“Be More Chill,” finally out of the lockdown freezer and live and chilling on the Manoa Valley Theatre stage, reflects the flavor of the Broadway musical genre that is evolving with regularity, if not consistency.

As directed and choreographed by Andrew Sakaguchi, “Chill” is hip, loud, ludicrous at times, and now. Meaning it has youth appeal, its intended audience, not so much for graying oldsters; it’s a bit like “Dear Evan Hansen,” with its focus on technology and social media, and “The Prom,” with its high school momentum involving kids in their own weird whirl (like in most musicals about high schoolers).

So there exists a great divide:  parents and adults are not exactly tuned in on the same sci-fi electronic waves as the youths.

In this one, Jeremy (Darian Keanu Ruis Aquino) is an outsider trying to be an insider, who lacks confidence while yearning to be the beau of Chistine (Alanna  Poelzing), his fellow drama student united by a production, and her lack of focus is emblematic of many kids today. He’s mighty likeable and mobile, with a voice that is as powerful as his dance moves; she’s the stand-offish picture of sweet indecision, trying to find her heart.

Darian Keanu Ruiz Aquino (Jeremy) and Alanna Poelzing (Christine), in MVT’s “Be More Chill>”

The musical, written by Joe Iconis (music and lyrics) and Joe Tracz (book), is set in a suburban New Jersey high school, where Halloween looms and a costumed song and bewitching tune makes this a timely arrival. So tricks and treats loom in the playout.

The key characters in Jeremy’s ‘hood include the Squip (Brandon Caban), an avatar in black costume festooned with neon green lights, an invasive alien supposedly a Keanu Reeves look-alike (not!) with powers to guide Jeremy in life and girlfriend issues; and Jeremy’s best buddy Michael (Moku Durant), who also is a geek with loyalty who gets locked in a bathroom; and Jeremy’s dad (Devon Nekoba), who hasn’t worn pants his wife left home.

Thus, the score includes such weirdo tunes as “Michael in the Bathroom” and “The Pants Song,” not relevant outside of the show but expressive and essential in defining some of the issues in the storytelling.

And among the ensemble, Bailey Barnes as Jenna is a multi-threat, as singer and dancer who projects and delivers on cue, and Melani Carrie as Chloe, whose seductive vocal and moves provide precise tension at the right moment.

The tale is based on Ned Vizzini’s novel with the same title, and the show began as an off-Broadway hit that transferred to the Broadway stage. It suits the MVT space well, thanks to Michelle Bisbee’s lean, clean and inventive set that includes numerous stairways and playing platforms, plus turntable wall panels that spin and display backstage mirror and sink, a small cluster of lockers, and even a pair of urinals … all smartly illuminated by Janine Myers’ precise lighting design.

Ticketing advisory: Your preordered reserved seats might have changed since you placed your order (mine did), so it’s advisable to arrive early and resolve seating issues, if any. MVT had to modify seating for social distancing, since protocols changed the rules after sales had started.

Details: www.manoavalleytheatre.com or call  988-6131.


Back in the day, in a high school English class,  the teacher asked students to get involved in a game. Don’t know if the exercise had a formal name, but the concept was simple.

…a running brook

Finish this sentence: Have you ever seen …

The trick was to combine a noun with a verb, to give the query a quirky result.

Like, have you ever seen a horse fly?

So I’ll resurrect the game, with hope that you might join in to share your brainstorming skills.

…an ocean wave.

I’ll do a few more examples to get the momentum going.

Have you ever seen…

…an ocean wave?

…a snail pace?

…a dog pound?

…a dog pound.

…a lamp chop?

…a running brook?

…a fox trot?

…a fish fry?

…an ocean wave?

…a mouse trap?

OK, your turn now. …


Just asking…

In year two of the pandemic, should kids trick-or-treat?

Last year, Halloween was a washout  because of coronavirus.

Trick-or-treating: A go or no?

Though it’s safer now than a year ago, should island keiki (high schoolers included) roam the streets with the Halloween masks or pandemic masks to gather  candy and other treats even if they likely won’t eat anyway?

This is not your older sibling’s Halloween, when kids not only had a bag for treats, but carried a jack-o-lantern (with candle, years ago; with batteries, in more recent times). Do you remember jack-o-lanterns?

There still remains that magic number 10 for outdoor gatherings and there are clusters of dozens in costumes  parading down the streets, often in clusters larger than 10,  to collect the sweets.

So what’s your plan? Keep the kids at home? Don’t hand out treats?


Manoa Valley Theatre is the first local stage group to kick off a delayed and occasionally truncated drama season. Its Hawaii premiere of “Be More Chill” opened Thursday night (Oct.14) and  runs through Oct. 31, with new protocols.


  • For the first time, season subscribers, along with single-ticket buyers, had to designate specific seat choices. Assigned seating will be in place throughout the 2021-22 season.
  • Masks must be worn to enter the theater and watch the play, as has been the practice during the past season.

MVT’s opening show

  • Proof of vaccination is required, so bring your vaxx card for certification.
  • Social distancing protocols mean that MVT can only sell and fill 60 of its 120 seats, meaning half the house.
  • The post-show opening night party is canceled as long as the pandemic lingers.
  • With the pushback in dates, there won’t be a week or two of extension performances, because the finale of the current show would affect the preparation and opening of the next production, which is “The Joy Luck Club,” beginning Nov. 26.
  • Audience members are asked to exit the hall after the performance, which means that apres-show gestures of aloha – lei or bouquets, gifts and hugs – are discouraged. Gifts for cast members on opening night were collected and distributed backstage.
  • Playbills are part of the sacrifices of a pandemic – there is only a virtual playbill, available at www.manoavalley.com .  It’s a misfortune for actors and techies involved in the ritual of theater – a memory keepsake unavailable for now. …

‘Oliver’ seats scarce

DHT’s opening show

 Diamond Head Theatre has virtually been silent about its “Oliver!” season opener, which begins Oct. 22. Because of the half-house seating protocols, most of the performances have been “sold out,” since season subscribers had to be reassigned to other nights. (When sales started, the pandemic protocols suggested that all seats could be sold; that changed).

At this time, only one performance, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 3, offers pairs of seats available for purchase. Details: www.diamondheadtheatre.com .

The obvious requirements are in place: mask-wearing, social distancing, proof of vaccination before entry.

Further, DHT has eliminated its opening night party, along with the complimentary playbill (a virtual one exists on the website) and also discourages friends and other patrons gathering after a performance for the customary shared aloha with cast members. …

A virtual ghost story

KK’s opening show

Kumu Kahua’s world premiere of “The Kasha of Kaimuki,” at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28, is perhaps Hawaii’s most unusual debut this fall. The thriller, about a notable and terrifying haunted house in Honolulu, will be performed virtually. The play is by Hannah Ii Epstein.

A virtual performance is not unusual these days, but the cast will assemble from four different time zones, to perform as one ensemble. Talk about a looming twilight zone.

The cast and crew will involve talent not only in Honolulu, but also in California, Illinois (Chicago), and Pennsylvania.

“One of the best things to come out of having to work digitally, is working with people from all over the place,” said Kumu’s Harry Wong III. “Especially when we get to work with those with local ties to Hawaii, people who are going to school outside of Hawaii, or some who had to leave Hawaii to seek work elsewhere.”
For instance, islander Alisa Boland, is attending school in Chicago, and the virtual performance enables her to participate from afar. So it’s a new wrinkle and twinkle to the digital experience.

“The digital format will also lend itself well to the scary aspects in this production,” said Wong. Which means if things go awry, there will be unintended obake drama. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


Just asking…

Is it just me, or has Zippy’s Napoleon turnover been on a diet?

Bought one yesterday; was a big, er, small disappointment.

The “old” Napoleon

Ate it and wondered how the pastry looked in the recent past, so scrolled images on the Zippy’s website (shown here).

Mine did not have that flaky, fluffy character at all. And the apple filling was nothing like the Napoleon I remember.

And the cost is now $3.25 apiece. Anyone else notice the changes?