Geez, it’s a Flashback Moment!

It was 20 years ago, on June 7. 2003, when “Black and White and Read All Over” was staged at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom. ‘Twas a benefit for Manoa Valley Theatre, sponsored by Honolulu Advertiser (my former employer. This was the promotional postcard. Two beloved Broadway phenoms, Craig Schulman and Cris Groenendaal, provided stunning Broadway music of the night; Schulman starred as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables” here and Groenendaal was the Phantom in “Phantom of the Opera.”


Just asking…

Does anyone go to a barber anymore?

Barber shops are an endangered species, since most men these days have their hair cut, styled and body-waved at a salon than traditional barber shop.

I remember my small-kid-type visits to a barber shop, a four-or-so chaired facility, on the left side of the old Liliha Theatre on Liliha Street. There was a box office in the center of the theater lobby, and some kind of retailer occupied the right side.

The barbers I went to were of Filipino ancestry; I don’t recall how much a basic cut was, but likely more than $1. That’s why that ol’ “shave and a haircut, two bits” refrain was born,  the “two bits” meaning  25 cents or a quarter. Those were the days.

 The  basic cut included a hair wash, with the barber using both a pair of scissors or one of those classic barber shears to trim.  And if there was hair around the neck, the cutter used a brush and some baby power to finish the session.

At a very young, say 3 or 4 years old, I think I sat on a “booster” seat  in the hair chair to get to a certain height.

As I got older, I sat in the actual seat, got wrapped with a white sheet to shield me from the hair cuttings, and had one of those shavers to finish by sideburns.

I had a left-side parting with straight hair; the trim was basic; when I was in high school, I had kind of a buzz cut to conform to ROTC protocols. And no hair around the ears;  had to be cut or shaved, like a fender over a wheel.

There were many elderly barbers, male and female, and if you liked yours, you were a regular for years. I remember the comforting hot towel wrapped around your face, when you were nearly done.

Some of those barber chairs were exquisite furniture, with armrests, cushiony seats, and the chair with foot rests, could be fully reclined, too, if your cutter so decided.

Nowadays my stylist of more than four decades, washes, shampoos, trims, and body-waves. About 20 years ago, as the black hair started turning grey and white, I had a dye job, too—too messy and unnecessary so the salt-and-pepper look is a matter of  choice. My body waves – during every other visit, perhaps in four- or five-week intervals, cost $75-nowadays, tip not included. Somewhere along the way, those old-fashioned hair dryers were dismissed, but I recall sitting next to a woman getting her locks curled and dried, too. Is this gizmo still utilized?

Of course, you’d add a trip for your stylist.


Scratch Kitchen in Hawaii Kai, occupying the prime location vacated by Outback Steakhouse earlier this year, finally has its liquor license so is fully open for brunch and dinner.

Had a brunch visit earlier, when the menu was scanty. Now, the restaurant is fully open, awaiting patrons.

If you’re seeking breakfast fare, this isn’t your best destination. The brunch offering includes:

THE CLASSIC: three island eggs cooked any style, bacon, salad or crispy smashed potatoes. $16

MILK N’ CEREAL PANCAKES: Topped with fresh fruit and a side of our house milk syrup. $15

BRULEE’D FRENCH TOAST: Punaluu sweet bread, fruits, shredded coconut, maple syrup ala mode $15

Two of the brunch/breakfast items become part of the dinner dessert choices:

BRULEE’D FRENCH TOAST: Punaluu sweet bread, fruits, shredded coconut, maple syrup. $10.

MILK N’ CEREAL PANCAKES: banana, berries, milk syrup. $12

Call it repurposing or down pricing the morning fare; rather peculiar.

So we finally tried dinner. I order what sounded appealing; my wife ordered the fried chicken biscuit:

GRANDMAS FRIED PORK CHOP PASTA: 10 oz bone-in fried pork chop, pappardelle, garlic lemon sauce, capers, parmesan cheese, sautéed broccoli, cherry tomatoes. $26.

COUNTRY GRAVY FRIED CHICKEN BISCUIT: Famous fried chicken, country gravy, house made scallion biscuit, fried kale. $22

The fried chop, top photo above, with the pork sliced but bone retained, came with a pasta with sauteed broccoli and cherry tomatoes. Plating was attractive, with the floured chop crispy brown providing visual variety atop the pasta, and the veggies. The chop was seasoned properly; the pasta lacked seasoning and could have used a bit more salt and pepper.

The chicken on the open-faced biscuit,. second photo above, was overwhelming, bathed in gravy and served with eye-catching fried kale which was crispy; I’m not a kale fan, but my wife is, and fried to me tastes better than raw. The presentation of the chicken atop the biscuit, with lots of gravy, seemed more plentiful than attractive, and wifey ate half and took home only the chicken.

The overall menu is ample and merits a revisit, with ribs and burgers among the choices.

Scratch Kitchen here takes reservations, but on a Saturday night, half the booths and tables had ample space for walk-ins.

My wife had a glass of red wine, with her meal, which was fine; I tried the plantation iced tea, which lacked fruitiness, like tea with a small dollop of lilikoi, back lacking sweetness; a bit of sugar and a sliver of lime or lemon might have provided the plantation jolt.

Prices are competitive with other eateries in East Oahu, like Beastside Bistro at Niu Valley Shopping Center, or Liko’s at the Hawaii Kai Shopping Center. These relatively recent spots, however, boast more island-centric menus that are drawing brisk business on weeknights and weekends.

There’s lots to explore; the restaurant still features a bar with TV monitors, but there’s new booth seating at the bar; a lot more airiness, too, in the interior main dining area. Outside seating has been removed, for now; clearly, Scratch does not need more tables; it needs more diners.

Reservations: https://www.scratch-hawaii.com/ or (808)589-1669.


Hail Kail!

Tony Award-winning director Thomas Kail, pictured below, is best known as the director of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musicals, “Hamilton” and “Into the Heights,” and he’s been tapped to direct Disney’s live-action film-with-music, “Moana.”

The announcement was made earlier this week by Dwayne Johnson, who voiced the demigod Maui in the animated version of “Moana,” and natch, he’s already set to repeat the role. But Johnson will also be a co-producer for the remake with real folks.

Johnson said in a statement, re-imagining of the animated film and his character, Maui, is “deeply personal” to him and his Polynesian culture.

“Our culture is rooted in pride, emotion, expression, storytelling, music and mana,” he said. ‘Moana’ is a once in a lifetime endeavor for us and I’m honored to go shoulder to shoulder with our director Thomas Kail and our entire team.”

“Our ancestors are watching, and the ocean will always have a pulse,” he added.

Auli‘i Cravalho, who was a high school senior at Kamehameha, is too old now to recreate the “Moana” role she created, but she’ll have a minor role in the newbie, and also with co-producer credits. You might recall, Moana was a different brand of a Disney princess with seafaring/voyaging skills and a mind and manner to navigate her own destiny.

Neither a name, nor an image, of the new Moana has been revealed yet; hope she’s someone from our midst, who looks and talks like a local girl, and can sing her heart out. Folks here would be huhu if a non-resident lands in the throne abandoned by the aforementioned Auli‘i.

The original “Moana” film, circa 2016, featured a soundtrack of melodies composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda, pictured right, Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa‘i, embracing lyrics in English, Samoan, Tokelauan and Tuvaluan.

I would assume that the prolific Miranda could be challenged to oversee the soundtrack and then provide some of the original songs; the live-action flick demands it. The silence is deafening…he could not just compose, but sing, and even be in the live-action. Stay tuned…

After all,  he introduced music and appeared in earlier Disney projects. In the “Mary Poppins Returns” sequel, he had a had a featured role, and  for the just-released live-action version of  “The Little Mermaid,” he put pen to music.  He’a Disney do-it-all-er.

Kail is known for directing theatrical productions written and starring his Broadway buddy collaborator of “Hamilton” and “In the Heights,” and yep, he seems to be in the room where it happens in Miranda’s musicals. …


The Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Paradise Lounge, in the hotel’s Rainbow Tower, continues to focus on jazz, delivered by locals. For instance, the Bruce Hamada Trio takes the limelight from 7 to 10 p.m. today (June 2), with singer Shari Lynn and pianist Jim Howard returning from 7 to 10 p.m. tomorrow (June 3).  Seats are not plentiful, so arrive early so you can see the acts, not only hear ‘em.  You can order drinks and pupu, and if you do, you get validated parking. …

Gail Mack and Gordon Kim,  longtime musical partners, will perform from 5 to 8 p.m. July 2 and 9 at Mango Street Grill, 130 Mango St. in Wahiawa. The club was formerly known as Dot’s in Wahiawa. Reservations: (808) 627-5451.…

Tito Berinobis also keeps on chugging, bless him. His summer slate: from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays, at Champs on Waialae …  from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursdays, from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday June 9 with Billy Beimes on sax, and from 7 to 11 p.m. June 13, 17 and 24, David Kauahikaua on keyboards and vocals, at the Chart House in Waikiki … and from 6 to 8 p.m. June 4 and 11 and from 7 to 9 p.m. June 30 at Elk’s Club Waikiki.

And that’s Show Biz. …


“The Bodyguard,” now at the Diamond Head Theatre, is a problematic stage musical with a wafer-thin script, centering on an unlikely relationship between a blues-pop singer and her security guard. The key missing ingredient: no chemistry between the two leads.

Were it not for the show’s final two songs – “I Will Always Love You” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” running perhaps 7 to 10 minutes, and vibrating with emotion and excellence  – this is a play that otherwise goes woefully wrong.

While the score is rich with songs associated with the late Whitney Houston, rendered here by a diva named Rachel Marron and played by Bailey Barnes, a flimsy script fails to develop a credible plot between Marron, who inherits and is initially repulsed to have security agent Frank Farmer, played by Andrew Erwin, to guard her. It’s not the stalker that ruins the fun, it’s a bum book.

Andrew Erwin as Frank Farmer, Bailey Barnes as Rachel Marron in “The Bodyguard.” Photo by Brandon Miyagi, courtesy DHT.

There’s no fault with the cast, but the culprit is a script which lacks spark and sizzle, stifling and challenging director John Rampage with an impossible task: to try to bring this deflated balloon to life.

Based on a 1992 Warner Bros. movie, starring Houston as the songbird and Kevin Costner as her security guard, “Bodyguard” features a book by Alexander Dinelaris and a screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan. The melodies are shoe-horned into the script, so essentially, “Bodyguard” is a jukebox musical with mega-wattage hits, but the tunes don’t propel the story. It all plays like a work in progress.

Amid the grandeur of DHT’s still-new facility, Dawn Oshima’s sets are woefully inadequate, and fails to establish the splendor deserving of a pop diva. There are vertical drops and scrims, seats and a sofa, and a large bed for Rachel’s home; tables and chairs  populate a karaoke lounge.

Such shortfalls suggest the star resides in a motel room. And aside from a projection of a modest stained-glass mural in a church scene, and a double-arched frame in an Academy Awards moment, DHT has not yet perfected its use of fly space technology. Is this due to a lack of budget or simply a shortage of imagination?

Yet an enthusiastic cast of 30, garbed in Madison Gholstone’s exquisite costumes (red, black, glittery silver and gold) for every body shape imaginable, give the production some life. And Aiko Schick’s hair and makeup are equally stunning.

The ensemble of singers-dancers, choreographed by Christine Yasunaga. Photo by Brandon Miyagi, courtesy DHT.

The kudos, however, go to choreographer Christine Yasunaga’s perpetual-motion, vigorous and splashy dance routines, which validate the notion that the production has a pulse despite the absence of atmosphere.

The show has had a storied past; “Bodyguard” was ready to roll, in the fall of 2019, but was saddled and shelved because of the pandemic that would last three years. Director Rampage, choreographer Yasunaga and musical director Darcy Yoshinaga  were among the behind-the-sceners who prevailed, updating their participation for this run.  

As Rachel, Barnes has the mammoth mission of delivering Houston’s big numbers, including “How Will I Know,” “The Greatest Love of All,” “I’m Every Woman,” “One Moment in Time,” plus the show-closing emotional ballad, “I Will Always Love You” and the hand-clapping, foot-stomping “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” finale. However tardy, this burst of life is welcome.

The sidebars provide some interest; Bailey’s real-life kid brother, Erye-Jordan Barnes, plays her son Fletcher in the performance I saw; the role is double-cast with Ezekiel Kekuna in some shows.  La Tanya Fa‘amausili-Siliato, Sade Frame and Anjelica Glasgow as backup singers have the moves and voices to earn some deserved hurrahs. And Dwayne Sakaguchi as Rory has no shortage of leaps and bounds in his rigorous and athletic dances, a supporting role that feels like a lead.

Nicki Marron, played by Rache Sapla, is Rachel’s sister, and has several vocal solos including “Saving All My Love for You,” but her delivery seems muted and restrained, kind of underperformed so as not to collide with Rachel’s more effusive delivery.

Erwin, as Rachel’s late-blooming love interest, has his own moments to remember, toying with a deliberately crude “I Will Always Love You” during the karaoke scene, and segues to a competent beau-protector by the final curtain.

And oh, Ben Walsh as the stalker, sings a few bars, in the waning moments of the show…a nice surprise.

Audiences will adore most of the songs and may not be bothered by the lame script.

The musical jolts include “One Moment in Time,” by Albert Hammond and John Bettis, from the Oscar-nominated flick, “Queen of the Night,” which also was a prominent theme for the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. “I Will Always Love You,” Houston’s iconic ballad, was famously written by Dolly Parton, who is part of the tune’s legacy and surely is the centerpiece of the show.

A parting thought: “Bodyguard” premiered in the West End in 2012 and has toured many cities in Europe and Asia, and even has bookings through the end of this year, mostly on foreign turf. But it never, ever played Broadway — the heartbeat of theater – so can it legitimately still be dubbed a Broadway musical? I think not.

And that’s Show Biz. …


‘The Bodyguard’

A musical based on a 1999 film of the same name; book by Alexander Dinelaris, screenplay by Lawrence Kasdan.

Where: Diamond Head Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through June 11; extended at 3 and 7:30 p.m. June 17 and 4 p.m. June 18.

Tickets:  $27 to $52, at www.diamondheadtheatre.com, (808) 733-0274

Running time: 2:30, including intermission