As youths in high school, a summertime job meant raising some bucks for college.
Back in the day, summers for most juniors and seniors meant a job at Hawaiian Pine, which later became Dole Cannery, in Iwilei.
Besides Dole, there was Libby’s. And Del Monte. Canneries depended on youthful hires when school was out. And Dole’s mammoth water tank, in the shape of a gigantic pineapple, dominated the Iwilei spectrum and could be seen from airline flights and from elevated Honolulu homes until tall condos blocked the views.
Girls customarily worked as packers, getting itchiness because of the acidity of fresh pineapple in the process of packing pineapple in tins.
Boys commonly had warehouse jobs, lifting boxes onto stacks on skips, prepping for delivery. I had a job in shipping – a checker – monitoring the skips.
Some youths even spent summers harvesting the pines on the farms on Molokai or Lanai. Tough job, hot days, physically challenging. It was grueling, until payday.
Perhaps over the next decade or so, summers for many meant seasonal jobs at McDonald’s.
These days, however, kids have a thing about working at fast food outlets. So nowadays, many adults fill the ranks of cooking burgers and breakfast items or cashiering at the front counters.
So what was your summer job? Loved it or loathed it?
How do you spell fun? Try M-A-N-0-A-V-A-L-L-E-Y-T-H-E-A-T-R-E.
Hawaii’s off-Broadway theater group, Manoa Valley Theatre, has temporarily forsaken its cozy performing space in Manoa to stage “The 25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee” at a larger venue at Kaimuki High School now through June 27, and the move is W-I-S-E.
With social distancing protocals, the seating space is not fully utilized, though with larger potential audiences, MVT has enabled this competent and charismatic performing ensemble to reach out and touch spectators in a more cavernous site. It might be a disadvantage for the piece, since intimacy is sacrified, but the location at a bona fide school gives the material more relevancy.
The premise of the musical involves six diverse kids (played by adults) competing in the rituals of a spelling bee, with two adult moderators and a comfort counselor who are joined –in a rare instance of four walk-ons not previously cast, though pre-chosen 48 hours before curtain time to allow for pandemic clearance — to compete in the fray in spelling out words, asking for definitions and also requesting the word to be used in a sentence.
For the record, the four “guest” contestants wear a face masks; the others don’t. The competitors also wear random numbers, an assumption they’ve already beat other spellers in unseen preliminaries.
It’s all about the ritual of growing up, finding your niche in life, with someone victorious by the final curtain.
I saw the show, which opened in 2005 at the Circle in the Square basement theater on Broadway, and it requires the actors to possess eccentric idiosyncracies to reflect the spectrum of life. Some elements are real, others a skosh contrived, but the mix is what makes the show curious and contagious: we can connect with our middle school years.
The contestants are Nick Amador as Chip Tolentino, a seasoned Boy Scout, who suffers from sinus and cannot control his erection; Bailey Barnes as Logainne “Schwarzy” Schawarandgrubeniere, who has two dads, both gay; Malachi McSherry as Leaf Coneybear, who is both frenetic and awkward; Moku Duran as William Barfee, who spells by tapping out alphabets with his feet; Hailey Akau as Marcy Park, an overachiever who speaks six languages, who has managed to skip two grades, but is a virgin; and Ellie Sampson as Olive Ostrovsky, who has to catch the bus to the bee since her mom is in India for spiritual reasons and her dad’s at work and unable to pay the $25 bee fee.
Cassie Favreau-Chung as Rona Lisa Peretti, the announcer; Austin Sprague, as vice principal Douglas Panch, the other announcer; and Garrett Taketa, as Mitch Mahoney, the comforter; are the adults.
Some antics are absurdly funny, like the veep who keeps mispronouncing Barfee’s name as Barfait, as in parfait; and Barfee’s practice of footsieing his way through his spelling.
Some lulls in the action might be flaws in the book by Rachel Sheinkin, from a concept by Rebecca Feldman, and for a musical, William Finn’s music and lyrics never quite achieved sing-along status.
Still, director Michael Ng provides the glue to keep everyone in tow, giving credence to this segment of academics, and Darcie Yoshinaga’s musical director and choreographer Dwayne Sakaguchi provide occasional moments of hilarious movement to augment the awkwardness of teen spellers.
The moral: not everyone wins in life, and not many are stellar spellers.
MVT’s production is timely, in that Disney will soon be releasing a movie version of this minor work, which likely will attract a major audience on film.
Remaining performances: 3 p.m. today (June 20), 7:30 p.m. June 24 and 25, 3 and 7:30 p.m. June 26, and 3 p.m. June 27.
A Willie K fundraiser on June 25 will cap Maui’s Willie K Month observance at Da Playground.
Festivities will include a live auction and a silent auction plus performances by the Willie K Band featuring Kaleo Phillips and Gretchen Rhodes, along with Amy Hanaiali‘Ii Gilliom and her band, during both shows.
The first show, at 4 p.m., will feature a live streaming and a live auction, with bidders required to be on hand. Among the items to be auctioned is a Willie K guitar, and bidders must be present to participate. A concurrent online silent auction also will prevail, on the Willie K Facebook page. Doors open at 3:30 p.m
The second show, at 8 p.m., will feature a concert format with Gilliom and the gang, though an online silent auction – via the Willie K Facebook page – will streami live and bidders need not be present. Doors open at 7 p.m.; the silent auction concludes at the end of the concert.
Admission is $40 general admission, $60 for VIP access on Maui. Tickets are available at daplaygroundmaui.com.
Willie K, of course, is the beloved island performer known for his expansive musical styles including Hawaiian, pop, blues, jazz, opera and more. Willie Kahaiali‘i died of lung cancer on May 18, 2020 at age 59 and was a magnetic concert draw for two years as an anchor entertainer at the Blue Note Hawaii club at the Outrigger Waikiki resort.
He and Amy were musical partners in the 1990s, recording an album together, and both benefitted by the relationship, earning Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in the process. With a reunion album recorded live in a concert, Willie and Amy were nominated for a Grammy Award in 2005. …
There’s talk but no confirming evidence about the possible appearance of Mark Harmon, the founding father of the “NCIS” legacy, on whether he might make a surprise appearance on the local spin-off, “NCIS: Hawai‘i.” Since filming already under way for the first episode, the hope that Harmon might guest on the premiere episode is slim.
There was worrisome tension, too, about his sort-of anticipated departure from the flagship show, because he hadn’t committed to the series in which he has starred from the get-go till the last minute. Yes, Leroy Jethro Gibbs will be part of the 19th season of “NCIS,” but details are scanty on how huge his visibility might be.
And there was a real possibility that season 18 might have been the last, since Harmon had cut back his participation as the show headed toward its finale.
His sked remains iffy this coming season, too, as he might adopt the regimen of co-star David MCallum (Dr. Ducky Mallard), whose appearances were minimal the past season or two. Even CBS Entertainment honcho Kelly Kahl has indicated that CBS wasn’t sure how many episodes Harmon would appear in and that the studio would “work around his schedule.”
So we shall all have to wait till Sept. 1, when the new season of “NCIS” kicks off at 8 p.m. Mondays, preceding the newbie, NCIS: Hawai‘i” at 9 p.m. …
Remember “The Jeffersons,” that “All in the Family” spin-off on CBS?
The show came to Hawaii, some decades ago, and filmed four episodes. One of its writers was David “Kawika” Talisman, then a fledging screenwriter and sometimes musician, who was a writer for the hit series who also became the local man-in-charge of series star Sherman Hemsley.
This is all brought to the present with a hilarious new book called “Honky in the House” (available at amazon.com) about the producing and writing of the series, by Jay Moriarty, who was a senior writer-executive producer and hands-on script writer, for “The Jeffersons,” which aired from 1975 to ’85.
I don’t know Moriarity, but I met Talisman then. Now he’s a bona fide P.I. (private investigator) – and has emerged as a long-time friend.
“He actually mentioned me in the book as one of the writers for the show,” said Talisman. “While I spend my days now as a P.I., I can’t help but look back and fondly remember my time with ‘The Jeffersons,’” said Talisman.
“I’m sure there are still a bunch of folks who are still around Hawaii that appeared on those shows,” Talisman surmised. “Well, we’re moving on up the Eastside,” he said of the famous quote from Norman Lear’s sitcom that ran 11 seasons, often in the No. 1 slot in Nielsen ratings.
“I can tell you about one frightening moment when Sherman Hemsley got dressed up in skin diving gear for a scene on the show,” said Talisman. “While we were videotaping him playing tourist, backing into the ocean by the helipad at the Ilikai Hotel, he totally disappeared from sight. We thought he was just hamming it up but that wasn’t the case.”
Oops, he fell into the ocean, said Talisman, about those frantic moments.
“He didn’t know how to swim! A bunch of people on set jumped in to grab him and luckily, he didn’t drown. Sherman laughed about it later and made a big joke of it. Sherman really loved the local people and endlessly signed autographs.”
After filming wrapped up, Sherman asked Talisman to serve as a bodyguard on a visit to Maui. But life with Hemsley is not complete without laughter.
“He insisted on us going to the top of Mt. Haleakala to see the sunrise,” he said. “Sherman was a music fanatic! OMG, we carried around this ‘ginormous’ boom box on which he insisted playing at full volume The Tubes’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’ all the way up to the top of the mountain at 6:15 a.m. The other tourists started to complain until they realized the noise was coming from Sherman. They’d be screaming ‘Look, it’s George Jefferson!’”
Visitors competed for Hemsley’s autograph and photos together, and natch, he complied.
“That trip turned out to be a real adventure and a lot of fun. God rest Sherman’s soul, who is now in heaven with pretty much the rest of the cast.”
One survivor of the acting ensemble is Marla Gibbs, now 90, who played Florence, the maid to the Jeffersons. Talisman also wrote the theme song for spin-off series, “Checking In,” but it didn’t survive more than four episodes “which left a big dent in my ASCAP check,” he said. …
Open heart surgery for Benoit
Phil Benoit, the Maui-based jazz musician, is recovering from a sextuple open heart surgery.
“That’s right, six way,” said Benoit via email.
He had recurring shortness of breath and some chest pain, signaling potential problems under the hood, so to speak, and following a series of tests, “the red flags flew and they went and saved me. I should have had a heart attack already. I am lucky, I guess.”
He’s on the mend at home and enormously grateful of wife Angela, who is “selfless taking care of me. I love her more than I can express.”
The recovery process has been shaky. “I’ve been up and down and so I haven’t communicated much or accepted visitors,” said Benoit. “I’m feeling much better every day.”
Prayers, calls and communication from pals have mattered. “It counts, it all counts,” he said, so he’s eternally grateful. And now ready to connect with folks.
The Benoits are the gatekeepers of Benoit Jazz Works.
Incredibly, Phil said his brother Dan suffered an emergency appendectomy on the same day of his surgery. “Can you believe it?,” said Phil. “He is healing well and has been a great friend to me.” …
Since his earlier-announced six shows in July sold out in a day, Bruno Mars has added four more performances at the Park MGM in Las Vegas.
Tickets are on sale, and likely will be snapped up pronto, for new play dates July 30 and 31 and Aug. 13 and 14.
In-between these four shows, Mars will trek to the MGM National Harbor in National Harbor, Maryland, for shows Aug. 6 and 7.
With coronavirus protocols lowering and vaccinations increasing across many states, it wouldn’t be surprising if still more concerts are added. Mars, like other mainstream performers, have been idle and awaiting the return of “normal” in the entertainment spectrum.
During the pandemic, Mars has not released a new solo recording but his collaboration with Anderson .Paak in the group Silk Sonic produced a No. 1 hit, “Leave the Door Open,” keeping his name and voice on radio and online postings.
Ticketmaster.com and other websites are selling tickets. …
‘NCIS’ director talks filming
Larry Teng, who is directing the first episode of CBS’ “NCIS: Hawai‘i,” is beginning to talk about the franchise’s first spin-off away from the continental U.S.A.
Teng, no stranger to the islands since he previously directed multiple episodes of the now-retired “Hawaii Five-0” reboot, is inclined to ensure Hawaii and its residents are properly represented in the new venture, now filming in Honolulu.
“It’s a love letter to Hawaii, too, you know, and I gotta make sure we protect that,” he was quoted at Express.com.
“It’s one of the things we stress about every day,” he added.
Bottom line: he knows he carries the burden to get right. Not just shaping the newbie NCIS so it has a decent life span in prime time, but he pleases not offends the local folks. …