With the coronavirus pandemic easing somewhat, shows that were earlier shuttered and new ones holding off till the entertainment climate improves, are beginning to sprout again.
Biggest news: Marc delaCruz, who was understudying the titular role in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s megahit, will appear as Alexander Hamilton when “Hamilton” reopens tonight (Nov. 18) after a long “intermission” at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
It’s a major credit and achievement for the actor from the Big Island and for the AAPI community. While Joseph Morales, another islander, has inherited the lead role (see below), he’s never performed it on Broadway.
DelaCruz becomes the first Filipino-Japanese actor to fully embrace the role of America’s Founding Father. He’s worked hard and long to achieve this prestigious part, and did a performance or two as Hamilton in 2019. Before landing the lead, DelaCruz was understudy for the roles of Philip Hamilton, John Laurens and King George, and had been covering the roles of Philip Schuyler / Doctor / James Reynolds, too.
Clearly, this is reason enough to finally see “Hamilton” in the flesh, even if you’ve watched the Disney+ film, or revisit the show again to support and applaud our local boy.
Jin Ha, a Korean American, will appear as Aaron Burr, joining DelaCruz in demonstrating the AAPI triumphs on the Great White Way. …
And yes, the aforementioned Morales was in the midst of an ongoing tour of “Hamilton,” is resuming his performances as Alexander Hamilton as the musical criss-crosses the mainland. He was the first local boy to don the costume of AH. …
Two Broadway regulars with Hawaii roots – Ann Harada and Jason Tam – are winding up their performances in “Fairycakes,” packing up Sunday (Nov. 21) at the Greenwich House Theatre in New York instead of the earlier announced Jan. 2 closing. Harada was portraying Musterseed, Tam was Prince/Cupid in the play with Shakespearean influences. …
Stan Egi, an islander who transplanted to the mainland years ago, is rehearsing for the role of Yeye in Max Yu’s “Nightwatch” play, in rehearsals for a run at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre. …
Villanueva now a restaurateur
Rodney Villanueva, the popular emcee/comedian, now is a restaurateur. He’s the man behind Celebrahtee’s – local version of Celebrity’s – at the former Pearl City site of Buzz’s atop the hilly terrain.
A manager also is aboard: Lisa Campollo.
Apparently, Villaneueva hopes to get a Hawaiian vibe going, with lunch and dinner service. The kau kau will be local and there are plans to feature entertainment because the site includes a stage that could easily host singers-musicians, hula dancers or stand-up comics. …
Villanueva used to host wedding receptions and other parties in his previous life. …
Surely you’ve participated in a school classroom or work office ritual called “Secret Santa” during the holidays.
I don’t have fond memories or success with this illogical tradition. I mean, there’s usually a price ceiling, like $5 for school kids and perhaps $10 for working adults.
You usually pick a name, from a proverbial hat, of a classmate or an office co-worker, and they’re not supposed to know who the Secret Santa is.
Argh! What if your recipient is someone you have little to do with?
Argh again! What can you buy and wrap on a trinket budget?
You can’t not participate, so either you purchase a boring item, say a couple of ball point pens, or seek out a sale item even you wouldn’t want to receive.
This whole process is supposed to enhance holiday goodwill and cheer. But does it?
Methinks it brings out the Grinch instead.
Presents should come with sincerity and admiration, from the givers. So if you have classmates or workmates, you usually enchange gifts with anyway, why can’t the angst of the Secret Santa process be nullified?
What memories, or nightmares, do you have of this Secret Santa thing?
With the airing earlier this week of the last of 10 episodes of “Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.,” it’s time to reflect on and endorse a second season for the Disney+ Hawaii-based, Hawaii-filmed show.
Without doubt, “Doogie” is the best thing to happen here since sliced pineapple.
It’s authentic, credible, consistent, groundbreaking and professional, from top to bottom.
OK, its inspiration is yesteryear’s Neil Patrick Harris medical sitcom, “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” reshaped and rebooted with a new spin – updated for today, wholly filmed here, boasting more local faces on camera and off whose presence glows and certifies the show as a bona fide Hawaii gem.
Simply, this one is a measuring rod and a model of execution for other filmed-in-the-islands productions to adopt. It’s got the visual integrity among its population of characters and actors, knowing looks matter more than the visitor-appealing customary sights and scenes of tropical Hawaii filling network series.
An unlikely lass named Lahela becomes a doctor at 16 and is conflicted with high school expections, so it’s simultaneously an homage to the original sitcom and a journey for modern times. Lahela has to deal with surgeries, as a certified medic, but she struggles to get her driver’s license and boyfriend decisions, too. Like, should he go pro as a paid surfer and leave his lovey-dovey at home? Domestic matters compete with hospital commitments, too, because mom Dr. Clara Hannon (played by Kathleen Rose Perkins) rules at home yet doubles as her hospital administrator. It’s a unique balancing act of tough, often hilarious, situations.
Peyton Elizabeth Lee portrays the titular character, and she’s perky, cute, charming and respectful, a lofty inspiration for aspirational kids. While she might look like the kid down the street, she is New York-born but her hapa looks fit the template of the show.
Lahela’s world quickly becomes our world, a tropical paradise with sunny skies, verdant seas, and laced with teen issues and complications that intersect both her medical career and her peers.
Her family is our family – and this is the show’s strength and attraction: most of the actors playing real-life roles look like us. Asian, Hawaiian, haole, hapa. It’s a rainbow collection of normalcy for us folks in the islands.
The show, adapted by Hawaii-born Kourtney Kang, is based on the original series by collaborators Steven Bocho and David E. Kelley which aired on ABC for four seasons and made Harris a star from the get-go.
Its localness surely was a draw for Jason Scott Lee, an actor somewhat semi-retired and residing on the Big Island, to return to active acting playing Benny Kamealoha, Lahela’s appealing and often off-center dad, who operates a shave ice-and-flowers wagon and proves to be the most natural and adorable pidgin-spouting cast member with a most congenial smile and laughter. Lee, who likely really didn’t need the work, must’ve sensed an opportunity to jump-start his on-and-off Hollywood credits. He played Bruce Lee in a biopic early in his career, portrayed the King of Siam in a London musical mounting of “The King and I,” and last was seen on the big screen as the antagonist Bori Kahn in Disney’s live-action “Mulan.”
The Kamealoha clan includes Matt Sato as the elder son, Kai Kamealoha; he is wickedly funny, with a head of wavy hair that attracts attention, and teen girls adore him. His roots are in Mililani, the westside Oahu community, and his occasional sibling friction with sister Lahela could be stuff your kids argue about.
Wes Tian as Brian Patrick Kamealoha, the youngest son/brother, is from Chicago but convincingly fits into the ohana. He brings a wry comedic spin to the plate.
Several secondary players – Alex Aiono, as Lahela’s boyfriend Walter Camara, from Phoenix; Emma Meisel, as Lahela’s BFF Steph Denisco, from Los Angeles; Mapuana Makia as nurse Noelani Hakayama , from Maui; and Ronny Chieng, as Dr. Lee, from Malaysia; and Jeffrey Boyer-Chapman, as nurse Charles, from Canada – complete the mixed plate inner circle of the show.
For the out-of-town crews, both on and off camera, onetime Hollywood producer Chris Lee, has served as a consulting producer, to provide kokua and guidance from his decades-long savvy in film production. So a shout-out to Lee, who helps make wrongs right in his oversight.
The John A. Burns School of Medicine, an actual University of Hawaii working “campus” for future doctors in training at Kewalo Basin, has a key role weekly on “Doogie Kamealoha.” The show’s hospital wing utilizes available space at JABSOM, which occasionally shows off the glories of the Pacific Ocean and Diamond Head in overhead or distance shots.
The show’s concluding chapter, episode 10, was as good as it gets – capped by the last of three guest-role appearances of the late Al Harrington, who played Uncle John. He died several weeks ago, after completing his guest spots, and a closing acknowledgement of his passing was a noble send-off. And the oooh-oooh voicing of Israel Kamakawiwo’ole singing his iconic version of “Over th Rainbow,” was a defining moment that demonstrated the show’s prowess and power of a lingering episodic comedy.
A final observation: Lahela’s monologue at the concluding moments of each show — where she composes and spouts observations of life and love, speaking from the heart for her online blog – serves as a flashpoint of humanity and honesty, akin to the family dinners of “Blue Bloods,” where the day’s or week’s concerns are discussed and resolved with truth and inspiration.
Hope Lahela continues this tradition…in the not-yet-announced second season. …
Jack “Tihati” Thompson and Cha Thompson, founders of the Tihati Polynesian show franchise in the islands, made a rare appearance at the Hilton Hawaiian Village luau spectacle last night (Nov. 12).
“It’s been five years since we’ve seen this show,” Cha uttered while greeting a cast member.
“No, it’s been eight years,” said the performer, correcting the timetable.
Amid hugs and fist bumps, the presence of the Tihati dynamos was triggered when Papa Jack thought our soldier-boy grand nephew PFC John Rhoades, home for a few weeks before his Army assignment at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in another week, might want to get a taste of Polynesian syncopation before his next three-year gig. “We’ll get a picture of you with the dancers, so you can show your friends how beautiful Hawaii is,” said Jack.
So yep, right after the splendid performance, John was shuttled backstage to the makeshift dressing quarters, for a meet-and-greet photo op, the result of which now is among the treasures on his cellphone camera he’ll bring with him to flash to his soldier buddies he has yet to meet.
I had a ringside glimpse, sitting across Jack and Cha, as they relived the memories of this particular endeavor, which premiered in 2013 at the same Great Lawn setting, a grassy patch in the midst of towering Hilton hotel rooms overlooking a man-made lagoon and the turquoise jewel of an ocean with Diamond Head in the distance.
This show also marked the debut of the latest Thompson grandson Eli Hunter Matagitokelau Thompson, the newest dancer in the ensemble of movers-and-shakers, who is the son of Afatia and Nicole Thompson. Afatia has succeeded his dad as Tihati Productions president; Nicole is a choreographer for the company.
This Hilton production, billed as the “Waikiki Starlight Lu‘au,” now is Tihati’s largest Waikiki luau endeavor, with three performances a week (Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays). As visitor counts improve, there will be five shows a week, hopefully by the end of the month. With social distancing considerations, the open-air venue is playing to half a house since reopeninng – pretty good, considering the Japanese visitorship has not yet factored into the playbook.
The show previously was relocated atop the parking, sacrificing the precious oceanfront site that enhanced the visitor experience. Back in the day, a canoe in the lagoon paddled to the shore, followed by a visitor-participation hukilau – pulling in a net, presumably with the day’s catch – which became an integral element and photo op. The entire production was relocated to reduce wear-and-tear of the grounds, which also featured an imu from which a kalua pig would be fetched and paraded through the audience.
The kalua pig still makes an appearance, but no longer from the pit, and is raced toward the food service station to be part of the dinner platters also featuring teri chicken and baked mahimahi.
The pandemic eliminated buffet service, so spectators await the distribution of the dinner platters, preceded by pupu – including a lovely salad with greens, mac salad and a scoop of mashed purple Okinawan sweet potato – plus assorted island chips, pipikaula, edamame and dinner rolls.
Without a cheat sheet, with proper titles of mele and dances performed or names of the troupers, this is a more of an informal reflection than a formal review of the evening’s entertainment.
Last things first: a trio of Samoan fire knife dancers clearly is the proper and fitting nightcap and the audience favorite. Amazing whirling and twirling of the knives, set against the pulse of drumming.
The journey includes stops in South Seas nations, including Samoa, Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji and Maori New Zealand. The excursion includes the Samoan slap dance, a traditional Hawaiian kahiko hula, the otea of Tahitian, and Maori war dances by the gents with painted faces and the poi ball dances with the women.
Cultural summaries shared by Keali‘i, the genial host/vocal soloist, were penned by Misty Thompson Tufono, Tihati vice president, entertainment manager and historian, who is sister of Afatia and daughter of the company’s co-founders, who still serve as ambassadors of aloha, when needed.
Tufono is the scriptwriter and keeper of the flame of the culture of Hawaii and its Polynesian kin, and is the mind who provides the words of that other Tihati specialty, attraction, the “‘Aha‘aina,” featured on the beachfront lawn at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, yet another perfect setting embracing the history of the environs.
En route home to Hawaii Kai, Jack left the grounds of the Hilton and drove east on Kalakaua Avenue, the hub of Waikiki’s top attractions. Thus, we passed the Pink Palace, home of the Royal Hawaiian show; the Moana Banyan Court, where a Tihati attraction was staged for decades beneath the centerpiece banyan tree; the Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, where “Bora Bora E” ran for 14 years; the Princess Kaiulani, where “Creation: A Polynesian Journey” was anchored; the International Market Place, where the historic Duke Kahanamoku’s was the first site of a Tihati-brand show; the former Pacific Beach Hotel (now Alohilani), where a version of “Te Moana Nui” was featured; the International Market Place mini-show, where “’O Nalani Sunset Stories” prevailed prior to the pandemic; and the legendary Queen’s Surf when the couple — young sweethearts who graduated from Farrington High School — earned their stripes – Cha as a hula dancer, Jack as a Samoan fire knife dancer — in a show at Queen’s Surf.
For the record, Tihati staged “Tihati’s Polynesian Ballet” at the Cinerama Reef Hotel on Lewers, plus a dinner-theater rendering of “South Pacific” at the House of Janus, on Ala Moana Boulevard – not on the drive home.
Getting back to the Hilton lu‘au: At our table in the audience, yet another Thompson grandchild, Bella Carmen Ku‘ukamaaukaialoha Fuatino Thompson, sister of the aforementioned dancer Eli Matagitokelau Thompson and thus the daughter of Afatia and Nicole Thompson, was overseeing the flow and content of the production. (She also was there to provide transportation home for her brother). Dad Afatia wanted feedback on the show and Bella, who knows many dances and the troupers because of her earlier participation in Tihati shows, admitted she wants to help her dad. Hmmm, is this a potential next-generation Tihati team member? …
An award-winning Broadway star and a legendary musical based on the lives of a pop foursome are heading to the Blaisdell Concert Hall next year. Both shows were put on pause and postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lea Salonga, the Filipina songbird who evolved into a Broadway musical star, returns to the Blaisdell Concert Hall at 8 p.m. May 20 and 21, 2022. Salonga earned a Tony Award for creating the role of Kim in “Miss Saigon,” which was a Best Musical nominee in 1991.
Salonga also has deep connections with “Les Miserables,” becoming the first actress of Asian descent to play the roles of Eponine and Fantine on Broadway. She also enacted Eponine and Fantine, respectively, in the musical’s 10th and 25th anniversary concerts in London.
Movie fans also know her as the singing voice of two official Disney Princesses: Jasmine in “Aladdin” (1992) and Mulan in “Mulan” (1998). She was named a Disney Princess in 2011 for her work with the Walt Disney Company.
And “Jersey Boys,” the hit Broadway musical which tracks the lives and tunes of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, will finally continue its roadshow stop from Sept. 13 through 25 at Blaisdell Concert Hall. The show was a Best Musical Tony winner in 2006, with original Valli performer John Lloyd Young snagging a Best Leading Actor in a Musical trophy. The show ran through 2017 and an off-Broadway revival emerged prior to the health crises, then was shuttered but was scheduled to return in the smaller venue this month.
The current touring production was sidelined, like most other shows here and abroad, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but original ticket purchases will be honored, if you already have seats. Otherwise, tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com …
‘Tis the season
Must be the season – a cluster of new CDs are being released, clearly in time for the holiday season.
Jake Shimabukuro’s “ Jake & Friends,” with guest chirpers including Willie Nelson, arrived earlier this month. It’s chock full of guest singers, whose presence give the disc global interest. Folks like Bette Midler, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Jimmy Buffett, and Ziggy Marley join in this tidal wave of ukulele cheer.
Robert Cazimero’s new album is entitled “Mine,” just out. Haven’t heard it, but if it’s Robert, it’s gotta be heavenly great.
John Kolivas and his Honolulu Jazz Quartet will preview their new jazz collection, with a University of Hawaii Outreach College telecast at 7 p.m. Friday (Nov. 12), viewable without cost by registering at outreach.hawaii.edu/events/honolulujazzquartet…
Streetlight Cadence’s newbie “Midnight” will be out after the holidays, with the quarter launching a $30,000 kickstarter campaign to help finance the product. Visit http://kck.st/307Jibh …