Casting a major Broadway musical – well, for any show, whether a musical or a drama – is no picnic.

A director generally conducts auditions to seek his talent. But he or she might have a trick or two and the Midas touch to secure his performers.

In John Rampage’s case – he is directing the Jerry Herman musical, “La Cage Aux Folles,” which opens Friday night (March 24) at Diamond Head Theatre – and lightning struck brightly for him, since he reaped his key performers largely from previous associations with the men and women he discovered.

John Rampage

In his director’s notes in the show’s playbill, DHT’s artistic director admits how his memory of previous alliances with his actors were factors in filling his dance card.

Andrew Sakaguchi

Andrew Sakaguchi, portraying the difficult trans part of Albin, was a youth actor who has matured marvelously, and sang “I Am What I Am,” a show-stopping  anthem from the score, at a previous DHT Sunset Serenade during the pandemic.

So the tune already was in Sakaguchi’s repertoire and he starred in “Anything Goes,” the final show in DHT’s now demolished theater, which was the current season’s first show. Rampage approached Sakaguchi, without an audition; “I realized that he’s now the right age to take on this demanding, triple threat role,”, he says — and got not just a yea response, but a bonus offer to choreograph the show, too.

Tenor Guy Merola as Georges, the owner of the club La Cage Aux Folles and Albin’s longtime partner, had the right voice and previously played opposite Sakaguchi in a production, “so there was a natural connection between them,” says Rampage.

Shari Lynn

For the part of Jacqueline, who belts out “The Best of Times” with Albin in the show, it was easy. Shari Lynn, a pal of his who is one of the town’s musical gems, called to inquire if he’d consider her to repeat her performance (she did the part in a 2006 production). “I love having the chance to reminisce and joke with her during rehearsal breaks,” he says. Nothing like have good friends in the right places at the right time.

The part of Edouard Dindon went to Joe Martyak, who did a number of DHT shows prior to moving to Washington D.C. was sympatico, with a twist. Early rehearsals had to be done remotely. “No one that auditioned for Marie Dindon was quite what I was looking for, so I put on my thinking cap and gave a call to Kim Anderson,” says Rampage. Her last DHT show was “Charley and the Chocolate Factory,” in which she starred as Willie Wonka, which brought out her comedic skills, and despite the fact that her character doesn’t appear till Act II. Anderson – playing against type – will likely get some of the biggest laughs.

It’s always fun to cast the Cagelles – nine of them – to play the feathered, bejewelled night club showgirls;, three players identify themselves as women, not men in drag. So the audiences get the opportunity to sort out the he’s from the she’s …

Broadway grosses, for week ending March 19

“The Phantom of the Opera” and its music of the night composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber continues to be the blockbuster of Broadway, grossing over $3 million for the A week ending March 19.

The Phantom’s journey, for 35 years, will end April 16, when the chandelier will descend for the final time at the Majestic Theatre.

Here are the top seven shows and their box office figures, courtesy the Broadway League:

1 –“The Phantom of the Opera,” $3.25 million.

2 – “The Lion King,” $2.25 million.

3 – “Hamilton,” $2.15 million.

4 — “Wicked,” $2.04 million.

5 – “MJ,” $1.742 million

6 – “Sweeney Todd,” $1.679 million.

7 – “Harry Potter and the. Cursed Child,” $1.627 million.

And just a skosh behind: “Moulin Rouge,” $1.567 million, and “Jonas Brothers,” $155.6 million. …

The full list:

Broadway is buzzing with new arrivals, too.:

 Just opened: “Parade,” “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’,” “Bad Cinderella,” “Sweeney Todd.”

In previews:  “Life of Pi,” “Shucked,” “Camelot.”…

And that’s Show Biz. …


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.

Kimo Kaona as Michael, Taj Guitierrez as Jon, and Emily North as Susan, in “Tick, Tick…BOOM!”

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. …


“Tick, Tick…BOOM!”

A pop-rock musical by Jonathan Larson

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through

Where: Manoa Valley Theatre

Tickets: $24 to $44, fees included; discounts available for seniors and youths, at


It wasn’t just a grand night of winning for the cast of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which earned seven Academy Awards in ABC’s telecast  Sunday night (March 12).

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, won too , in the overnight Nielsen’s ratings, attracting 18.7 million viewers in the 95th Oscarcast.

It was the best performance and a rebound mode for the Hollywood org., with Nielsen polling showing a 12 per cent gain over last year’s Will Smith’s slap-in-the-face sideshow, seen by  16.7 million viewers. Further, the show gained a 4.0 rating in the coveted demographics of 18 to 49, marking a 5.3% increase over last year.

And perhaps the Oscars might have brought a new respect and a return to loyalty to sit and watch an awards show. The Oscars did far better than this year’s Grammys, which pulled in 12.5 million and a 2.9 rating in the demos. The last Emmys didn’t do well, either, watched by 5.9 million and a rating of 1.2 last year.

ABC execs are awaiting the next-day adjustment of ratings number, expected on Tuesday (March 14), anticipating a bit more juice in viewership numbers, expressing some fears that the Daylight Savings Time early Sunday morning might have confused potential watchers.

Ratings for the Oscars have been critically lower in recent years hitting a record low in 2021 of 10.5 million viewers and a 2.2 rating among the key adults 18-49 demographics. …

Some reflections:

I did pretty well, in the predictions in seven categories. The one I stumbled over was Best Actor. I figured Austin Butler, as “Elvis,” would be a shoo-in, a bona fide actor singing and shimmying like Presley. Brendan Fraser was a worthy winner, for playing the overweight “whale” in “The Whale,” but 75 per cent of his win should rightfully be shared by his prosthetic creator.

Oscar winners, from left: Ke Huy Quan, Michelle Yeoh, Brendan Fraser, Jamie Lee Curtis. Getty Images.

There was uniform agreement that “Top Gun: Maverick,” the stellar sequel with Tom Cruise, brought audiences back to the movie theater to watch a movie. That the film earned just one Oscar, for Best Sound, is ludicrous. And he wasn’t a nominee, so it’s no surprise Cruise skipped the show.

Cheerleader of the night? The indefatigable Jamie Lee Curtis, the “Everything” Best Supporting Actress,  whose early win set the tone and the pace for the final outcome. At 64 and never been a trophy winner (or nominee) throughout her career, she deserved the laurels and clearly she’s not a name-dropper; betcha today’s young film-goers don’t know she’s the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

Comebacker of the year? Best Supporting Actor Ke Huy Quan, 51, also from “Everything,” was a kid actor in an “Indiana Jones” caper, but was unable to land a major project like this year’s biggie. His acceptance speech was genuine, heartfelt joy for years of dreams, hopes and patience. That onstage hug with Best Film presenter Harrison Ford  was a keeper. And weeper.

Michelle Yeoh, 61, had to wait nearly forever to snag her Best Actress (“Everywhere”) statuette. She and Quan made film history, being  the first Asians to win in their respective category, signaling the inclusion of Asians in the Hollywood multiverse. Betcha a sequel will arrive in two years (audiences expect it) but history repeating itself? Hmmmmm.

And as good and alarming as it depicted the brutality of war, Netflix’s “All Quiet on the Western Front” (Best International Feature Film) won several technical awards. War is hell, but did we really need this, while war is seen nightly  on your TV screen?

And can we return to the old formula of limiting Best Feature Films to five titles instead of the current 10?

With sew many (get it?) gowns focused on bras with open midriffs, peek-a-boo fabrics and trains that waited for an accident to happen, it’s a wonder no wardrobe malfunctions were reported or recorded.

Lady Gaga.

While I picked that Indian novelty, “Naatu, Naatu” as Best Song, mostly because that vigorous choreography in the film,  the most commercial tune with abundant pleasure is/was Lady Gaga’s “Hold My Hand,” heard in the end credits of “Top Gun.” Her live vocal delivery on the Oscar show was pure, powerful and potent – delivered in black T-shirt and jeans — perhaps a wider audience will embrace the tune in the weeks ahead.

I miss the Old Hollywood, when the likes of Meryl Streep, Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sean Connery,  Julie Andrews, Kirk Douglas, etc. would be in the front rows of the theater, kibitzing, hugging, sharing camaraderie. Many have gone to the screens in the heavens, but few surviving Hollywood greats have not earned the clout of yesteryear’s screen faves. …

Hawaii Kai gaining new eateries

With the closure of Zippy’s Hawaii Kai dining room in the Koko Marina Shopping Center and the exit of Outback Restaurant at the Hawaii Kai Towne Center, it’s good news to learn that new kau kau options await.

Later this month, Scratch Kitchen will take over the site of the Outback Restaurant, joining the family of established eateries at Hawaii Kai Towne Center, Roy’s and Maile’s Thai Bistro.

And expect Paradise Poke to join the dining community in the space next to Starbuck’s at the Towne Center.

And next to Zippy’s at Koko Marina, a new tenant is prepping for an opening later this year. There is hope for the hungry crowds. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


“Into the Woods,” the splendid musical with songs by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine, can be minimal and magical, or large and luminous. A favorite of stage actors, it’s an ambitious  challenge for any cast, amateur or professional.

Farrington High School’s revival —  directed and choreographed by Aubrey Lee Staley, with the school’s academy director, Miguel Cadoy III as musical director — is somewhere in-between.

For the Kalihi cast, this is a challenging effort, part of the campus journey to bolster acceptance on the theatrical map, with a core of stellar actors who are not yet accomplished dancers. The production does not have an adequate budget but nonetheless keeps tickets at an astonishing low of $10 for adults and there’s no hand-out playbill but you can download the critical credits online.

Yet “Into the Woods,” with its fairybook characters threatened by the giant, still gets “it” when everyone goes frolicking into the woods in search of missions and goals of mundane life. Go see and discover what eagerness looks and sounds like.

The Baker (Isaac Liu) and the Baker’s Life (Janal Baran) want a baby. Little Red Ridinghood (Julian Sanchez) wants to visit Granny (Maryann Nabua), Cinderella (Summer Pilor) wishes to go to the ball. Jack (Axle Munoz) is chastised by his Mother (Lucienne Jamera) for selling Milky White (a cow puppet, designed by Audrey Castandea-Walker, and manipulated by Marky Raphael).
The stepsisters Florinda (Rovie Piso) and Lucinda (Leihua Kuhaulua) want to become the belle of Cinderella’s Prince (Anselm Fautanu). This tale has a second royal, Rapunzel’s (Jade Escalante) Prince (Prince Adena).

The Witch (Cristal Ponce) threatens just about everybody and the Wolf (Brandon Lukas) stalks the little girl with the red cape, so life is a struggle.

And the Narrator (Randyl Degal) is the tour guide as the characters mix, mingle, and connect. He’s very much a part of the wants and needs of all.

With its once-upon-a-time framework, Sondheim’s score and Lapine’s libretto reflect dark and light, sadness  and happiness, and acceptance and resistance plus other dualities of life.

So the Baker and his Wife are instructed by the Witch to secure “a cow as white as milk, a cape as red as blood, hair as yellow as corn and a slipper as pure as gold,” giving them beans from her garden to barter with, and a key thread in the unfolding of the storyline.

The goal for the haggard one really wants these things to reverse a curse on her, to return to her earlier beauty.

The repeating themes: nothing is impossible, so live your dreams. The powerful message: Choices often mean consequence, so not everything comes easily. The outcome: agony can be transformed into hope and happiness.

Sondheim’s melodies are exquisite and often transformational, with cadence and complicated lyrics that define the prolific songwriter’s style, so delivery requires a complex art form of its own. One of the lingering tunes comes late in the show; “No One Is Alone” (delivered by Cinderella, Little Red Ridinghood, the Baker and Jack) is a signature.

And “Finale: Children Will Listen” (by the Witch and the company) is compelling and charismatic.

Director Staley, with  Kirstyn Galiusas as her assistant, works well with the ensemble scenes, bringing out the richness of company voicing; her choreography, however, is serviceable but static, clearly suggesting that dance is not the pivotal trait of her cast.

Erin Kamikawa’s costumes are colorful and functional. Christopher Patrinos is set designer and technical director; his stage design features a stationary principal bridge connects two moveable staircases (think “Hamilton”), garnished by forestry-like vines. The orchestra is situated behind the bridgeway.

There was one mishap, at last Saturday’s performance; the Stepmother’s (Kamakea Wright) wig toppled in one scene, but quickly adjusted, earning slight applause and chuckles.

Advisory: though the play explores beloved fairytale faves that young children may identify with, this is not for the very young, because the show demands quiet concentration.

Yes, the young ones might find delight in Milky White, the puppet cow, who earns a moo-ving cheer at the final curtain, but parents should have discretion in bringing their kids. Despite Sondheim’s vision, all children do not always listen. …

“In the Woods”

What: A musical by Stephen Sondheim, with book by James Lapine.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (March 3 and 4) and 2 p.m. Sunday (March 5).

Where: Joseph Rider Farrington Auditorium, at Farrington High School.

Tickets: $10 for adults (18 and older), $5 for students (5 through 17), $3 for Farrington students with ID, at

Download playbill: at

And that’s Show Biz. …


Two anticipated box-office hits loom in March, at Manoa Valley Theatre and Diamond Head Theatre.

The theaters have unveiled their casts for “Tick, Tick…Boom!” and “La Cage Aux Folles.”


Before there was “Rent,” there was “Tick, Tick…Boom!,” an autobiographical and aspirational musical on the artistic struggles of composer-playwright Jonathan Larson, then approaching age 30 without a production bearing his name.

He hustles – down to the wire  — to create his first musical, “Superbia,” but gets stressed out because he can’t complete the show’s final tune. His workshop session is a sellout, but there are no takers.  Playwright Stephen Sondheim supports him, with valid advice: start writing your second show (which turns out to be “Rent,” his signature production).

But he died on the night before its off-Broadway premiere, so “Boom!” explores the earlier months and years of his theatrical anxieties.

Taj Gutierrez

The show will make its Hawaii debut at Manoa Valley Theatre, where it will be staged March 9 to 26.

Taj Gutierrez heads the cast as Jonathan Larson; he last appeared as Judas in DHT’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” last year. Other leads in the cast are, Kimo Kaona as Michael, Larson’s buddy, and  Emily North as Susan, his girlfriend; alternating actors are Moku Durant as Jon, Ian Severino as Michael and Bianca Tubolino as Susan.

Moku Durant

Mathias Maas is director and choreographer, Jenny Shiroma is musical director, David Heulitt is assistant director, Mira Fey is technical director, Elyse Takashige is set designer,  Willie Sabel is scenic art director, La Tanya Faamausili-Siliato is prop designer, Hope Laidlaw is lighting director, Amber Lehua Baker is costume designer,  Lisa Ponce de Leon is hair and makeup designer,  Lock Lynch is sound designer and engineer, Sarah Velasco is assistant sound designer, Janine Myers is master electrician, Taylor Bair is stage manager, and  Maile Alau is intimacy coordinator.

Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Tickets: $42, adults; $37, seniors and military, $24, youths 25 and younger. Reserved seating.

Reservations:   (808) 988-6131 or online at


Some boys will be girls in “La Cage Aux Folles,” the Broadway musical that gave the world the “I Am What I Am” anthem, which opens March 24 at Diamond Head Theatre.

The show is about Georges, manager of a drag show nightclub starring Albin, his long-time romantic partner. Complications arise when Georges’ son, Jean-Michel, brings home his fiancee’s super-conservative parents to meet them amid the glittering masquerade of men portraying women.

Guy Merola

“La Cage” is based on a film and stage version with the same title, with book by Harvey Fierstein and music by Jerry Herman, based on the original play by Jean Poiret. “The Best of Times” also has been a hit.

The cast features Guy Merola as Georges, Andrew Sakaguchi as Albin,  Charles Ho as Jean-Michel, Nanea Allen as Anne, Aaron Miko as Jacob, Shari Lynn as Jacqueline, Fedrico Biven as Mons. Renaud, Suzanne Maloney as Mme. Renaud,  Joe Martyak as Dindon, Kim Anderson as Marie Dindon and Jake Wolf as Francis.

Andew Sakaguchi

The Cagelles include Jack Dia, Marcus Stanger,  Genesis Kaeo,  Gabriel Ryan-Kern, Jared Duldulao,  Andrew Simmons,  Brittany Lewis,  Anastasia Chrysler, and Heather Taylor.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Saturdays; and 4 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets: $27,  $37 and $52;  no senior, military, or student discounts. Call (808) 733-0374 or visit

Broadway grosses, week ending Feb. 19

With the looming closure of “The Phantom of the Opera,” the continues to draw first-time or repeat viewers, making the Andrew Lloyd-Webber classic the longest-running musical on Broadway, the chart-topper.

The top seven grossing shows last week:

1 — “The Phantom of the Opera,: $2.562 million,

2 — “Hamilton,” $2.000 million.

3 — “The Lion King,” $1.929 mlllion.

4 — “Funny Girl,” $1.833 million.

5 — :”MJ,” $1.823 million

6 — “Wicked,” $1.791 million.

7 — “Moulin Rouge,” 1.590 million.

The complete rundown of the shows, courtesy The Broadway League:

And that’s Show Biz. …