‘Brighter Days’ at Hawaii Theatre


It’s the circle of life for the I’m a Bright Kid Foundation, which will mark its fifth anniversary beginning this weekend, with a virtual tribute presentation of “Brighter Days,” a retrospective special in the spirit of the earlier “Brighter Still,” from the Hawaii Theatre.

Thus, IABK returns to where its theatrical life began, continuing to preserve the legacy of the late Ron Bright, the veteran director-educator who inspired hundreds of youth to enjoy the magic of theater and scores who actually made it to Broadway.

“Days” will originate from the Hawaii Theatre stage and streamed live beginning at 6 p.m. Sunday (April 18 )to statewide audiences via the Hawaii Theatre and the IABK sites.

Familiar talent, from Bright shows over the last five years. will be featured, including Jade Stice (“Children of Eden” and “Songs For A New ,World”), Bailey Barnes (“The Wiz”), Jade and Michael Bright (“Children of Eden”), Kathleen Stuart (“The King and I”) and, Miguel Cadoy III (“Children of Eden” and “Songs For A New World”).

Other participating actors include Matthew Pederson, Drew Bright, Kaikou Kaimuloa, Austin Pangilinan, Chat Atkins, Michael Cabagbag, Kevin Pease, Alyse Glaser, Selah Fronda, Susan Hawes, and Vanessa Manuel Mazzullo.

Also, students from IABK’s Summer Musical Theatre Arts Education Program (“On Dragonfly Wings,” ”Once On This Island” and “Seussical KIDS will struth their stuff plus unnamed surprise guests will appear.

A suggested donation of $5 per person is suggested. However, other donation tiers are available: $100 for IABK legacy donations or $25 for ohana contributions. For details, go to the Hawaii Theatre events page the IABK website.

The show airs through June 18 through at the IABK YouTube channel. Details: Hawaii Theatre events page (www.hawaiitheatre.com) or on the IABK website (www.iabk.com).

In addition to the streaming, IABK has tapped two Oahu restaurants to provide comfort food dinner to accompany “Brighter Days.”

Café Kalawe (247-9527) in Kaneohe, 46-005 Kawa St., will serve “Mr. B’s Mixed Plate,” and the Honolulu Baking Company (596-2556) in Kakaako, 523 Ahui St., is preparing lasagna or vegetarian pot pie. Meals are $12, with ordering deadline extended to 2 p.m. Friday (April 16).

Further, to promote the “Brighter Days” show, IABK regulars will appear on Manoa Valley Theatre’s “MVT Live” program at 5 p.m. Friday (April 16) with host Devon Nekoba talking story with Miguel Cadoy III, Mary Chesnut Hicks, and Jade Stice. All appear in “Brighter Days.”

Go to www.manoavalleytheatre.com for the live link.

Cadoy is a music teacher at Farrington High School, where he is artistic director of the Farrington Performing Arts Center; Hicks is a veteran voice teacher, opera singer and Iolani School teacher; and Stice is a founding member of IABK and has global acting credits including the original “Miss Saigon” Broadway production.

PHOTO: Bailey Barnes in “The Wiz.”

‘NCIS: Hawaii’ Update


“NCIS: Hawaii” still is a go to join the CBS’ fall lineup of new shows, but uncertainties and rumors still persist.

This much is certain:

  1. The Hawaii spin-off, fourth in the NCIS brand, will likely feature a lead female agent in charge for “NCIS Pearl,” as described in a TVLine posting, and her character’s name is Jane Tennant. The actress has not yet been named, but a search is under way.
  2. If the Hawaii brand hopes to be ready to roll this fall, surely the cast would have to be selected in the weeks ahead, with pre-production measures under way now to launch filming by summer. The “Pearl” chatter suggests that Pearl Harbor would be a likely “character,”or base, in the storytelling.
  3. “NCIS: New Orleans,” the third the family of NCIS procedurals, will end its seventh season with the finale airing May 23.
  4. “NCIS: Los Angeles,” the first spinoff and the second in the brand, also winds up its 12th season May 23, and it’s highly likely that a 13th season will follow, though a formal extension has not yet been announced.
  5. “NCIS,” the original led by Mark Harmon, is set to air its 18th season finale on May 25. The most popular in the series, the original could go another year or two, despite the fact that its driving force, Harmon as lead agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, has publicly decreed that he would exit this year. CBS has two options: plead that Harmon stays on, or cast another lead agent, to keep the No. 1 procedural on the air. No network likes to eliminate two audience favorite go down the tube in the same season a newbie, the Hawaii newbie, makes its debut.

Rumors have been plentiful in the past few months:

  1. Audiences have been vocal to reinstate to favorite characters and players from the Harmon NCIS: Agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) and Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), who had a love/hate relationship on air, to report to duty at Pearl. There’s no word that either one has been asked to return. Weatherly already is attached to his own CBS series, “Bull,” which is completing its fifth season but not been tagged to return for another season. De Pablo is not in a recurring role currently.
  2. Hawaii auditions are under way for unnamed shows, which could be that NCIS is trolling for talent. If so, it would be sensible that a local actor, male or female, to tapped to play secondary characters. It’s good for the Hawaii pool of actors, and better for diversity than to import performers as both reboots of “Hawaii Five-0” and “Magnum P.I.” have been in the past decade. “Five-0” has terminated production; “Magnum” is awaiting word on its future, whether to stay or go; its ratings have dwindled – 0.53 rating in the key 18-49 demographics, with 5.66 million viewers. Compared to season two, this reflects an 18 per cent drop in the demos and 15 per cent down in viewership.
  3. National media allude to the fact that the network has access to production space in the islands, with no specific declaration where, since “Magnum “occupies the principal sites now.

The studio previously announced that Chris Silbur will be “Hawaii” show-runner; he comes from “N.O.” Other execs named so far: executive producers Jan Nash (“N.O.”) and Matt Basack (CBS’ “SEAL”).
If Hawaii film industry execs know that the NCIS is truly heading here, they are not privileged to admit yet.
Some fans do not know that NCIS stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service major case response team involved in law enforcement and counterintelligence matters for the Navy, which also includes the Marine Corps. Like “Hawaii Five-0,” a special investigative wing of the police force, the missions and the agencies are fictional.”

Star-Advertiser Exits


Retirements and staff cutbacks continue to plague the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, with no word on replacements to fill the dwindling ranks.

Notable sports columnist Ferd Lewis last week departed the sports department, after a four-decade stint. Sports editor Paul Arnett also has vacated his desk, with Curtis Murayama succeeding him.

Earlier, Gordon Pang retired as City Hall reporter, and columnist Lee Cataluna decided to bow out to join the Civil Beat, the online newspaper site.

The exit door continues to spin.

Another staff veteran, Betty Shimabukuro, has also retired as a veteran editor, features and food editor, cookbook author and Crave tabloid section honcho and contributor. She has stayed on during the pandemic last year, and finally is throwing in the towel.

Maureen McConnell, from the paper’s Opinion editorial section, has been reduced to part-time status.

After Frank Bridgewater retired last year as editor in chief of the Star-Advertiser, his desk remains vacant.

Some copy editors were slashed last year and not replaced. The cutbacks also meant employees were obligated to take a 20 per cent pay cut, reflected in a required two-week furlough.

Since the pandemic, the paper also has drastically reduced space (pages) and staff of the Features section, which has become a sandwich publication with a cut-back Travel section tucked behind the Sunday section during the Coronavirus pandemic. The stand-alone Features section is just a memory now.

And Play, the broadsheet that was the paper’s Thursday entertainment section, remains missing in action since being shelved last year.

Kuana Torres Kahele at Blue Note Hawaii


It was the yodeling, ultimately, that set apart this show, filled with sparks, laughter, and Hawaiian culture rarely shared on a Waikiki stage these days.

And on Easter Sunday (April 4), nearly all the troupers were barefooted, except one, at Blue Note Hawaii. It is not uncommon among Hawaiian performers to take the stage sans shoes.

And as a spectator, peering and applauding from behind two layers of Plexiglas, this amounted to a first-rate attraction, but a challenge to review.

So apologies to Kuana Torres Kahele, the host and headliner of two performances at the Outrigger Waikiki venue, and his guest singer, Karen Keawehawaii.

I am not fully acclimated to nor qualified to, fully identify and share kudos to Kahele’s rich catalogue of tunes – several with hula performances, in exquisite and fashionable costumes – so I will dodge listing titles I may misidentify.

Since I did not possess, nor request, a set list, this recap fails to name names of songs. But as Kahele mentioned midway through the second show I attended, he alters his plans anyway. So…I will say this much: His four musicians and dancers are explicitly wired to songs new and old, with accent on rarely-performed melodies from the past, depicting places and stories stretching over the island chain.

Kahele is the showmeister of this tapestry of old-time Hawaii, adapting a few current-time tunes from behind a pandemic-reliant plastic separating his musicians from the audience. “We can see our own reflections,” he observed late in the show. It has to be a distraction to have the see-through barriers stretching nearly the entire course of the stage; from my perch on the showroom’s elevated tier in front of the light and sound booth, there was another veil of plastic protection, yielding more reflections.

Keawehawaii, stationed to the left of the performance zone, occasionally worked minus the plastic, too.

This environment brings out the best of these artists. She is the consummate vocalist, too, disciplined and delightful in both serious and comedic moments.

And she yodels. And she got Kahele to yodel, too.

In a Hawaiian show, this is not that unusual. A yodeling voice requires upper-register falsetto tones, and she’s got that and so does he.

She was outfitted with requisite blooms in her hair; he, too, had his traditional head lei.

Mutual trust is an unstated trait when local performers cultivate a show, knowingly or by instinct, and that is the thrust of this rare species. And Waikiki doesn’t regularly provide performance space for culture and heritage that might be enjoyed and applauded by residents and visitors alike like this event.

All the performers were barefooted, including the pair of Miss Aloha Hula, Tehani Gonzado and Mahealani Mike Solem. Perhaps it’s a trademark of the cultural past, perhaps shoelessness brings out the best jolt of talent.

Keawehawaii donned shoes; maybe it gives her power to yodel with more oomph. Or maybe she didn’t get the memo that it was a shoeless Sunday.

That’s today’s take on a special show on a special day.

PHOTOS: Kahele, left, and Keawehawaii, right.

Shari’s Back, with Power and Pizzazz

Shari Lynn continues to be a queen of song, sharing an impeccable repertoire of jazz, standards, and Broadway favorites. She delivers her music with savvy, style, and simplicity, painting pictures of romance or travels, with her disciplined style punctuated with elocution, presentation and some storytelling.

Her performance last night (April 2) at Medici’s at Manoa Marketplace was yet another triumph of artistry in motion. Power with pizzazz.

Standing in-between dependable and versatile musicians John Kolivas (bass) and Jim Howard (piano) and separated from her spectators with Plexiglas panels indicative of the safety concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Shari manages to create moods and moments that play well despite the curtain that provides challenges for singers as more clubs and venues bring live music to audiences.

Opening with “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and ending with a curtain-call “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” she never misses a beat, providing anecdotal insights occasionally as she unveils her song choices.

“Here’s to Life,” a tribute to her late duet partner Jimmy Borges, is sentimental stuff, while “A Tisket, A Tasket” is joyous and timely, a kiddie fave from yesteryear that also has Easter implications. That’s the arc of her appeal

A snappy “On the Sunnyside of the Street,” an oldie now updated on a TV commercial, gives her liberties to change “Rockefeller” In the lyrics to Don Conover, her sometimes keyboarder partner who was in the house. He had another moment, shouting out a response from the audience, during her out-of-the-park “Mama’s Song” rouser from “Gypsy,” with emotional relevance of missed dreams. Everything doesn’t come up roses unless you work hard to achieve goals, so a bouquet of roses for Shari for this one.

But Shari knows how to pick ‘em. “Send in the Clowns,” the Stephen Sondheim signature from “A Little Night Music” is the essence of an actress with a bona fide stage voice that makes the right connection with the spectators.

She also has empathy; like the rest of us, she misses traveling due to the restrictions of Covid-19, so “Let’s Get Away From It All” was panacea for planning a future trek.

Just as her followers who’ve missed her club work here, “I Love Being Here With You” was her declaration of her glee to be chirping again. And she respects her musicians, giving solo and instrumental time (like the Duke Ellington moment) to spotlight their pedigree.

The Medici’s setting, spruced up with faux greenery and blooms, resembles an indoor garden where a singer like Shari can shine in full-bloom glory. Club proprietors Tim and Carolyn Stanton (he’s the chef, she’s the front-of-the-house honcho) also have had to adapt to the times; his imaginative served meals (no more buffets, alas, replaced by set menus from soup to dessert) require additional servers; she has new duties checking temperatures, logging names and monitoring facemasks upon check-in.

Shari returns to Medici’s on May 21.

PHOTOS: Shari solo, Shari with Kolivas on bass, Howard (hidden) on piano.