“Mahu,” a Hawaiian dance spectacle including transgender hula dancers, will be staged at 7p.m. Saturday (March 25) and at 2 p.m. Sunday (March 26) at Leeward Community College
Kumu hula Patrick Makuakane, whose work with Nā Lei Hulu i ka Wēkiu of San Francisc has made an imprint in the hula community, has assembled a cast of mahu troupers, whose distinct musical and visual style embraces the exotic, an essential trademark. Makuakane’s choreographic vision of ecstasy punctuates a provocative vibe with featured guest artist Kaumakaʻiwa Kanakaʻole, from the fabled Kanaka’o ‘ohana on the Big Island.
The production likely will also be fashion show with plenty of sparkle and glitter.
“Each song, dance and luxuriously-sequined garment was chosen as a deliberate opportunity to be extravagant, or at the very least pleasurably provocative,” said Makuakane in a statement. “No fillers allowed.”
Makuakane has Hawaii roots and studied hula with Robert Cazimero’s Na Kamalei O Lililehua, among others, before venturing to San Francisco to carve his own innovative brand of Hawaiian dance, with modern influences.
Tickets: $40 to $60; a pre-show reception, with a $25 upgrade fee, will include early admission to the show, plus desserts, with a likely opportunity to meet and greet a few mahu or two.
John Cruz and his band will give a private preview of tunes from his original musical, “Hawaiian Heart,” from 11 a.m. to noon Friday (March 24) at a studio at the Hawaii Kai Shopping Center.
An EP of four tunes from the homegrown musical has been released, so Cruz –- known for his “Island Style” hit song – will preview the new tunes with Taiana Tulley and Bronson Varde, who are the leads in the movie.
“Hawaiian Heart” is described as a musical rom-com about Lani, a young woman returning home to Kauai for the first time in years, reuniting with her high school sweetheart.
Cruz serves as music supervisor for the project but will have a supporting role in the show, which is directed by Josh Goldman. Cruz and Goldman are co-writers of the 15 songs in the soundtrack. …
Remembering Phil Arnone A private tribute for the late Phil Arnone, the prolific news producer and prized documentary director, will be held April 3 at a private location.
His peers and pals, from the broadcasting world to the entertainment community, will recall and salute his brilliant career as well as his quirky irreverence. He has been rightfully dubbed “Mr. Television,” and his buddies know him for his sense of humor, so wife Michelle Honda hopes the gathering will be a time to share memories and tales about Phil, who shaped and changed the TV programming landscape because of his vision and passion to story-tell, not just about entertainment personalities but profiling such Honolulu landmarks as Kapiolani Park.
Phil died Feb. 12 at his home. Rightfully, he deserves the kind of documentary treatment he bestowed on scores of folks who made a difference in our lives and in TV coverage. I know he hoped to do a couple of shows, but couldn’t proceed because of health issues.
Somebody, somewhere, sometime soon? A Phil salute is beckoning. …
It was halau of a show –artistically stunning, emotionally celebratory — proudly championed and shaped by the incomparable Robert Uluwehi Cazimero.
For kumu hula Cazimero and his hula disciples from Na Kamalei O Lililehua, yesterday’s sold-out performance at Leeward Community College Theatre was a benchmark event, a prelude to a likely series of performances leading up to Na Kamalei’s 50th anniversary in two years.
Cazimero and his two dozen gents have been popular attractions on the hula horizon, though like everyone everywhere else, took a break during the stifling three-year pandemic hiatus.
So the long overdue fund-raising hoike of sorts was a much-anticipated cultural event. So many hula types and A-list Hawaiian entertainers were among the crowd.
For the dancers – the “then” group and the current crop – it was a major outing, like those long-gone Cazimero May Day and Christmas events.
For the audience – who have followed and witnessed Na Kamalei’s success – this was a continuation of a shared journey. The intermission was ripe with whopping howdy-dos, hugs and kisses, long-time-no-see expressions, and catch-up-and-talk story reunion. The spectators brought lei and sweets for the king of ho’olaulea, and leadership and fellowship were evident.
— This is one heck of a halau; the fellas generally sing while dancing, adding modernity to some of the fun stuff. Yep, there are kahiko and ‘auona moments, but humor and joy are ingredients in the choice of material and execution.
— The lads are always immaculately and stylishly costumed, whether it’s ti leaf motif, aloha shirts and jeans, dress shirt with tie. The looks matter, and the hues are coordinated.
— Almost always, fresh lei adorn the dancers’ necks. Sometimes, nut and shell leis rule.
— There are selective surprises. The return of prolific Kaipo Hale (Cazimero’s best buddy) to reflect on what it’s like being in the halau ranks, circa 1975 in the awkward but savvy launch of the group, was a joyous revelation of lessons learned, never forgotten, and the links of brotherhood camaraderie gained.
— Cazimero attempted to theme his playlist, beginning with a projection of his personal desk at home, where his brainstorming and theories evolve. The mele here began with a casual “War Chant,” and familiar fare featuring hula soloist U‘ilani Lum on “Kuamo ‘o,” Ki Quilloy singing and Kaohi Daniels dancing on “Destiny,” and Zach Lum sharing his falsetto tones on “Ahulili.” A Travel Desk segment uncorked a splendid Big Island medley of “Ho’ea,” “Keawa ‘iki,” “Kona Kai Opua,” and “Mahai‘ula,” and a rhapsodic Punahele Moleta treatment of “Ikona” with hula by Sky Perkins. And dancer Parker Spencer had his moment of glory, with swishing arms, on the ensemble hula to “Little Grass Shack.”
— After intermission, “Hula Guys” with the dancers also vocalizing, reflected the kind of sustenance within the halau.
— Further, the gents’ trademark “Teve Teve,” choreographed by Cazimero in the salad days of Na Kamalei, was a positive remembrance of song/style fusion, with an element of double-entendre naughtiness, that has characterized the brotherhood’s legacy.
— Cazimero was unusually chatty throughout the show, though his miking could have used a bit more juice to make him properly heard. He seemed a bit uneasy to launch an In Memoriam segment – should he or shoudn’t he? – and he did, with visuals of about two-dozen former gents who have gone to the giant halau in the sky over the nearly five decades of operations.
— I wondered if “Waika,” a classic staple in the repertoire, might be revived, and surely, it wound up as the finale number, with Robert singing with his gents from at his usual keyboard perch, then walking to the front of the stage to convert the vocal into an a cappella specialty to close the show, with other previous gents and hula soloist Lahela Ka‘aihue joining in. …
It began with the posting the flags, by the 100th/442nd Infantry Regiment Honor Guard, followed by the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Initially, the sell-out audience stood, but the voices were scanty, building up as more joined the chorus of folks proudly singing and demonstrating their patriotism.
This was at the Hawaii Theatre last night (March 18), at a “Defining Courage” screening that saluted and glorified the Nisei soldiers – largely from Hawaii – during World War II.
For those who missed it, a second screening will be held in April. So secure tickets, pronto, to avoid disappointment. On many levels, “Courage” is a winner.
The immersive program was a unique first — part documentary, part lecture with visuals, part history lesson, part musical concert, part salute to unsung heroes.
And wholly emotional, engaging and enlightening.
With Emmy-winning Los Angeles co-producers David Ono (who served as narrator) and Jeff MacIntyre (who handled behind-the-scenes needs as show director), “Defining Courage” was a celebration of the legacy of American wartime heroes, in vintage footage with more recently site visitations that demonstrated the valor and diligence of AJAs (Americans and Japanese Ancestry), in battles in France, Germany, Italy, Okinawa and Hawaii, who were instrumental in turning the pages of history to win the war.
It’s still a work in progress, and each performance in different cities, will vary. Actress Tamiyn Tomita, who introduced the film, was right on target when she ID’d the screening here as “Defining Courage, Aloha Edition.” Aloha was plentiful on screen, and in the theater. Among the hundreds of spectators were families and relatives, whose grandfathers and fathers, served in the Army in the era depicted. The movie was a time for joy and tears, and loads of hurrahs and aloha.
Without a cheat sheet, to properly ID the luminaries on screen, I regrettably won’t chance it in fear of misspelling the names of GIs and battles depicted.
So, some random observations instead:
The indominable spirit of the Nisei soldiers light up the screen; the scenes of their desire to serve and carry on the torch to victory, are emotional and incredible.
A few soldiers kept journals, with sketches, that inspired and shaped the documentary; there are shared notebooks with hand-written, first-hand memories that should be shared with future generations.
A small band of musicians, led by pianist-conductor Chris Wade (with Ericka Bar-David on violin, Kamuela Kahoano on guitar and ukulele, and Sibora Miloradovic on cello) performed periodically during the film, with alternating vocals by choir members (Jody Bill, Michael Covert, Andy Degan, Barrie Kealoha, Lauren Hanako Kincaide, Landon Lee and Emi Sampson) singing solo and/or as an ensemble. The newly minted numbers provided a new dimension to the visuals, with touching lyrics performed by powerful voices, but titles and composers were not properly identified in a hand-out program flyer.
One of the on-screen heroes known throughout the world: the late Daniel K. Inouye, who served in the war, where he lost an arm, and as a civilian he served as Hawaii’s senior Congressman for decades.
Two current icons – volunteers Jane Kurahara and Betsy Young, from the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii — are depicted in a brief segment regarding the efforts to establish and restore Honouliuli as a national park and historical site, for its wartime internment camp in the Ewa plains.
Journalist Ono several times mentioned that the history books should be rewritten to include precious details and stories that recognize the valor and service of 100th 442nd soldiers who gave their lives. It might be prudent, too, to remember the 442nd battle cry, “Go for Broke,” which was not remembered or uttered in the program. And the 100th already has a nickname, 1-puka-puka, for its zeroes. Perhaps the 442nd “Broke” slogan could be properly recognized in the second presentation at 7 p.m. April 23, again at the Hawaii Theatre. Tickets: $25 to $50, on sale at www.hawaiitheatre.com or text (808) 528-0506. …
Good things come in threes, so the saying goes, and in Manoa Valley Theatre’s Hawaii premiere of “Tick, Tick…BOOM!,” the little off-Broadway musical with genuine appeal, threes matter. A lot.
First: the title is comprised of three words.
Second: there are three in the cast. Jon (short for Jonathan Larson) is portrayed by Taj Gutierrez; Michael, Jon’s buddy and roommate, is enacted by Kimo Kaona; and Susan, Jon’s girlfriend, is played by Emily North. I saw these three last Saturday (March 11), but the three roles are double-cast with three other actors (Moku Durant, Ian Severino and Bianca Tubolino, in selected performances, (March 17 and 19, plus all Saturday matinees).
Third: the performers hop to and from three staging zones — stage left, stage right, and right in the middle. The central floor displays three rugs, for no particular reason. But see, good things come in threes.
Jon is struggling to complete his first show, by the time he’s 30. And the clock is ticking. The angst is mounting. The frustration is elevating stress.
Gutierrez is a revelation, with charismatic presence, a bold and sustaining voice, and an appealing conversational stance – especially in monologues, like he’s taking straight to you. But Guitierrez’ agility also is astounding, as he prances and dances from one staging area to another, never breathless, always in character. Catch him if you can; he makes you a believer that he is a thespian with ambition and hope.
Michael is threatening to move out to a better space, and does, and he has a BMW that reflects his success and lifestyle. He’s got a more sensible analysis of life, so exits the zone of the beleaguered stage wannabe and makes the leap into the business world. Kaona, however, is the kind of a dependable HIV buddy who is loyal to the core, and can still provide a shoulder for his script-writing pal, and puts his dreams of a normal life with wife and family on the back burner.
Meanwhile, Susan wants Jon to move in with her, to eliminate the commute (two subways and a bus trek) and she yearns to get married , relocated to Cape Cod, and stands by her convictions and challenges Jon to make firm decisions.
Set in 1990 in New York, “Tick, Tick…BOOM! Is personal, precise, minimalist and autobiographical, a portrait of a cliched Broadway wannabe, with that dire goal to finish a show by his 30th birthday. The dream puts more pressure on himself that undermines his day-to-day doings. Jon waits tables at a diner; his role model of efficiency and success is Stephen Sondheim, the prolific and legendary songwriter, whose name Jon only “mouths,” not utters, and SS commits to come to the workshop if and when Jon completes his play.
Jon is abundantly disappointed, when workshop attendees don’t include a producer or two who might take a chance on staging the show, but at Jon’s birthday party thrown by Susan, he gets a phone call and message from Sondheim that he doesn’t respond to. Part of Sondheim’s wisdom: Jon’s finished his first play, but he should immediately engage in his second. Argh!
Elyse Takashige’s set design strips the shoebox theater into a one-scene “open” space, with no second-level acting space, with four musicians, including pianist-musical director Jenny Shiroma, who are literally part of the action, like a studio unit with the three principal “band” instruments of bass, guitar and drums. There are stand-up mikes that augment the body mikes of the performers, resembling a recording studio.
Director-choreographer Mathais Maas is tasked with more direction than dancing, maintaining a balance of staging his principals in the trio of work spaces.
An off-Broadway production featured Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jon, who had his own dreams and bouts with creativity without the binding deadlines. Miranda directed last year’s film version of “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” starring Andrew Garfield as Jon, in an expanded screenplay and a delicious roster of real-life Broadway luminaries in splendid cameos.
In this stage telling, as in the film, Jon’s debt to Sondheim is reflected in the song, “Sunday,” which is a tribute Sondheim’s trademark “Sunday in the Park With George.” It is one of two stellar contributions in the score; the other is the profound “Larger Than Words,” delivered by all three actors as a “company” number that brings down the final curtain.
A footnote: Jon did complete a second production, “Rent,” which would become his signaaure show. On the eve of its debut, he died from an aortic aneurysm, so ironically, he never got to live or enjoy the riches of hurrahs and successes (like the Tony Awards) that tick-tick-boomed in his soul.
In the end, Jonathan Larson’s plays numbered three – “Siberbia,” “Tick, Tick … BOOM!” and “Rent.”
See, threes matter. ..
And that’s Show Biz. …
A pop-rock musical by Jonathan Larson
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through