“A Chorus Line,” the backstage musical beloved throughout four decades of theatrical relevance, is back and buoyant in its second revival at the Diamond Head Theatre.

It’s aglow with a young new cast, strutting like peacocks for a new generation of fans, with fabled director-choreographer Greg Zane, putting his imprint on the musical that launched his career three decades ago.

Zane played Paul San Marco on the same stage, where he was mentored by the late Tommy Aguilar, so there’s an unstated passing-of-the-torch tradition, with Dwayne Sakaguchi in his career-charismatic turn as the same emotional and conflicted wannabe Paul. Oh, this version must be blessed from heaven.

At age 46 (“A Chorus Line” — which originally ran for 6,137 performances from April 16, 1975 to April 28, 1990 at the Shubert Theatre on Broadway — may seem dated but it joyously captures the angst of line dancers aching to land a role, in Michael Bennett’s incredulous homage to stage gypsies. “ACL” had a first revival Broadway reboot in 2006 and again in 2008.  So in stage annals, she’s sort of a senior citizen, earning Tonys and even a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and in its time frame, was the longest running American musical.

Ageism doesn’t exist in this show, which still has legs and heart and emotions and regrets – stuff from real life – and it’s only “dated” because it has a proud history and a spirit that doesn’t quit. First time or fifth time, “A Chorus Line” offers a genuine flavor of what it feels like trying out for a show.

The chorus line in “A Chorus Line,” now playing at Diamond Head Theatre. NOTE: 7:30p.m. performance Aug.5 just added — only show with available tickets. Book ASAP before all sold.

The production boasts resources unseen (creator Bennett’s genius, music by Marvin Hamlisch, and a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Dante, with lyrics by Edward Kleban) and rituals perpetuated because of the Aguilar/Zane/Sakaguchi connections.

Aguilar, who died of AIDS, has endured as an unofficial local because of his love and the imprint he left on Hawaii actors and dancers. His aura clearly exists in this mounting, though he doesn’t have credit in the online playbill for “inspiration,” which matters very much.

With musical direction by Melina Lillios, encircling the rigorous process of actors  auditioning for a show, “ACL” is rich and pure – a metaphor for life – yet simple and satisfying with notions and niceties about their lives and aspiration.

 A director Zach (Norm Dabalos, commanding but sometimes threatening, presumably inspired by Bennett’s ways and means) is seeking four guys and four gals from a field of gypsies, who roam from one tryout to another, no matter what.

The process is everything here. Well, prowess, too.

Cassie (Kira Mahealani Stone) becomes a focus of friction; she has had a relationship with Zach, who thinks she can do better than becoming a chorus girl, but, well, she needs a job, something, anything, because role-hunting is in her DNA, and with certainty, she is one of the community of ensemble actors seeking parts in a show we won’t see. She might be exceptional (Stone is riveting, transforming and persuasive in her big solo, “The Music and the Mirror,” but is struggling to be equal and ordinary, like her peers). For the record, no one has dared to do a sequel – “Two”? – because the one-ness is at the core of this show, punctuated by the show-closing “One,” the singularly sensational finale formation that is the trademark of “ACL”.

When Diana (Emily North, supposedly Puerto Rican and brutally honest) sings “Nothing” and feels nothing; she is reacting to moments foreign in her life, like swooshing through snow in her improv moment. Her truths bloom later when she belts out a heart-wrenching “What I Did for Love,” the anthem of theater folks who truly spend a lot of time for the love of the job, with very little regret.

The tapestry of hopefuls and dreamers include hilarious morsels, punctuated with authenticity in numbers like “I Hope I Get It,” “I Can Do That,” with singularly sensuous confessions from the sexy and aggressive Sheila (Lauren Teruya, gorgeous and effusive), the Hollywood wannabe Bobby (Marcus Stanger, hilariously confident), the tormented Val (Jody Bill, whose T&A lament is a showstopper), and the supportive couple Kristine and Al (Alexandra Zinov and Jared Paakaula, proud and bound by obvious love).

Imperfect bodies, broken relationships, perseverance and personal revelations are part of the chemistry here. The expressions are pieces of this theatrical puzzle, collected by creator Bennett when he interviewed and taped actual actors spewing out their inner feelings about life and auditions.

Costume designer Karen G. Wolfe has cherry-picked audition garb with a keen eye, and reflection works wonderfully – she includes a tkts T-shirt for Al, a multi-hued top for Diana, and that red hoodie for Paul, signatures from the original show.

Sakaguchi’s monologue, recapping his sexuality and his relationship with his parents, is the exclamation point of the evening, rich in detail, honest in delivery, and fueled with passionate emotions. If you don’t get watery eyes, you must be dead.

And yes, the “One” finale, where all the dancers line up in glittering gold-and-white costumes capped with the iconic top hats, is deliverance with dedication — with riveting precision, visible professionalism and sums up the essence of the show. They can do it; chorus liners are stars, too.

In the tradition of “A Chorus Line,” there is no intermission and no curtain call. Thus, no opportunity for spectators to render that standing ovation.



When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays,  extended through Aug. 8 Sold out. Note: 7:30 p.m. performance Thursday Aug. 5 just added; only show with ticket availability, but buy ASAP, or will be sold out, too.

Where: Diamond Head Theatre

Tickets: $25 at


The real star of HBO/HBO Max’s “The White Lotus” is the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. Location! Location! Location!

Though the brand’s name is never utilized in the show, the property’s luxurious ambience — from suites to pools, from dining facilities to an abundance of beachfront cabanas –is the perfect site that suits the unending and unapologetic vibes of the rich-and-conflicted clientele depicted in Mike White’s dramady of manners, or lack thereof, set in a Pacific resort.

The six-parter which debuted this past Sunday (July 11) — with airing of new episodes for the next few Sundays — provides an intimate and outrageous portrait of disgruntled travelers of privilege. Its satiric strokes and pokes at the disrespectful wealthy arrives at a time – real time – when Maui and much of the rest of Hawaii resorts are coping with too many visitors and not enough workhands, and this tongue-in-cheek treatment presents one-sided evidence that travelers are a pain in the derriere.

Hotel workers welcome a band of travelers, in the first episode of HBO/HBO Max’s “The White Lotus.”

So the nuisance of overtourism rears an ugly head.

Exaggerated, yes, like the newlywed groom, complaining endlessly about not being in the honeymoon suite, while the bride tries to comfort him and explaining to the hotel’s front desk manner that the accommodations are fine, disputing her hubby.

Tanya (Jennifer Coolidge), a woman traveling with the remains of her late mom, seeks Belinda (Nathasha Rothwell), a masseuse and spa manager, to ease her backaches, and she is the essence of someone who also is a pain in the butt, clinging to the massage whiz like opihi on rock, but a good tipper.

It’s fantasy, of course, and clearly represents the myriad of mishaps and the multitude of complainants within the community of a hotel. The tale could easily be set on a luxury liner or at summer camp, with similar implications. In reality, the “Lotus” cast and crew set up house and workplace, at the pricey Four Seasons last October through December, when most everyplace else had shut down due to the pandemic.

As guests arrive via boat (presumably from a nearby island, after a formal flight), hotel manager Armond (Murray Bartlett) and newbie trainee Lani (Jolene Purdy) welcome the visitors each with different complaints.

The hotelier realizes that the privileged have a thirst for attention, so the squeaky wheels abound and catering to the requests is the key option.  

There’s suspense, too; so “Lotus” will evolve into a peeling murder mystery in the weeks to come.

The good news, however sparse: There are three islanders in the cast, though one wonders if this is a credit worth boasting about. Loretta Ables Sayre shows up in one scene; if you blink, you’ll miss her. Kekoa Scott Kekumano will recur as hotel employee Kai.  Brad Kalilimoku appears as a paddler, though in an uncredited role.

The bad news: In the opener, there were two somewhat startling scenes; Lani, the trainee, is hapai and her water breaks right next to the front desk.Traveler Mark Mossbacher (Steve Zahn), not only reveals he has a medical issue, testicular cancer, but he shows his junk – presumably not really his, but stand-in privates. It’s mockingly queasy stuff.

Perhaps the future episodes will render more startling scenes with less offensive results. The Four Seasons  likely will remain the star, and perhaps welcome guests who may want to stay in the rooms of the “Lotus” cast. Without the baggage of whines.


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.

“Bee” cast, from left: Nick Amador, Hailey Akau, Moku Duran, Ellie Sampson, Malachi McSherry, Bailey Barnes; rear, Garrett Taketa, Rona Lisa Perretti, Austin Sprague. Photo by Brandon Miyagi.

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.



“Forever Plaid,” a modest, nostalgic off-Broadway musical about a fictional four-part-harmony group, has been extended for four more performances (through June 13) at Diamond Head Theatre. Go see it, if you can; you’ll be forever glad.

The “Forever Plaid” foursome: front, Will Thomson as Sparky, rear, Tyler Devere as Jinx, Ryan Michel as Frankie, and Scott Fikse as Smudge. — Photo by Brandon Miyagi, courtesy Diamond Head Theatre.

It is the perfect confection for this ongoing pandemic, with a small  four-member cast, an orchestra of two, and one set against which four lads appear in sort of a dream sequence since they perished in a crash en route to a gig where they specialize in boy-group harmonics of the 1950s. The title alludes to the group’s fondness of plaid, and there are four of ‘em, and they idolize the Four Freshmen.

That’s all the subtext you need to know to enjoy this stroll down memory lane.

Tyler Devere appears as Jinx, Scott Fikse as Smudge, Ryan Michel as Frankie, and Will Thomson as Sparky, whose vocal ranges, when combined, result in sweet harmonics suitable for songs of the era, including “Three Coins in the Fountain,” “No Not Much,” “Rags to Riches,” and “Moments to Remember.”

As lovingly directed and choreographed by Andrew Sakaguchi, who played Smudge in a 1997 mounting of this bon-bon at the unlikely Waikiki restaurant-club called Hula Hut in 1997, “Forever Plaid” represents the naivete and niceties of a kinder, gentler time in entertainment.

Its flashback motif works, in this era of pandemic stress, and DHT’s revival is an opportune vehicle to move back into show mode, albeit with caution and safety. Masks are required for entry and watching, and social distancing protocols remain. The tradeoff is a feel-good feeling as you exit the theater.

The show, created by Stuart Ross, lowers the bar considerably in the production realm, but succeeds in keeping reality in check; DHT has a full slate of creative talent at play, without the overhead of an overblown product in a financially distressed time.

The four gents are genial and appealing, engaging in minimal but essential choreographics, which require some dancing feats but more hand motions and body action. Agility is a must, for a visually hilarious panorama of  3 minutes and 11 seconds of the antics during an Ed Sullivan Show, embracing such warm remembrances including Topo Gigio, my-name-Jose Jimenez, jugglers and accordionist, spinning plates and hula, Senor Wences and his hand puppet Johnny, in the host’s “really big shoe.”

Remaining shows: 4 p.m. today (June 7), 7:30 p.m. June 11, 3 and 7:30 p.m. June 12 and 4 p.m. June 13. Tickets: $22 at


Henry Kapono’s “A Tribute to Jimmy Borges,” staged last night (May 27) at Blue Note Hawaii at the Outrigger Waikiki resort, had a tentative start but a celebratory finish.

The concert capped a weeks-long series of Kapono-led presentations, enabling island musicians a venue for gainful employment and exposure, and audiences to get a notch closer to a restored life of club-hopping normalcy.

Henry Kapono, top; Jimmy Borges poster, foreground.

In brief, it was a triumph, though Kapono initially seemed uncomfortable crossing from his pop-contemporary world into the jazz hemisphere of the late and great Borges. He dipped his metaphoric toes into the waters, by asking John Koliva, leader of the Honolulu Jazz Quartet who has had a couple of decades of gigs supporting Borges, the obvious question, “What is jazz?”

Kolivas, whose life has always been all about the bass (fiddle), wisely responded, “Jazz is a conversation…and improvisation.”

And therein was the model for the evening.

Kapono shared conversations about Borges – “when he sang it, he owned it…a true artist,”   he said of the honoree.

Then despite a repertoire largely new to him, Kapono worked the improvisation mode frequently. Since jazz, by rule, enables individual musicians to indulge in brief and relevant interludes of solo instrumentation during a vocal, each song choice embraced the conversational and the improvisational elements. The HJQ, comprised of bassist Kolivas, saxophonist Tim Tsukiyama, keyboardist Dan Del Negro and drummer Noel Okimoto, was the logical “house band” for the tribute. The accompaniment was superb, helping define the jazz spirit befitting Borges.

With a few exceptions, Kapono’s song choices to salute Borges were familiar melodies that most would recognize, refashioned for variety. On “Night and Day,” there was a bossa nova tempo; on “Can’t Take That Away From Me,” a sorta honky tonk veneer; on a two-tune medley of “Sunny” and “Fever,” a generous finger-snapping blues motif; on “When Sunny Gets Blue,” a Kapono-on-guitar-only elocution inspired by a YouTube clip featuring Borges, projecting both sadness and gladness.

When Kapono introduced “Fly Me to the Moon,” he said of Borges: “He owns this one like he wrote it.” It  was composed by Bart Howard and recorded and popularized by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, legendary icons admired by Borges throughout his life. Lest it be forgotten, Borges was given permission to utilize Sinatra arrangements for concerts here and Bennett has dubbed JB as one of the greatest singers ever.

A poster photo of a smiling Borges, draped with a maile lei, was a constant reminder of his cheer and grace, though its presence was not mentioned. But his impact lingered.

There were anecdotal recollections of Borges’ links to New York/Broadway and Kui Lee — generating tunes such as “On Broadway” and “Ain’t No Big Thing,” an anthem to the Great White Way and a Lee composition, respectively — that were marginal at best.  And while Kapono included a couple of titles from his Cecilio and Kapono catalogue, this was not a C&K retrospection whatsoever. His fans won’t let him leave a stage without a signature or two or three.

As the show neared completion, the nostalgia factor increased, with Kapono offering “Goodtimes Together” to punctuate the happy memories shared, a guitar-backed “Over the Rainbow” and the wholly proper “My Way,” a favored show biz anthem. One puzzlement: if this was a tribute, wouldn’t it have been kosher to have one of Borges’ certified partners in song to sit in and share first-hand memories?