JEFFREY IS ‘HAMILTON’S’ BEST SELLER

Jeffrey Seller, four-time Tony Award-winning Broadway producer, says that the outlook finally feels ripe and ready for fans and actors to congregate and celebrate theater.

Though the crippling pandemic that made life uneasy and challenging for nearly three years, “we who make our living in live entertainment are back, and  happy,” he said.

Seller, the producer of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” blockbuster, is in town to formally announce the launch of single ticket sales starting tomorrow (July 21) in Honolulu, in an unprecedented eight-week residency at Blaisdell Concert Hall.

Speaking by phone from his Halekulani Hotel room earlier today (July 20), Seller is hosting a press conference this afternoon at Blaisdell, interviewing two of the musical’s stars, Morgan Anita Wood (Angelica Schuyler) and DeAundré Woods (Alexander Hamilton) for the local media.

Jeffrey Seller, producer of the Tony-winning “Hamilton,” due for an eight-week Honolulu run.

He said the “Hamilton” run, from Dec. 7 to Jan. 29, 2023, reflects a commitment to enable show-hungry islanders to see the iconic show and be “in the room where it happens,” to quote a moment in the show.

“It’s a big commitment, but we are doing what Hawaii deserves –a long stop to share our show with the many folks in Hawaii,” said Seller. “Honolulu has a million people and is the 11th largest city (of the U.S.) and our show is special, the kind that comes around only once a decade, like a ‘Lion King’ and a ‘Wicked.’”


“The pandemic was horrendous for all of us,” said Seller. “We who make our living in live entertainment were in a coma for 18 months, and that included everyone, from stage hands, to office crews,  costumers to artisans who make all that stuff. But the Federal government came through for us in live entertainment, to keep live entertainment alive.”

The return, last September, was a little bumpy, with second-outbreaks of COVID 19, “and our new normal still includes a couple of COVID cases very day. But we’re prepared in New York, and  now all our shows are jammed, with full houses, and the business is coming back in all the cities we play across the country,” said Seller.

“I believe we all want to congregate, get together in live entertainment, and see a show, to laugh, clap together. It’s been so gratifying.”

Seller: “Things are a little bit more normal.”

Seller said that social distancing never was tried in the theater realm, “and there was no strong evidence that it would work. Masks were mandatory till the end of June,  with Broadway adopting the optional policy last July 1, “which seems to be operating smoothly, like the airline policy.”

The casualty of the pandemic is that no one is permitted (other than authorized cast and staff) backstage anymore. Fans waiting at the stage door now are greeted by some cast heading home, autographing, Playbills like the old days, some dodging the practice.

“Outside, things are a little bit more normal,” he added.

“Everybody has to handle themselves in these unique times, in the life of the Earth,” said Seller. “There’s panic in all four corners of the Earth, and from Europe to the West Coast, there have been the largest heat wave.”

Seller has logged an impressive career in the past 21 years. Now an independent producer, he was partnering with Hawaii native Kevin McCollum, in producing such properties as “Rent,” “Avenue Q,” and “In the Heights,” musicals that have earned Tony Awards. In the process, he befriended Jonathan Larson, the composer and book writer for “Rent,” a musical that earned four Tonys (Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, Best Featured Actor in a Musical in 1996). Their collaboration in 2003 on “Avenue Q” resulted in three Tonys, for Best Musical, Book and Score in 2004.

When staging “Rent,”  he felt that tickets should be accessible for the young, and less affluent theater-goer, so he introduced “rush” tickets for the rock musical about Bohemian life in New York, with $20 tickets available for youths, sold through a lottery, for the first two rows of the Nederland Theater.

So when “Hamilton” came along, producer Seller and composer-performer Miranda wanted to rewrite the book on rush seats with Miranda pushing a $10 ticket (one Hamilton bill) in 2015, with flocks of 2,000 vying for 35 lottery seats at the reduced  cost at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

“Those were bedrock moments for me,” said Seller, because “everyone should get a ticket regardless of economic standing.”

So what and who comes first, the show or the producer?

“My decision to do a show is simply consequential,”  he said. “I do a show when I have to. In my career, it’s all about the pleasure of nurturing and fortifying and cheerleading a product that hits me on a visceral, emotional level.”

Like, it’s got to be inspirational, perhaps innovative, with something to say about life.

“Hamilton” fit the bill, because like its predecessor, “In the Heights,
 it featured hip-hop that spoke a new language to a new audience, and focused on language and rhythms of folks not commonly the centerpiece of a Broadway show, like Puerto Ricans and other Hispanics. Consequently, Seller is happily the show’s best salesman-seller, a hearty supporter of the needs and deeds of the show, and perhaps is the kind of booster shots every show needs. A caring, charismatic and committed producer.

So what and who comes first, the show or the producer?

“My decision to do a show is simply consequential,”  he said. “I do a show when I have to. In my career, it’s all about the pleasure of nurturing and fortifying and cheerleading a product that hits me on a visceral, emotional level.”

Like, it’s got to be inspirational, perhaps innovative, with someone with something to say about life. In short: there’s no manual on producing a show.

He said he’ll know when to shut down “Hamilton.”  “When it stops making money, we’ll close. When expenses are larger than income, it’s end of the business, like a restaurant.”

Seller has a project ahead he can’t mention yet, but his next production will be a new musical, “Only Gold,” with a score by Kate Nash and Andy Blankenbuehler ( from “Hamilton”) will direct; “It’s a dance musical, and a real passion project for Andy and myself,” he said.

Broadway, like any business, is all about making money.

“It’s all about capitalism, with supply and demand driving it, but in recent years, bots and computer programs have been able buy tickets quickly, and resold at (scalping) prices,” said Seller. …

Broadway grosses, for weekend ending July 17

As “Hamilton” tickets go on sale in Hawaii this week, it’s good to note that the show is the No. 2 grossing show last week on Broadway, with a tally of $2,255 million, with “The Music Man” still at No, 1, with $3.062 million; and No. 3 was “The Lion King,: with $2.130 million.”

The numbers are for the week ending July 17, courtesy The Broadway League:

And that’s Show Biz…

WILL THE ZIP AT ZIPPY’S DECLINE?

Surely, you’ve heard: The folks at Zippy’s will terminate the restaurant’s popular Zippy’s Senior Card, effective Aug. 22,  2022.

It was an unexpected  surprise that the treasured membership Senior Card would no longer be a valid in another month, since it provided a nifty 10 per cent discount at the restaurant, with the same discount  for Napoleon Bakery purchases.

The announcement to terminate didn’t mention why, but it appears to be a program that became too popular. Meaning members like me regularly use the card, a benefit for being a senior, several times a month … well worth the $20 annual fee to renew.

As a thank-you for ongoing participation, Zippy’s is offering two options:

  • A $100 food credit card, as part of a new Zipster program, an online process to monitor spending. It involves earning Zipcoins with purchases, useable for purchases, with details forthcoming in August, and likely will require an iPhone and/or a computer to monitor, options not user-friendly among the very senior folks.
  • A $20 check suitable for spending at Zippy’s to those who bypass the Zipster. Easier to adopt, and once the funds go, you’re on your own. No more card needed, no calculation required.

The reality is, inflation has been a challenge for retailers, including the restaurant-food industry.  Zippy’s – home of the Zipmin, fried chicken, chili and Napples – is a local business and not a Mainland chain (though Zippy’s is building Las Vegas outpost). Sustaining discounts eat into profits; I’d have joined the plan, even if it continued with a costly renewal every year.

The only other frequent-dining card I hold is courtesy AARP, where seniors join and have a beneficial  partner since  Outback Steakhouse welcomes  the AARP card which provides a 10 per cent discount on food (alcohol not included).

Senior-targeted non-food discount programs include Ross, the clothing/houseware outfit; Consolidated and Regal Theatre cards, which offer free popcorn, a single admission, or other perks without the patron needing to keep monitoring spending; the CVS/Longs and Walgreen cards, which enable you to buy advertised sales items at sale prices. Oh, I also buy into the Ben Franklin yearly membership card, which offers 10 per cent off all purchases, year-round. These are local merchants with ties to larger corporations on the mainland.

Zippy’s is known for its takeout fried chicken.

So stand-alone Zippy’s is to be applauded, for the duration of its Senior Card following. It allowed all of us who had the card to make “next stop Zippy’s” a truism … you go after  or before a nighttime function/event or that regular breakfast or lunch stop.

The future issue to consider: without the senior discount, will many seniors curtail their Zippy’s visit? The card – well, discount – surely was appreciated but one’s got to wonder: will patronage go down among oldsters, who may simply cut out one visit a month, or more, with a made-at-home peanut butter and jelly sandwich, or a homemade breakfast with eggs and bacon. Or with Spam.

You gotta know that prices will go higher yet, before tumbling down. So it’s somewhat astonishing to know that a side-order of Spam at Zippy’s now costs $8.10 (for three slices) and CVS Longs this week has Spam on sale for $1.99 a tin, a stupendous bargain since many retailers now charge  up to $3.98 a can. …

Hamilton’ single ticket sales Thursday

Jeffrey Seller

Single ticket sales for “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony Award-winning blockbuster musical, will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday (July 21) at the Blaisdell Center box office and at www.ticketmaster.com.

The show premieres at Blaisdell Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, and will run for an unprecedented eight-week residency through Jan. 29, 2023.

The show’s producer, Jeffrey Seller, and two actors in the cast to appear here — Morgan Anita Wood (as Angelica Schuyler) and DeAundré Woods (as Alexander Hamilton) – are in town for a press conference today. …

New playdates for postponed ‘Edwina’

The I’m a Bright Kid Foundation, the organization formed to perpetuate and preserve the legacy of the late director-teacher Ron Bright, has announced rescheduled playdates for three remaining performances at Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College.

After last Friday’s (July 15) opening night, the other weekend shows were canceled.

The new playdates are at:

— 7 p.m. Friday (July 22).

— 2 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday (July 23).

If tickets need to be adjusted, contact IABK, not Paliku Theatre, for help. If you cannot attend and hold tickets, you may request a refund. For information, email:  info@imabrightkid.org

Cleo (full name, Cleonice) Hamm portrays Edwina; Drew Bright, a grandson of the late Ron Bright and Mo Bright, and son of Clarke and Lynell Bright, plays Scott Kunkle, a neighbor boy, who is Edwina’s love interest.

Tickets are $23 for adults 21 or older, $18 for seniors 65 and older plus students and active-duty military, and $13 for children 3-12. Tickets for video element are available online www.imabrightkid.org/tickets  

And that’s Show Biz. …

IT’S LAST CALL FOR THE UKULELE FEST

After 52 years, the annual Ukulele Festival Hawaii will stage its final celebration with a virtual concert from 7 p.m. tomorrow ( Sunday, July 17) via KHNL.

Roy and Kathy Sakuma, founders and caregivers of the event for more than half a century, retired from active participation in planning and staging the event.

So the Sakumas will present their final festival showcase via television and streaming. It’s closure time, for sure, after years of memories and joy.

Both continue to be the tireless instructors at their Roy Sakuma Ukulele Studios throughout the decades, even with the retirement, but wanted to have closure to the hugely popular summertime attraction.

Herb “Ohta-san” Ohta

Thus,  streaming event – also viewable at the Ukulele Festival’s Facebook page —  will spotlight a gallery of ukulele specialists and a few singers, reflecting the range of uke strummers since the inception of the festival. The only missing element will be the hundreds of kids and some adults, performing live at the Kapiolani Bandstand, witnessed by thousands of supporting residents and visitors.

The slate will include Sakuma, Herb “Ohta-san” Ohta, Danny Kaleikini, Jake Shimabukuro, Herb Ohta Jr., Paula Fuga, Natalie Ai Kamauu, NUE comprising Bryan Tolentina, Kama Hopkins and Halehaku Seabury. …

Rain forecast today at McKinley High

Crossing Rain, Hawaii’s boy band faves, will give a pair of concerts – at 2 and 7 p.m. today (Saturday, July16) – at McKinley High School. Student tickets are $25.

The group will feature dancers as part of its performance.

XR, as the group also is known, includes single-monickered troupers:

  • Monarch: lead rapper, vocalist, dancer.
  • Asher: lead dancer.
  • Haru: dancer, vocalist.
  • Jorden (aka J): lead vocalist, dancer.
  • Devin: vocalist, dancer.
  • Shotaro: dancer, vocalist.
XR members,  clockwise from bottom right:: Monarch, J, Asher, Devin, Shotaro and Haru. (Karl Sakamoto photo )

Seeking national and international fame, the island-based ensemble has been staging numerous free mall concerts and more conventional formal shows like at Blaisdell Concert Hall, creating stir among young fans. …

Try wait, he wrote and won

Kumu Kahua’s “Go Try Play Write” June winner is Daniel James Kunkel, whose short entry entitled “Commencement Speech to the Class of ’30,” was deemed best. He is a Maui County attorney who previously appeared in Kumu Kahua’s “The Territorial Plays” in 2004.


Each month Kumu Kahua Theatre co-sponsors this playwriting contest with Bamboo Ridge Press in their combined effort to nurture local playwrights and authors.

The July contest is under way, and entrants must submit a 10-page scene dealing with a conflict between supporters of different gubernatorial candidates. An example of the friction might involve sign wavers on the streets or placard posters in the neighborhood.

For entry rules, visit: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdXCoZbl3Ucm8JkB0-tT_Ug1rKTIoGlOLTWFEJcbwVdbT3m_w/viewform

And that’s Show Biz. …

A BRIGHT KID SCRIPTING ‘LILO & STITCH’

Chris Kekaniokalani Bright, who previously worked on Disney’s animated “Moana” hit, is expected to script the planned live action “Lilo and Stitch” movie, based on the hit animated TV series and film.

Chris is the grandson of the late Ronald K. Bright and Mo Bright, and the son of Clarke and Lynell Bright, all active and renowned for their support to perpetuate and preserve the tradition of Mr. B’s legacy, to instill the values of hard work and commitment, the mantra of the Bright-inspired I’m a Bright Kid Foundation which protects and promotes these goals.

Chris Bright

The “Lilo and Stitch” project will be directed by Dean Fleischer Camp, whose latest film is “Marcel. The Shell with Shoes On,” based on the viral video series starring co-writer Jenny Slate as an anthropomorphic shell, according to Deadline,

“Lilo and Stitch,” like “Moana,” promotes Hawaii-based stories with rich island characters and ‘ohana-heavy themes, elements that have become Disney trademark. “Lilo and Stitch” details the relationship of a lonely Hawaiian girl (Lilo) who befriends and adopts a dog (Stitch) which turns out to be a potentially dangerous and destructive extraterrestrial being. “Lilo and Stitch” is known for the much-quoted “Ohana means family;  family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten,” which resonated with Hawaii youths back in the day.

Chris, who grew up amid the Bright tradition, earlier scripted a Disney project called “Aloha Radio,” inspired by the book by David Wolman and Julian Smith about three actual Hawaiian paniolo (cowboys), but the film has been shelved. …

Bright youngsters’ play opens today

“Dear Edwina Jr.,” a comedy with music about a teen advice counsel, opens tonight (July 15) at the Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College.”

It will be the I’m a Bright Kid Foundation’s lone live, in-person production this year, as the pandemic continues.  The show is the culmination of IABK’s summer theatrical arts education workshops, enabling the youngsters to show their skills in what they’ve learned.

In keeping with the tradition of Ronald Bright, mentor to thousands of aspiring theater youths before his death, the show will offer a playbill with the usual credits and roster of the kids. “We do books for all our shows,” said Ligaya Stice, IABK executive director. “Mr. B was big on that.”

Performances will be at 7 p.m. today (July 15), 2 and 7 p.m. tomorrow (July 16) and 2 p.m. Sunday (July 17).

Tickets: www.imabrightkid.org/tickets.

Batalon’s ‘Vampire’ has opening date

Islander Jacob Batalon’s new series on SyFy finally has a premiering date: Oct. 25.

Jacob Batalon

Batalon, 25, will star in “Reginald the Vampire,” putting his teeth in a comedic role as Reginald Andres, a vampire who has to navigate a variety of obstacles but has powers he doesn’t know he has.

The show is based on a book by Johnny B. Truant.

So, from the sidekick (Ned Leeds) and best friend of Tom Holland’s “Spider-man,” he’s now lurking as a vamp. …

And that’s Show Biz. …

SUMMER BREEZE, PLUS LOVE SONGS

John Kolivas’ Honolulu Jazz Quartet, one of the islands’ most enduring jazz ensembles, will concertize at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (July 16)  in a private concert in Haleiwa.

The ensemble will program a range of 60s and 70s hits, plus selections from the HJQ’s latest  CD.

In an online post, Kolivas mentioned that “I finally got up the energy to write my arrangement of Seals & Croft’s ‘Summer Breeze,’ in time for our annual concert in Haleiwa,”  Kolivas said in an online post.

John Kolivas

And indeed, “Summer  Breeze” is a seasonal summertime favorites.

Doors open at 7 p.m. and for  the address of the venue, contact Babatunji for reservations, food options and other details. A capacity crowd is anticipated, so email babatunji@gmail.com or call (808)  636-1285. …

Ben Vegas will return to Medici’s  at the Manoa Market Place, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (July 16). His evening of romantic tunes  is  themed “Songs in the Key of Love.”

Since his previous tune-mate Maila Gibson has left the act, Vegas has been doing special events concerts, previously teaming up with John Valentine.

In the weekend show, Vegas will be joined by musician friends Fred Alcain and Aron Nelson, with  guest vocalist Ana Allen sitting in for a few numbers.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and includes a four-course dinner. Cost is $59, which includes the meal and the music. Reservations: www.medicissupperclub.com

Is Ben Franklin the next to exit Mapunapuna?

With Home Depot acquiring the Mapunapuna complex called Moanalua 99, the remaining tenants will shut down today. Some are reopening elsewhere; many will close for good.

Earlier, Henry Loui restaurant ended its residency in the Mapunapua area, because of the imminent changes ahead, so I wondered about the Ben Franklin/Celebrations complex next door. In a recent visit, employees told me they were hoping that crafters will help save the end of Ben Franklin there, but as a crafter myself, I haven’t heard anything about plans to keep BF where it is, or shut down to raze and reinvigorate the area. Are crafters even aware of the possible end of BF Moanalua? Is this progress?. Just wondering. …

Broadway grosses, week ending July 10

Broadway is still alive and kicking, as the summer season goes into high gear.

But whoa, “The Music Man” still is the top drawer, but it’s now just shy of its usual $3 million gross. The take? $2.9 million.

No. 2 is “The Lion King,” earning $2.3 million, resulting in tswapping slots with No 3, “Hamilton,” with $2.2 million.

The tallies are courtesy The Broadway League. Here’s the chart, for figures for the week ending July 10:

And that’s Show Biz. …