We’re reviewing two stage musicals here — Diamond Head Theatre’s “Cinderella,” the first show in its new facility, and Manoa Valley Theatre’s “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

We liked one, but not so much the other…


“Cinderella,” the Rodgers and Hammerstein version of the fairy tale about a servant girl who has dreams of good fortunes, is the first musical in the new $22.37 million Diamond Head Theatre.

It is not to be confused with the popular animated Disney version, though the characters are similar: Cinderella has a stepmother and two dipsy stepsisters, in a kingdom where a Prince is staging a ball and looking for love.

Of course, there is a Fairy Godmother who grants Cinderella her wish to attend the ball, but there is no “Bibbidy-Bobbidy -Boo” song here.

The last Broadway revival of this R&H version was known for the incredible and inventive costume design, which won a Tony Award for William Ivey Long, who literally turned rags to riches into marvelous garb with the changes instantly right before your eyes. I saw it on Broadway and not much more mattered, considering this gift of instantaneous wardrobe change.

DHT’s rendering boasts great voices, but redundant choreography scenes, and its  fab costume switch, with Ella’s ball grown drifting downward on a hanger  from the venue’s new fly space is effective  –with kokua from a few huddled cast members – with the unseen switcheroo happening as quickly as possible.

The palatial ball, however  lacks sparkle and party frou-frou, with a skimpy wooden frame depicting a staircase for Ella’s entrance, almost as if funding for a prettier set fell short because money was spent on the theater, a priority over a glitzy party décor.

Christine Kluvo has the right look and voice to render Ella, but the “find” is Paula Fuga as the Godmother, a rather calm savior who brings command and wisdom to the plate; “It’s Possible” is her motto, not “Impossible,” and “Fol-de-Rol” is her answer to “Bibbidy-Bobbidy-Boo.”

Larry Paxton as The King and Anna Young as The Queen also provide vocal enchantment, and in this telling, the stepmother (Lisa Konove) and her two diddley daughters Portia (Stacy Pulmano) and Joy (Barrie Kealoha) are  simply cartoonish figures in flamboyant costumes and giddy but not genuinely funny.

The Prince (Nick Amador) has a competent voice, but seems to be  a boring royal who finally takes an interest in the ball after Ella shows up in his life. You know the drill; she cuts short her visit because, well, you know what happens after midnight if she’s tardy.

Though the theater has that aerial loft, some set pieces (Ella’s home and the palace exterior) still are rolled on and off stage, the old-fashioned way. And while there is an orchestra pit, musical conductor Lindsay Rabe didn’t take that post-intermission bow.

Alas, director-choreographer John Rampage can’t manufacture laugher or emotion if  they’re not in the script. And with obvious budget constraints, set designer Dawn Oshima and prop designer John M. Cummings III could not fill the stage with grand embellishments. Even the chariot that brings Ella to the ball – the re-imagined pumpkin-turned-coach – is flat with a lone merry-go-round pony.

In her finale as costume director, the retiring Karen G. Wolfe creates elegant gowns and suits favoring hues of sherbet, salmon and white,  for the cast of nearly 40. Or perhaps she can squeeze a dollar from a quarter.

Rampage, as DHT’s artistic director,  has been a tireless and innovative craftsman for decades but misses the mark here. The magical spell is missing.

The new theater is awesome, offering comfortable seats, leg room. and great sight patterns, though there’s no far left or far right aisle, if your seats are in the first six or seven rows. The interior looks like a work in progress, so the space has no personality.

There’s a concession bar plus ample restrooms (outdoors, not within the theater).

The capacity is nearly 500 seats, equaling the old DHT, now demolished. The new main entrance is on the makai side of the new facility, instead of the usual back of the house entry facing the street, so if you park at Kapiolani Community College, there are steps or a wheelchair walkway, to get below street level and the side “front” door.

And parking at KCC currently is a maze, because of construction work and coning and barricading, the only entry is from Makapuu Avenue and one way  is out via Kilauea Avenue, so caution is advised.


Plays Thursdays through Sundays, through Feb. 12. According to the DHT website, the run — including a week’s extension — is virtually sold out.

Tickets: (808) 733-0274  or at

‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’

Manoa Valley Theatre boasts a stunning revival of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” playing through Jan. 29, and the impressive music-hall set, designed by Andrew Doan, is the first thing you see. The two pairs of box seats (three are utilized as staging areas, the fourth houses orchestra) punctuate the setting of a show house in the London of 1895.

Update: MVT has extended the run of “Drood” through Feb. 5.

The velvet curtain opens, and you start meeting and hearing  this vigorous and vital ensemble, and they’re having fun and you can’t resist joining in. Enticing entertainment follows,.

Directed and choreographed by Miles Phillips (with Taylor Gruver as co-choreographer), this little musical, written by Rupert Holmes, is a play within a play, inspired by an unfinished Charles Dickens novel, which enables the show to engage the audience in deciding who among the cast is a murderer.

Being an ensemble piece, everyone is a somebody and every move might be a clue in this whodunit. If there are “leads,” it would be Christopher Denton as the Chairman, Mr. William Cartwright, Miguel Cadoy III, as Mr. Clive Paget as John Jasper; Susan Johnson Green, as Miss Angela Prysock as Princess Puffer; Kim Anderson, as Miss Deirdre Peregrine as Rosa Bud; Chelsea Carline as Miss Alice Nutting, as Edwin Drood; and Alexandra Zinov as Miss Janet Conover as Helena Landless.

Some of the ensemble characters in “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”

The score offers a gamut of styles, from quasi-opera to show-tune ballads, from light rock to jaunty gems, but no hummable tunes you’ll remember. But Denton as the emcee-chairman, and Cadoy as Jasper, engage in a jewel of a tongue-twister and rapid-fire “Both Sides of the Coin.” Worth going just to experience and applaud this one.

Musical director Jenny Shiroma, as orchestra maestro, has a couple of occasions to shout out a reply from an actor, and she plays the game like the rest of us.

Hannah Jitsukawa’s costumes reflect the era, from bright and showbizzy to dark and somber.

A raise-your-hand survey, to determine the culprit, is somewhat overplayed, and yes, votes matter.

‘The Mystery Edwin Drood’

Playing Thursdays through Sundays, through Jan.29. Update: The show has been extended through Feb. 5.

Tickets: $24 to $45, discounts available for seniors, military, and youths up to 25,  at (808) 988-6131  or

Broadway grosses, for week ending Jan. 22

With the closure of “The Music Man,” Hugh Jackman’s $3 million-plus blockbuster during most of its run, guess which show now is the No. 1 hottie. The top seven productions, for the week ending Jan. 22:

No. 1 — “The Phantom of the Opera,” $2.227 million. It winds up its extended run on April 16.

No. 2 — “Hamilton,”: $1.946 million.

No. 3 — “Funny Girl,” $1.933 million.

No. 4 — “The Lion King,” $1.795 million.

No. 5 –“Wicked,” $1.657 million.

No. 6 — “MJ,” $1.654 million.

No. 7 — “Moulin Rouge,” $1.437 million.

The compilation is courtesy The Broadway League:

And that’s Show Biz. …

And that’s Show Biz. …

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