BY WAYNE HARADA
“Brighter Days: Reflections and Hope,” the first virtual production from the I’m a Bright Kid Foundation, is a revealing and satisfying demonstration of the magic of theater and the power of inspiration.
It streamed last night (April 18), originating from the Hawaii Theatre, and will be viewable online through June 18. I urge you check it; this was a major undertaking for IABK.
A select cast of former theater students and actors of the late Ronald E. Bright, along with a group of youngsters who never previously studied under the prolific and influential teacher and director, collectively made “Brighter Days” a beautiful homage to their mentor. His values resonate through the voices, the dancing, and ultimately the joyous smile of achievement, especially noticeable in the camerawork. You can’t fake pride, excellence and satisfaction with the dandy, telling closeups.
The show marks IABK’s debut in e-theater and celebrates the stage group’s fifth season in these pandemic times. The mission, certainly, is to salute and preserve the 50-year legacy of Mr. B, as he is respectfully addressed by his legions of students and college, then and now.
What he shared – believe in what you do, try your best, appreciate the community of theatrical peers – was reflected in the choice of numbers that embodied his mana’o and the pure glow of accomplishment in song after song after song.
Several pre-recorded segments, including an impressive and mobile opening number by singers and dancers beginning in the Kaneohe environs where Bright produced and directed popular shows attracting sell-out houses, then proceeding to the sidewalks of the Hawaii Theatre in the Chinatown area downtown. (Too bad quick glimpses inside the Paliku Theatre, as well as the Ronald E. Bright Theatre nameplate at Castle High School, weren’t included; these were Bright’s arena of creating good times and great memories).
With certainty, the live-from-the-stage sequences were spectacular, with stellar troupers reprising their solos from previous performances: Jade Stice (“Spark of Creation”), Miguel Cadoy III (“Lost in the Wilderness”), Kevin Pease and Michael Cabagbag (“I’d Give It All to You”), Bailey Barnes (“Home”), Michael Bright and Chad Atkins (“The Hardest Part of Love”), and Jade Bright (“Ain’t It Good“). Hidden or obvious messages galore, but the essence and challenges for a good life, linked to hope, love and trust, are there if you li
Others on centerstage: Susan Hawes, Vanessa Manuel-Mazzullo, Selah Fonda and Alyse Glaser, rendering reflective and updated performances from shows produced in IABK’s four previous seasons, including “The Wiz,” “Songs from a New World,” “Children of Eden,” “Seussical KIDS,” “Once on This Island” and “On Dragonfly Wings.” Younger kids who soloed include Drew Bright, Kaikou Kaimuloa and Austin Pangilinan.
And yes, there were several of Bright ohana participants, live or on tape.
A pre-taped “Whistle a Happy Tune,” featuring Kathleen Stuart who played
Anna years ago in Bright’s “King and I” while a Castle High School student and more recently reprised in IABK’s first show, “Brighter Still,” was updated to include children involved in the latter cast. It’s a joy to witness a new breed of IABK evolving.
Devon Nekoba and Jodi Leong, IABK alumni, co-hosted the show. Another high-visibility local actor, Kimee Balmilero, hosts two pre-taped chat sessions with ex-Brighters, including Jordan Shanahan, Chris Bright and Cliffton Hall, shown below with Kimee, and Daniel Boland, Jacquelyn Holland-Wright, Matt Gifford-Tinker and John Bryan in a second e-chat. Talk about tear-jerking memories.
Mary Chesnut Hicks and Jade Stice co-directed, with Clarke Bright as musical director and Miguel Cadoy III as vocal director.
The show will continue to be streamed through June 18 via the IABK YouTube channel, with a suggested $5 donation per person, though other contribution levels are available, $100 for IABK legacy donations or $25 for ohana contributions. Larger sums, of course, are welcome. For details, go to www.imabrightkid.org/tickets