet been revealed, but “Moana” follows
“Mulan” and “Pocahontas” in Disney’s expanding profile of diversifying princess characters.

Mark Mancina (“The Lion King”), Grammy-winning composer, and Opetaia Foa‘i, founder-lead singer of the band Te Vaka, also will collaborate with Miranda on new music.

John Musker and Ron Clements (“The Princess and the Frog,” “Aladdin”) will direct.

 

Elvis tribute artist Leo Days loves him tender

August 16th, 2015
By



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Leo Days, 34-year-old Elvis tribute artist, preps in front of the mirror in his  dressing room; Days on stage, doing The King. — Photos by Tony Grillo-Artistic Mindz Photography

leodaysjpeg Note: An abridged version of this story appears as part of Wayne Harada's Show Biz column this Sunday in the Today section.

 

Leo Days, the 34-year-old Elvis Presley tribute artist in the midst of a Waikiki engagement, will likely spend Sunday (today, Aug.16) watching an old movie or two featuring The King of Rock.

 

“It’s not really a ritual, but on his birthday or the anniversary of his death, I watch as many of his old films as possible,” Days said in an interview. “I watch his movies all the time, but I when I recognize one of his special days, I often have a cheeseburger and banana sandwich (in his memory), too. It’s really good ­— if you don’t have too much.”

 

Sunday happens to be the 38th anniversary of  Presley’s death on Aug. 16, 1977.  Were he still alive, The King would be 80.

 

Sundays are Days’ night off from his “Burn’N Love” spectacle at the Magic of Polynesia Showroom of the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Resort so he’ll have a little more spare time to indulge in his passion for Presley on the anniversary of his passing.

 

Days, who was born at Tripler Army Medical Center on Oct. 3, 1980 (his Marine Corps dad was stationed at the Kaneohe base), started noticing Elvis when he was toddler, age 2 or 3.

 

“I watched Elvis’ ‘Aloha From Hawaii’ TV special and thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen,” he recalled. “My dad was a big fan, too, so I  was listening to Elvis’ music all the time.”

 

His parents bought him a karaoke machine and an uncle, who was a policeman, used to bring him to a bar where he sang Elvis songs. That amateur status led to a country fair talent contest, where he sang “Viva Las Vegas,” and by 15, he started doing his Elvis thing, en route to a career.

 

As a kid Elvis, he remembers watching Honolulu’s Bruno Mars, who also donned mini versions of Elvis’ bejeweled jumpsuits on TV’s “Star Search.” Mars, whose real name is Peter Hernandez Jr., was a widely known Little Elvis, performing in Hawaii with his dad’s group, The Love Notes.

 

So it was no surprise that Days perpetuate the music and magic about the idol he grew up with. “Burn’n Love” is a full-fledged tribute recalling benchmarks in The King’s Hawaiian history: his first island concert in 1957, his Pearl Harbor Bloch Arena concert to raise funds to build the USS Arizona Memorial, his three Hawaii-lensed films between 1961 and 1966 including the iconic “Blue Hawaii,” and his milestone “Aloha From Hawaii” concert televised around the world in 1973.

 

Days’ ascent in the whirlpool of Elvis tribute artists started in  2009, when he placed in the top five at Elvis Presley Enterprises’  “Ultimate Elvis” competition in Memphis, and launched the inaugural “Elvis Lives Tour” the following here and has been invited back annually ever since.

 

He had to learn everything Elvis to become a believable Elvis — the songs, the styles, the gyrations, the different eras — and could easily spout out the birthdate, the death date, the voice pitches over the decades.

 

“I knew a lot about Elvis, but learned about pacing and everything else through watching videos,” he said of how he immersed himself in the Elvisdom. “I studied websites, too, and learned what suits he wore, what songs he performed, who wrote them, and what kind of chart success he had.  I learned what his musical influences where, knowing if you study influences as you try to emulate, you see how he saw things.”

 

The bottom line, he said: “He flat-out sings, putting emotions into song; you feel like he meant what he was singing. That’s what I had to learn.”

 

Lays had no vocal or music training and is a self-taught guitarist, picking up lessons from books and the Internet. “I play by ear,” he said.

 

The impersonation job also means being physically fit.

 

“I have a fitness app in my phone,” said Days.  “The way I’m built, I’m more muscular than Elvis, so I can’t do weights, otherwise I’d get big (in the biceps). I do long-distance running, from where I live to the top Diamond Head, two or three times a week. I used to play basketball, too, as a recreational sport, but it’s bad on the knees.”

 

How “Burn’N Love” evolved “while I was working in Las Vegas’ ‘Legends in Concert’ for six years; I was married and we were expecting a baby (a girl, Danica), when I got a call from the producers to do this show, which came along at the right time. And in the Hawaii I love. Now it’s wonderful: I perform and get to go home to my family, since I’m not on the road. I sing Elvis all the time to her (Danica).”

 

Days owns a home in South Carolina but hopes that Hawaii would become his base for “Burn’n Love.” ‘“We’ve had offers to tour China and Japan, but I sure love it here...just like Elvis.”

 

He wears those classic sideburns and kind of a ‘60s/’70s mop of hair which often receive curious stares when he’s not on stage. “The hair had to be real,” he said,  recalling an Elvis impersonator whose wig fell while taking a bow.

 

Days let his hair down on other Elvis elements:

 

* Favorite song: “If I Can Dream.” “The emotions he poured into that song, about peace and brotherhood in the world, is something I myself would like to see; that we all live happily (together). But I also love ‘American Trilogy,’ because I have so many family members tied to the military.”

 

* Costumes: “I have more costumes than what you see in the show; I tried to select costumes in the period I am portraying, and Elvis had 33 movies, which inspired the costumes, and he was in the Army. I have 14 jumpsuits, and I get them from a company that had the blueprints for his costumes, and sanctioned by Graceland. You can’t Mickey Mouse with the costumes.”

 

* The most difficult Elvis song to sing: “Probably ‘Jailhouse Rock.’ That’s three minutes of singing; the vocal tolerance is hard to nail. Even he changed key a half-step down from his original (earlier) versions.    *  Assessing Elvis’ legacy: “There will not ever be another star of his magnitude. He paved the way for many artists. And he died young (at age 42). He was a gifted vocalist, a good-looking guy, who could do everything. Main thing: He was the original rock star, with the kind of voice that turn around, from ‘Jailhouse Rock’ to an operatic tune, ‘It’s Now or Never.’”

* Elvis trivia he learned in his research: “Elvis loved coming to Hawaii, not only for vacations, but also to get a tan before a tour or a show.”

 

 

 

 

 

“BURN’N LOVE”

 

Featuring Leo Days’ tribute to Elvis Presley

 

Where: Magic of Polynesia Showroom, Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel

 

When: 8:30 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; seating from 8 p.m.

 

Tickets: From $69

 

Reservations: 439-8824, www.BurnnLove.com/Waikiki

 

August special: 50 per cent discount for Hawaii residents, with Hawaii ID; mention or use code Hawaii50

 

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The take-away from Bright’s life: believe, achieve

August 8th, 2015
By



 

 

 

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Ron Bright taught all of  us well: believe, achieve; be true to yourself; strive; family first.

 

At a celebration of his life Friday (Aug. 7) at First Presbyterian Church at Koolau, more than 2,000 attended to bid a fond and final aloha to Ronald E. Bright, the beloved director-educator, who was both the deacon and the beacon of things theatrical on the Windward side.

 

It took more than an hour for the long and shaking queue to enter the ballroom/church, though scores were directed to a spill-over sector to witness a grand “production: that would have made Bright mighty proud and happy.

 

His flag-draped casket lay in front of a stage that was truly theatrical, brightly and snappily lit with twin video screens on both sides that provided live footage shown on video screens. Broadcast-quality sounds and lights. And an SRO audience comprised of family, friends, fans, former colleagues, former students, former actors, and anyone marginally or totally involved in shows in the past  directed by the star-maker most folks called Mr. B.

 

But then, there were other monikers for the masterful and magical Mr. B. Poppo, dad, husband, uncle, brother, teacher, mentor. Also, Ar Be As in RB.

 

The celebration was beautifully right, perfectly Bright, and occasionally light — jammed with long-lasting might.

 

Media were not allowed inside the hall, so I confess, I felt a skosh awkward seated amid a sea of  Bright’s followers.  Know that this is written as a longtime friend, fan, ally, and supporter of Bright and his brigade of theater stalwarts over the past 40-plus years.

 

I saw no smart phones shooting photos or videos, though occasionally, an iPhone was on (you can tell by the light) to check email.  But no,  no, no Instagram, Twitter or Facebook postings. Hooray! And no errant chirping/ringing phone. Double hooray.

 

The focus and format were spot-on clear: Honor the man who molded stars big and small in the show biz galaxy, who made everyone feel special and super in the gallery of everyday life, who directed hundreds of productions in his 50-plus-years career, often turning around lives and fortunes in the process, forsaking accounting in favor of a chosen life in education and especially theater.

 

All this, with religious fervor, and blessed by the grace of God, placing family first when all was said and done.

 

So naturally, this was totally a family affair, with immediate ‘ohana assembling with the theatrical community, worshiping with the fan-family who supposed those Bright shows for years.

 

Happily, the ceremony mined the genuine and honest members of the Bright kinfolk such as Caitlin, Michael and Lynne, performing “Make Me Like You.”

 

And the Anguay family — sisters Jade, Zoey, Jewl, Jana and Tori — musically chiming in on “His Legacy Lives On.”

 

And  grandson Timothy, going well over the suggested five-minutes chat time, to share anecdotes, jokes, even small-kid-time songs, demonstrating why his Poppa was so special.

 

Another Anguay, brother Zare, offered a stunning dance while Allan Lau, a longtime Bright  assistant, signed “I Can Only Imagine.”

 

Occasionally with tears, Gerri V., a trouper from past productions, rendered an emotional “Mr. B. With Love.”

 

And grandson Chris Bright assembled a grand panorama of family photos for a slide show of Poppo at home, at play and at work, while Jade Stice, another believer and achiever from the past, offering a medley of tuneful songs of admiration and aloha, including “Dear Heart” and “I’ll Be Seeing You.”

 

Kip Wilborn’s soaring and grand “How Great Thou Art,” Mr. B’s favorite hymn, evoked tears from the gallery of spectators, who knew how great his art was.

 

Son Clarke Bright’s words of appreciation reflected on the family’s powerful bond and certainly, the glue and the glory of wife/widow Mo (Moira) Bright's  support in the shadow of her husband’s career, earned a rousing standing ovation and thunderous applause from those attending. I mean, when have you experienced this kind of adoration and salute in the midst of a funeral service? Then again, this was a celebration of Mr. B’s life, and this unforgettable moment will forever be etched in Mo’s memories.

 

Jodi Leong, a TV news broadcaster, a former Bright actor, and now part of Gov. David Ige’s staff, shared a passionate tribute to her mentor, laced with humor and heartfelt honesty, but right on the money in memorializing “This Special Man.”

 

And Patricia Lei Anderson Murray, another actor from yesteryear, was the perfect then-and-now figure to punctuate Bright’s luminous and lasting legacy. She shared a familiar audition song of Bright’s, “If You Believe” (from "The Wiz") and once she sang the gist of the tune that  past auditioners knew, there was a join-in sing-along from the audience.

 

The take-away message was loud and clear. Sure, this was a time to grieve, too.  But like Mr. B says: Believe. Achieve.