Less is more, as the adage goes, and more or less, “Celebrate 60 Years” – the tribute applauding the six-decades-long career of the late Ronald E. Bright (pictured below) legendary director and stage mentor – succeeded in capsulizing Mr. B’s impact on the cultural scene here.
The show, which ran nearly 2 ½ hours last night (Sept. 2) at the Ron Bright Performance Center at Castle High School, had more highs than lows, but it clearly needed Mr. B’s intervention to keep the momentum going. More or less, the program was nostalgic fun — but needed tweaking.
Unable yet to drive due to health issues since early August, I took a cab ride to and from the Kaneohe theater, anticipating a crisp celebratory evening. As a follower and journalist cheerleader for Mr. B. for nearly 60 years, I couldn’t miss this one. But yikes, the taxi journey seemed a tad smoother than the show.
The event was a collaboration between the Castle Performing Arts Center (CPAC), where Bright had roots in creating a high school theatrical program like no other, and the I’m a Bright Kid foundation, which was organized after Mr. B’s death to preserve and perpetuate his dreams and legacy.
The problem: the well-intentioned show lacked a director, though the leaders of both camps —Karen Meyer, who succeeded Bright at Castle, who has been at the reigns for 22 years, and Ligaya Stice, a former Bright Kid who now is the executive director of IABK – managed to serve up a fond remembrance of Mr. B, then and now.
The issue was the erratic range of voices of reflections – wonderful at best, overlong at worst – because of the neglect to monitor time and content. If you were there, you know who was splendid and who was not, and it came down to time; when Meyer had to go on stage to nudge one reflective voice to scurry and hurry away from the podium due to a lack of brevity, that’s where the less-is-more guideline applied. Most speakers were spot-on perfect, however.
Two Bright Kids allies: Allan Lau, left, and Devon Nekoba, right.
The performances were astounding, considering the range and variety:
- “Harmonious,” a remarkable dance sequence by Marcelo Pacleb’s 24 VII Danceforce company, was visually and aurally impressive, with Broadway-quality movements and costumes and projections that had bursts of “The Lion King,” and now-and-wow dances and vocals to stun the eyes and the ears.
- “This Is Me,” featuring the IABK summertime institute youths, was a reprisal performance with a message-marvelous theme from “The Greatest Showman.” A worthy hana-hou specimen of the ongoing good work inspired by Mr. B.
- The family vocals on “A Million Dreams,” also from “Showman,” tapped– for the first time – dad Michael Bright, mom Jade Auguay Bright, and their kids, Caitlin, Drew and Colton Bright . A splendid union of talent.
- Caitlin Bright, literally was “On My Own,” soloing on the “Les Miserables” heart-tugger, and demonstrating the stage is in her future, should she want to focus and go for it.
- “For Good,” an anthem from “Wicked,” was a demonstration that former Bright divas Kimee Balmilero, Saralea Gamiao Kekuna, Jodi Leong and Ligaya Stice still have the prowess and pizzaz to deliver a ballad.
- Miguel Cadoy III, the Farrington High School educator, earned hurrahs for his “Man of Mancha” solo, “The Impossible Dream.”
- The brotherly song of challenges, “Anything You Can Do” from “Annie Get Your Gun,” showed the playful rapport between brothers, Ezekiel Kekuna and Ezra Kekuna.
- Michael Bright led the opening notes of “If You Believe,” as others chimed in on the Mr. B-chosen anthem from “The Wiz,” now kind of an alma mater among Bright Kids; it was an appropriate show-closer finale, a tune that all youths and adults in a Bright show, then and now, learn by heart and its spirit lives in their daily lives. Believe, and you’ll achieve.
Two archival montages from Bright’s early years as director-teacher and snapshots of various casts in the variety of musical productions over the dates, were fun to watch but both lacked captions to indicate show title and year. One clip had promotional captions that did not have vital what-and-when dates.
Because Sept. 2 would have been Mr. B’s 90th birthday, the cast and the spectators sang “Happy Birthday” to their mentor, and pieces of cakes were shared with folks departing the theater. For sure, Mr. B was smiling approval from his heavely perch.
And appropriately, Mo Bright, widow of Ron, was properly and affectionately declared as a vital element with a legacy in her own right, having been the sidekick of Ron at all productions over the decades. She believed, back in the days, and continues to believe in his work and his disciples.
And that’s Show Biz. …