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Brandy Lee has a past plus a bright presence

August 12th, 2016


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When: Final show at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 17)

Where: Treetops Restaurant, in Manoa Valley.

Admission: $48.50, for buffet and show

Reservations: 988-6838

brandy1brandy4Brandy Lee, a legend in local burlesque, clearly is a museum piece, with roots at The Glades, the historic now-gone Hotel Street club.

In “Boylesque,” playing for the last time Wednesday (Aug. 17) at Treetops in Manoa Valley, the venerable Lee sings with competence but her patter includes ribald humor. A hefty 35-minute opening segment, where she struts from stage into the audience to personalize her stories-with-song, is amazing. She’s stood the test of time.

Here is a radiant veteran — she won’t pinpoint her age, but think seventy-something — who dons sheer gowns, feather boas, faux eyelashes, lofty wigs and high heels. Hers is a craft from the past — but here she is, a reigning queen of drag, a remembrance of times past.

Something old is new again, to borrow the ol’ phrase. Her startlingly charming act lasts one more night — though the Pagoda Restaurant may be her next destination this winter.

Producer Jack Cione, who encouraged Lee to come out of the mothballs and accentuate the vocals, believes she’s still got audience appeal. Drag queens usually lip-synch, so if one “sings,” it’s a rarity.

The voice is not perfect, but Lee’s song choices reflect cabaret-style confidence that isn’t readily heard these days. A ditty dubbed “Peel Me a Grape,” with innuendo and intricacy, suits her mystique.

She adores audience feedback, so she kibitzes with the crowd in-between tunes, revealing an edgy and honest posture. Her “C’est Si Bon” is vocally and visually a exclamation point in her style — she pouts and pours out a romantic mood, the glow arising from beneath a humongous white headpiece and feather boa punctuating her sheer gown. It’s showgirl stuff, from trans or hetero revues from the past.

But she’s not totally yesterday in repertoire; she puts her own spin and style on Elle King’s current “Ex’s and Ohs” hit, which had some of the house mouthing the lyrics, too.

Historically, Lee traces her performing roots to The Glades in Chinatown, co-starring with Prince Hanalei in the 1960s. “I left my heel marks on Hotel Street,” she says at one point. Over the decades, she worked in clubs from San Francisco to New York, and became a Universal Show Queen in a pageant of female impersonators. She also did local musical theater (“West Side Story” and “Show Boat,” at the Honolulu Community Theatre, before it became Diamond Head Theatre) and headlined at Cione’s Forbidden City, in the heyday of drag shows.

Earlier, she tried singing but failed — so this late-blooming element of her career is a work in progress but her coming-out party.

Lee’s gambit here is somewhat blurred by an array of lip-synching songsters and dancers —showgirl-boylesque performers in scanty wear, bejeweled, plumed and glitzy in stripshow fashions. While a garment may be removed to display briefs, there’s no nudity.

This secondary show is part of Lee’s Jewel Box Revue; while curiously entertaining, they are “fillers” that allow her to exit the spotlight and return in a change of hair and gown. Raquel Gregory (who delivers saucy, vaudeville-like sketches relating to old age), Jerrica Benton (who renders rigorous, stunning splits) and Bucky Stun Gun (a sleek and agile trouper) perform with earnest dedication. Further, lip-synchers from Cione’s recent “Follies” at the Arcadia and Kaimuki High School’s auditorium do a few tunes, including a costumed “Circle of Life” segment with a lion, a zebra and a cougar, from “The Lion King.”

Amid this landscape of eye candy, Lee remains the prevailing queen. Though she gets away with a few naughty words, her wit and hilarity out to carry her sans expletives. The singing should be Lee’s brand.





An Olympian effort to remember Ron Bright — and it's Gold standard

August 7th, 2016

The Bright brand is one singular sensation   — for one night only 



“Brighter Still,” that musical tribute to the late educator-director Ron Bright, was a singular sensation last night (Aug. 6) at the Hawaii Theatre.

With Olympian effort and astonishing polish — call it a Gold Medal triumph — a performing cast of more than 100 assembled in the historic theater to pay tribute to their mentor, whose career stretched over five decades and perhaps three generations of student actors.

It was a one-night sell-out that will not be easily forgotten. Lucky you, if you attended; there won’t easily be another like this jewel.

In the aftermath:

  • The newly-organized I’m A Bright Kid Foundation, which sponsored the show as a salute to Mr. B to kick off an effort to perpetuate his legacy, is off to a very good start. Prior to the show, $70,000 in donations had been amassed to launch the foundation; box office tallies are not yet in, but the momentum is likely to mount as organizers develop a campaign to continue to keep the Bright flame flickering.
  • The performing arts — especially the Bright brand — earned unquestionable validation, through a three-hour parade of unending jubilation and unforgettable highs, where familiar voices and faces created an awesome quilt work, albeit updated, from about two dozen shows mounted by Bright during his tenure. With few exceptions, most of the troupers were community actors, not professionals, but every one delivered pro-caliber performances. Oh, Mr. B must have been jubilant from his heavenly roost.
  • Clearly, Mr. B taught his kids well, both as teacher and director. At least 34 adults in the company are now educators, in essence sharing what they learned about show biz, and how it impacts on the essence of life: learn, strive, believe.
  • Bright’s ohana certainly extends far and beyond his kids (natural and hanae); even spectators consider themselves part of his family, with ripples of support originating from regularly attending his shows over the decades and now in memoriam. Simply put, his spirit lives in the hearts of darn nearly everyone he touched — through onstage performances, through audience applause.

With collaborative direction, staging and choreography by Jade Stice, Allan Lau and Clarke Bright, “Brighter Still” obviously was an endearing labor of love. It had his fingerprints in much of the fare, with song choices that something to say, with execution reflecting some of his ways.

The show was scripted by John Bryan and Jodi Leong, who also served as co-emcees, and largely reunited Mr. B’s artistic team: musical direction by Clarke Bright, his eldest son; orchestrations by Joe Pacheco and Todd Yukumoto; vocal arrangements by Mary Hicks, who also directed, joined by Bryan; choreography by Marcelo Pacleb and Mark Kanemura, from 24-VII Danceforce; tech direction by Jack Hufstetler; sets by Lloyd S. Riford III, lighting by Riford and Leo Uitto; and sound by Kainoa Jarrett. The family that plays together, stays together is the unofficial mantra.



  • Solos: Kip Wilborn’s “Bring Him Home,” from “Les Miserables;” Jordan Shanahan’s “The Impossible Dream,” from “The Man of La Mancha;” Mary Hicks’ “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again,” from “The Phantom of the Opera.” They could easily have come off a national touring show.
  • Duets: Michael Bright’s and Jade Bright’s “The Last Night of the World,” from “Miss Saigon;” Jacquelyn Holland-Wright’s and Jade Stice’s “Wizard of Oz”-inspired montage of “Over the Rainbow” from “Oz,” “Home” from “The Wiz” and “For Good” from “Wicked.” While the former was in context of the popular Broadway blockbuster, the latter reflected ingenuity and creativity in tapping three ingredients to concoct a savory dish.
  • Trios: Kim Anderson’s (Tessie Tura), Jana Anguay Alcain’s (Mazeppa) and Sarah Gamiao Kukuna’s (Electra) “You Gotta Have a Gimmick,” from “Gypsy;” Ligaya Stice’s, Zare Anguay’s and Johnson Enos’ “Hernando’s Hideaway” and “Hey There” medley from “The Pajama Game;” Tracy Yamamoto and Zare Anguay’s “It Had to Be You,” from “It Had to Be You,” with links to a plethora of films, and Buz Tennent’s “Some Enchanted Evening,” from “South Pacific;” and Sonya Mendez’s, Erin Wong’s and Nikki Yamamoto’s Andrews Sisters medley, “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” The first set was a reflection of Mr. B’s penchant for comedy, the second from the first musical he ever directed, and the third linked to his post-wartime venture into music.
  • Comic caper: Kimee Balmilero’s “My New Philosophy,” from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” with KoDee Martin and Kala’au. Whimsy worked, in the right hands.
  • A Bright Bard: Timothy Bright’s (Mr. B’s grandson, son of Clarke Bright) eloquent “All the World’s a Stage” segment from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” ‘Twas the evening’s lone spoken (vs. sung or danced) moment — purposeful, and surely something Poppa would have endorsed.
  • Flasback moments: Jodi Leong and Tony Young, on “Good Morning Starshine,” from “Hair,” with children ensemble members Colton Bright, Drew Bright, Mati Durkin, Georgia Finley, Jet Finley, Alyse Glaser, Daniel Guillou, Lainey Hicks, Adam Hufstetler, Elijah Hufstetler, Azaliah Kekuna, Caris Leong, Camille Perry, Tani Siu, Mia Stein and Maya Yoshida. The segment was linked to a future Hokule’a-vessel/Polynesian Voyaging Society mission to navigate an actual star, to be named in honor of Mr. B, coinciding with his upcoming Sept. 10 birhday.
  • Taking a risque: The “Big Spender” number, from “Sweet Charity,” featuring Leesa Souza (Nickie), Cyndi Mayo-Davis (Helene), from “Sweet Charity,” with a splendid ensemble featuring Kim Anderson, Caity Bright, Jaime Craycroft, Katrina Johnston, Sarah Gamiaao Kekuna, Tracy Reddekopp, Jade Stice, Ligaya Stice, Paraluman Stice-Durkin, Audra Uitto, Erin Wong, Rachel Wong and Ann Yoshida. A powerful and potent demonstration of the song-and-dance savvy, with an adult twinkle.
  • May the Danceforce Be With You: “The Rich Man’s Frug,:” from “Sweet Charity,” performed by unnamed troupers from 24/7 Danceforce. Another sizzler of motion and marvel, with equal parts coordination and concentration.
  • Handclappingest hottie: The sit-down-and-handclap “Our Favorite Son” moment from “The Will Rogers Follies,” reinvented local style to the tune of “Molokai Nui Ahina,” featuring Zare Anguay, Caity Bright, Miguel Cadoy III, Norman Dabalos, Nicole Enos, Bryce-William Irvine, Katrina Johnson, Allan Lau, Jodi Leong, KoDee Martin, Audra Uitto, Cris Pasquil, Ki Quilloy, Jim Reddekopp, Leonard Villanueva, Rachel Wong and Ann Yoshida. Hands down, the most unexpected fun and awe of the night.
  • Damn delightful: An ensemble rendering of “Heart,” from “Damn Yankees,” featuring Zare Anguay, Miguel Cadoy, Norman Dabalos, Shawn Enos, Erick DeRyke, Bryce-William Irvine, Allan Lau, KoDee Martin, Devon Necoba, Miguel Paekukui, Cris Pasquil, Johnny Pastor, Ki Quilloy, Jim Reddekopp, Chris Slavels and Leonard Villanueva. The lyrics underline the Bright philosophy: Ya gotta have heart, in all your pursuits, not only in love and in life.
  • Now Hair this:: A lengthy “Hairspray” montage, featuring “Good Morning Baltimore,” “You’re Timeless to Me,” and “You Can’t Stop the Music,” from the final Bright-directed musical, featuring Pomai Lopez, Leonard Villaneuva, Johnny Reed and Umi-Sua’ava and the 24/VII Danceforce company. A recreation of the flounce and bounce, capitalizing on the resourceful talents of singers, dancers, et. Al.
  • Small world wonder: The 60-member Kamehameha Schools Children’s Chorus, offering a medley of Disney favorites. Imagine if these Lynette Bright-led youngsters become Bright Lights of the future. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
  • One Man Wonder: Emcee John Bryan’s “What a Wonderful World/Glory of Love” vocal and ukulele medley was the evening’s rarity: he sang, he strummed, he wowed ‘em.
  • Hawaiian kine: The only Hawaiian song, “Hilo, My Hometown,” was intended to be biographical, tracing Mr. B’s Big Island roots and his bonding with wife Mo; Kalani Poomaihealani sang, Geri Vasconcellos hula’d, amid a charming slideshow of Bright’s earlier years before his Oahu relocation.
  • Tear-jerker: The en masse rendering of “If You Believe,” from “The Wiz,” began with a cluster of soloists, enlarging to a flashmob of ensemble performers, further growing (and spilling into the front rows of the theater) a community of adults and keiki, unified in song and in spirit, rendering what might easily be dubbed the Alma Mater of A Bright Kid Foundation. It was the tune Mr. B taught all his believers and there were believers chiming in from the rafters, too.
  • Opening/closing sensation: The calvacade opened with a Zare Anguay, John Brian, Katrina Johnson, Allan Lau, Jodi Leong, Jade Stice, Erin Wong, Leonard Villaneuva and Tony Young dancing the iconic “One” closing number from “A Chorus Line” (yes, with gold top hats and vests), leading to the obligatory kick lineup, joined by sisters Chris Slavens, Ligaya Stice, Mati Durkin, Tracy Yamamoto and Devon Nekoba; and yes, the “he’s the one” lyric pointedly singling out Mr. B; the curtain call tune also was “One,” initially as an instrumental, and concluding with the final refrains of vocals.

The applause has faded, but the memories linger; the question now facing actors, dancers, techies, fans and friends is obvious: How does “Brighter Still” remain relevant and real? Support and allegiance, with buzz and shared online chats. Another way: A donation will help carry on the legacy. Mail donations to:


I’m A Bright Kid Foundation

P.O. Box 4852

Kaneohe HI 96744



Damien grad Batalon lands a leading role in 'Spider-Man: Homecoming'

July 27th, 2016



Jacob Batalon, appearing at Comic Con in San Diego recently. 
He'll play Ned Leeds, Peter Parker's best friend, in Marvel's "Spider-Man: Homecoming," opening July 7, 2017. –  Photo courtesy Jacob Batalonjacobbatalon

For a dude who strummed ukulele in high school and who never acted locally, Jacob Batalon feels stunned and lucky to land a role in Marvel Studio’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” now filming in Atlanta.

“I’m extremely blessed to even just be in the film,” he said in an exclusive interview.

He made his first public appearance, amid cheers and applause from the gallery, alongside “Spider-Man” creator Stan Lee and his co-stars, at the recent Comic Con in San Diego.

But he doesn’t yet feel like a star. “It’s humbling,” he said. “God has definitely been good to me.”
Batalon, 19, a 2014 graduate of Damien Memorial School, will portray Spider-Man/Peter Parker’s best friend, Ned Leeds, in the reinvented superhero flick, scheduled for release July 7, 2017. The movie is poised to be one of next summer’s sizzlers.

Curiously, he was about 7 when he first saw the original Spidey film which hurled Tobey Maguire into the superhero universe. “What’s really funny about that is it was the first superhero film I remember fully and actually liked. So it’s really crazy how it all came full circle.”

Because Damien had no theater or stage program, he was a late bloomer in theatrical or film training. In May, Batalon graduated from the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, learning about the acting craft, in a two-year program.

“Singing and (playing) the ukulele really was my thing,” he said, recalling jams with his Damien buddies and performing at family functions. “My mother would make he go up and sing in front of everyone all the time, hahaha, and I didn’t particularly enjoy it so much as a child because I thought it was torture. But in retrospect, I think that’s what helped me get over my fear of being in front of people.”

Not surprisingly, he was startled when his agent called him to inform him of the “Spider-Man” role.

“This was at 10:47 at night, and he said I got a role in the film but he told me the producers weren’t sure what they wanted me to be. But I didn’t care. I was so happy and elated that I had actually passed out for a good two minutes after my agent called me.”

Batalon said he’d been waiting since March, when the buzz started, but it wasn’t till June that he was confirmed to play Ned Leeds.
“It was a week before I flew to Atlanta (when he learned about the character),” so it was somewhat of a grueling period of waiting and wondering.

“When they told me I was gonna be Ned, I was in Bryant Park in New York, just going absolutely crazy,” he said. “I was yelling and screaming and cheering. I’ll never forget that feeling. But the satisfaction made it all worth (the wait).”

Because of privacy issues, he can’t reveal much about Ned Leeds. “He’s Peter Parker’s best friend and he’s a sweet genuine guy and I really believe the fans will love him. I know. I do, hahaha.”

The Ned Leeds character has previously appeared in the comics, as a worker at the Daily Bugle, and in a “Spider-Man” animated series, but as Ned Lee, with Asian surname and ethnicity.

Batalon had to tell someone about his good fortune, and the first person he called was his brother-in-law, who could keep a secret. “I know he doesn’t say anything to anyone, even my sister; he’s in the military, so he knows something about being true to your word. I wanted it to be a surprise for my whole family, and I knew he was gonna be gone for a while, so I just told him first.”

When “Spider-Man” and its cast were introduced at Comic Con, the response was overwhelming, said Batalon. “That’s when I realized the gravity of it all,” he said. “I knew this film was big, but being in front of those fans who really love Marvel in general ... it was so humbling. It made me realize this is a lot bigger than all of us. I just want the fans to be happy, and if they’re happy, I’m happy. And yes, most definitely, I am definitely a fan.”

Perhaps because the actual film is a year from release, Batalon doesn’t yet feel like a budding star. He told Jon Watts, the film’s director, that he feels more like a fan than a movie star, and appreciates the hard work that goes into film production. “I’m just another working actor trying to get his fill,” he said.

He met Tom Holland, the actor tapped to play the next Spidey, in Los Angeles prior to filming, doing an audition together and “he’s been nothing but nice and great. We all love each other a lot now,” he said of his other castmates — Laura Harrier as Liz Allen, Parker’s high school crush; Zendaya as Michelle, presumably Michelle Gonzales, who had a fling with Parker in comic book lore; and Tony Revolori as Flash Thompson, who appeared in Sam Raimin’s “Spider-Man.”

“We  made it a point to hang out and be tight with each other before we started filming. And now that we’re in the throes of it all, there’s no problem with our chemistry. We really do love one another; I don’t think this film would be half as good as it is, if these people weren’t with me. I appreciate them so much; I’m glad they’re in my life now.”



Frank DeLima does Pokémon like the Candy Man can...

July 18th, 2016



frankpokeComedian Frank DeLima has hopped onto the Pokémon GO phenom, with a signature parody about the location-based reality mobile game developed by Niantic and creating a tsunami of followers/participants with iPhones and other devices roaming the highways and byways in search of those roving critters in actual places.

To the tune of “The Candy Man,” DeLima has just released his tuneful take on the Pokémon phenom, chirping that it can drive him crazy, “trying to catch one monster outside of Thomas Square.”

The song with craze-related lyrics mentions one other Hawaii location, Waianae, but suggests prudence and common sense in the pursuit of the Pokés.

One verse goes like this:

“Listen to policeman

“He like for you stay safe

“No play da game when driving

“No play da game alone...”

And some cautious advice about looking at your devices and not concentrating on your spot in reality:

“With Pokémon GO

“I look high and low

“Walking into poles and bushes

“Everywhere a monster swooshes

“Trying to catch their tushes.”


To hear and download the full song, make a donation to DeLima’s student enrichment fund at No app required...



TAG revives ‘Ira & George and Shari & Jim,’ plus Kip

January 1st, 2016


 By popular demand, Shari Lynn’s tribute to composers Ira and George Gershwin, launched last year by The Actors’ Group, is being revived in a limited-run fundraiser starting tonight (Jan. 1).

The show, entitled “Ira & George and Shari & Jim,” was written and staged by veteran theater and nightclub performer Shari Lynn, who also is a teacher at Hawaii School for Girls. Jim Howard, pianist, returns on the keyboards, but this engagement also will feature veteran tenor of opera and theater, Kip Wilborn, perhaps best known for his portrayal of Jean Valjean in the Ron Bright-directed “Les Miserables” production at Paliku Theatre at Windward Community Theatre.

“We’re excited to have Kip as a guest performer,” said Shari.

Veteran actor-director-choreographer Brad Powell provided additional staging.

Performances will be at the TAG venue, The Brad Powell Theatre, located at 615 Iwilei Road, on the ground floor of The Shops at Dole Cannery, opposite the Regal Cinemas complex.

Showtimes are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m.  Sundays, now through Jan. 17.

Suggested donation is $40.

Information: 741-4699 or

Reservations: 722-6941 or

Validated parking is available at the cinema structure.



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