Dear “Edwina” cast and crew: you’re a winnah, with so much heart and soul.
“Dear Edwina Jr.” – staged over two weekends, due to the cloud of COVID-19 which shut down performances after one show July 15 – returned with a vengeance, so to speak, at Paliku Theatre, Windward Community College. The remaining three shows (one on Friday night, two on Saturday afternoon) challenged the cast to wear face masks, an action not taken by any other theater cast here.
An ensemble of nearly 50 youngsters, who learned or improved their acting, singing and dancing skills in a summertime I’m A Bright Kid Foundation theater arts sessions, also discovered that the show cannot always go on as scheduled. In this case, the potential threat was the pandemic, which affected some kids and a few adult backstagers. Hence, there were other lessons learned.
The show, about a teen broadcast dispenser of advice for an audience of youths with a bundle of growing-up issues, radically did a turn-around, with the final three performances requiring the kids to don face masks for the safety of all, with only brief instances of unmasked solo singing.
I don’t recall any other local group hitting the stage with full cast masking during the pandemic, so the IABK gang outdid itself with an energetic booster shot of desire and determination, earning a deserved standing ovation at the finale I attended.
The show, set in Michigan with music by Zina Goldrich and lyrics and book by Marcy Heisler, was a “junior” edition, meaning a curtailed production for a youth or junior cast. Edwina Spoonapple (Cleonice Hamm, splendid and stunning), solicits letters from youths and shares her growing-up wisdom, like a teen Dear Abby. The formula embraces vibrant musical numbers – song and dance productions, the heartbeat of the show – tackling simple topics as where the silverware is placed in a dinner setting and matters of the heart.
Kids of all ages, looks and sizes converts “Edwina” into an island rainbow of talent, singing, somersaulting, radiating joyous pride, particularly in the “chorus” of line-ups, like a piggy number where many not just singing through their facemasks, but donning piggy wears, snout and tail. Oink!
A sane and simple tune, prior to the final curtain, reflects the IABK pulse: “Sing Your Own Song” advocates the notion that everyone has a voice and should use it. “Don’t let them take away the music you’re made of,” is a thematic line, which reflects the core of believing in yourself and it’s OK to move to your own drumbeat, a teaching and learning point of the late director-teacher Ron Bright, who inspired this spirit in his quest to share and shape the notion that everyone matters.
Surely, these youths have heard about and learned theories of Mr. B, as he was known, and his fingerprints continue to live through his followers, backstage and onstage. Before each show, there’s a circle of prayer to unify and inspire; at the final curtain bow, all performers point upwards to the heavens to acknowledge the mentor and his impact.
A Bright tradition – a family member almost always exists in a Bright show – continues, with grandson Drew Bright (persistently cute, in voice and in manner) playing Scott Kunkle, a teen with his eyes on Edwina.
Jade Stice, who directed the show, was a Bright kid growing up, continues to reflect Mr. B’s ways. The adult circle of educators involved include Moku Durant, music director; David Boyd, vocal director; and Alex Durrant, Lisa Herlinger-Thompson, and Annie Yoshida, choreographers; DeAnne Kennedy, set designer; Danielle Mizuta, costume coordinator; Chris Gouveia, lighting designer; Kingsley Kalohelani, sound engineer; and Allan Lau, production manager. Indeed, their collective skills and savvy helped create and shape this genuinely collaborative powerhouse of a kid musical. The staging is akin to a “graduation show.”
The summer program—which attracted youths from all over the islands– was supported in part by a grant from the Harold K.L. Castle Foundation. “Edwina Jr.” was the first IABK live theatrical endeavor since the pandemic outbreak in 2019. …
And that’s Show Biz. …