Just in time for the Christmas holidays, a new, original musical about a dilemma facing Santa Claus, premieres at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Dec. 3) at Mamiya Theatre on the St. Louis School/Chaminade University campus.
Entitled “The Year Christmas Was Almost Cancelled,” the family-friendly show is produced by Mo‘olelo Studios with a pair of veteran local theater names — Kyle Kakuno and Roslyn Catracchia –collaborating artistically. He scripted the show and is directing, she composed the musical score featuring 10 songs.
“What if we wrote our own Christmas show?” Kakuno asked Catracchia during a phase of pandemic, when they had ample time to consult. “The script evolved over the last year, and the pandemic provided us time to meet and create the show, because everything (referring to the local stage shows) was shut down.”
“We wanted to bring something new and fun for the families this Christmas – especially after the cancellation of live events due to the pandemic over the past couple of years,” said Kakuno.
Catracchia agreed, “Hawaii needs something joyful and exciting. Kyle and I have been working together for over 30 years, so – after having no productions for the past two years – it’s been refreshing and a total blessing to be working on a brand-new holiday musical together for our island families.”
The story takes place in Santa’s workshop at the North Pole, where a sobering thought emerges: What if there is no Christmas?
Mrs. Claus is the first to recognize the possibility that there could be no Santa at Christmas, since he is ill and his doctor mandates three months of rest and recuperation.
The story themes resonate with elements of hope, faith, wellness, giving and the spirit of can-do. The underlying tone – if you become ill, there’s always the consideration that you refrain from doing things in your life — is not verbalized but implied and it’s a realistic message all should adopt.
Matthew Pedersen plays Santa; he is the lone Actor’s Equity union member in the cast and has Broadway creds, including “Miss Saigon.” Callie Doan is Mrs. Claus.
Kakuno, the drama honcho at St. Louis for two decades, has resigned from teaching but still is affiliated with Saint Louis and Sacred Hearts Academy, which have been the foundation for casting roles. The cast includes Poasa Aga, Isaiah Castillo, Christopher Casupang, La Tanya Faamausili- Siliato, Sanoe Harris, Ka’ulani Iaea, and Samuel Tafolo as Santa’s faithful elves. The actors range from fifth graders to high schoolers and collegians.
Kakuno and Catracchia also were artistic collaborators at Honolulu Theatre for Youth, and she is widely known as the composer for the late Lisa Matsumoto’s stable of pidgin-English musicals, which parodied fairy tale figures in a local-style retelling.
“It’s always terrifying when your work gets a public viewing for the first time,” said Kakuno. Some of his dialogue recurs in a few of Catracchia’s melodies. He said they both perused the script and she would say “I see a song here, a song there,” and thus was born the score.
Among the tunes to expect: “Sweet, Sweet Snow,” sung by Mrs. Claus to the man in red, and “Christmas Magic,” sung by the ensemble contemplating the notion that there would be no Christmas magic if there’s no Santa.
The show’s producer, Mo‘olelo Studios, is a wing of KaiHonua Entertainment, which last year took over the operations of Mamiya Theatre, where Kakuno had a relationship for 22 years directing all of the school’s stage productions ranging from “In the Heights” to “Footloose.”
Kakuno said, “Long story short, the president of KaiHonua Entertainment is Kainoa Jarrett, a former student of mine and my stage manager over the years.” The company specializes in providing tech support in audio and lighting equipment. So the outsourcing of the theater continues to have links with the longtime director, who now is manager of Mamiya Theatre and artistic and managing director of KaiHonua.
Kakuno anticipates that the launch of ‘The Year Christmas Was Almost Cancelled” this season could be tweaked, edited and nurtured to possibly become a recurring holiday attraction in the future. Indeed, it could be the gift that keeps on giving during the Yuletide. …
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“The Year Christmas Was Almost Cancelled”
Showtimes: 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 6 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 18.
Tickets: $20 for adults, $15 for students, at www.moolelostudios.com
Extras: After each performance, there will be entertainment, food and drinks including s’mores, hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies, Santa photo-shoots. and a snow and light show.
And that’s Show Biz. …