It was an evening of firsts Friday night at King Kekaulike High School – starting with the school’s first performance of “Footloose,” and its first-ever sellout with more than 200 people in attendance, plus another two dozen that had to be turned away. “Footloose” is also the school’s first-ever production featuring a live orchestra, lead ably by musical director and conductor Casey Nagata.
Director Chris Kepler used the evening to make his first official announcement that King Kekaulike will soon embark on a 400-seat performance facility. When dealing with first efforts, things aren’t always perfect, but one thing is apparent to me: Kepler and his students know fundamental acting and possess superior dramatic skills.
Each Maui high school theater department has a forte, and King Kekaulike has real characters, emotions, arc and stage commitment down. Musically, I must acknowledge the especially talented band featuring Clayton Logue (piano), Mickey Johnson (piano), Perry Gragas (drums), Alesha Menor (drums), Joshua Hearl (bass), Cy Leal (clarinet), Rusty Higa (guitar), Benny Uyetake (guitar) and a monster guitar solo by student, Adam Brantley.
On occasion, I feel compelled to single out a truly exceptional high school performance. James McCain as Ren McCormack was just that, particularly on “I’m Free/Heaven Help Me” and “Almost Paradise” with Angel Fergerstrom. In contrast to the dramatic skills that this teen cast has a gift for, McCain has natural musical stage charisma worthy of performing alongside Maui adults in community theater. Equally impressive was Jairin Brantley’s portrayal of Willard, Ren’s best friend. Brantley was funny, present, consistent and has a very pleasant Harry Connick Jr. style voice. His lilting “Mama Says” was a musical highlight of the production.
The true strength of King Kekaulike’s “Footloose” is the dramatic scenes. Rosie Kulhavy-Sutherland is believable and funny as Ren’s mother Ethel. Fergerstrom, as Arial, the preacher’s daughter, hits all the girl-gone-wild moments with a genuineness, but never lets the audience lose sympathy for her. Elizabeth Marian, whom I’ve seen perform several times, has grown into a strong young adult actress and plays Ariel’s mother, Vi, with the maturity one would expect from a college performance. The finest performance of the evening however, comes from alumnus Shawn Burger, who plays the Rev. Shaw Moore. Burger has also evolved into a very accomplished adult actor and I hope to see him onstage in an adult drama in the near future.
There are many fun scenes involving the large chorus of more than 20 additional singers and dancers, but of particular note was Ariel’s posse of Carlyn Leal, Kayla Bounds and Monica Paterson. Dara Reckford as Rusty, Willard’s girlfriend, also steals a few stage moments playing out of character as a wallflower. In addition, Reckford admirably takes the musical lead (another first) on “Let’s Hear it for the Boy.”
Whatever growing pains King Kekaulike may need to overcome taking on large-scale musicals is alleviated in all the ensemble numbers. When all 33 teen voices are together in full volume “Footloose” shines. When combined with technical aspects I’ve never seen attempted at King Kekaulike, drama advisor Chris Kepler deserves some very high praise for taking a drama program that didn’t exist to this level in just five years.
* The King Kekaulike High School production of “Footloose,” continues through Sunday. Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and Sunday at 3 p.m. in the cafetorium at the King Kekaulike campus in Pukalani. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 students and available at the door 30 minutes before the show.
Once in a blue moon I mention a particular Maui OnStage “ONO!” that moved me. Coincidence or not, its Alison Mikes that compels me most of the time. Mikes performed her farewell concert Monday night at the Historic Iao Theater, captivating the audience in the palm of her hand. Much of the evening of song was a solo concert accompanied by pianist Vania Jerome, but she was joined by Steven and Alexis Dascoulias on a handful of numbers.
Frankly every song was fantastic, my personal favorite being “Can’t Help Loving Dat Man” from “Showboat.” What made the evening was her comedy and a laissez faire approach to the performance.
Mikes has the same type of quality that a true professional such as Kristen Chenoweth in concert posses. Her dynamic voice and talent will be sorely missed on Maui. Aloha Alison, and seeing as you’re a Southern gal, y’all come back now ya hear?
Also this week
Seabury Hall Performing Arts presents its 24th annual Dance Showcase 2013, in concert under the direction of David Ward. The redesigned showcase features Seabury’s top dancers, the Seabury Hall Dance Ensemble, in a newly reimagined concert of progressive, sophisticated dance featuring the work of Ward and his fellow teacher/choreographers Andre Morissette, ballet mistress Vanessa Cerrito and guest choreographer Tito Reyes, from Oakland, Calif.
Alumna, Julia Cost brings Seabury’s most experimental work of the year, “The Sensation of Falling Forwards,” exploring teenage angst in a pedestrian style dance-theater piece. Alumna Amelia Nelson will also be performing with guest artist company, Adaptations Dance Theater.
* Performances are Friday through April 28, showing at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 29, at the A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 seniors, $5 students. For information and reservations, visit www.seaburyhall.org or call 573-1257.
Greg Wilson, voted as one of High Times magazine’s “Best Pot Comics,” will perform on Saturday at Stella Blues Cafe in Kihei. Presented by Power Up Comedy, the evening’s bill will also feature Maui comics Sunny Dennis, Chino La Forge, Doc Titanium and Jason Strahn. The one-night-only performance is at 10 p.m. in the Stella Blues Cafe lounge. Tickets are $15 at the door. For more information, visit www.powerupcomedy.com.
Maui OnStage presents the Tony Award-winning “Hollywood Arms,” by Carrie Hamilton and Carol Burnett April 26 through May 5. Set in a dingy one-room apartment in 1941 and 1951, and based on the Burnett autobiography “One More Time,” the play was adapted from the book by Burnett’s late daughter Hamilton, and completed by Burnett upon her daughter’s passing. This Maui OnStage production is the Hawaii premiere and stars Cat Hayes, Kristin Jones, Julianna Scharnhorst and Marley Mehring. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays at the Historic Iao Theater. Reserved seating tickets range from $17 to $28. For tickets or more information, call 242-6969 or purchase reserved seats online at www.mauionstage.com.
ProArts presents Neil Simon’s “The Prisoner of Second Avenue” May 3 through May 19. Mel Edison is a well-paid executive of a high-end Manhattan firm, which has suddenly hit the skids, and he gets the ax. Then he’s robbed, and his psychiatrist dies with $23,000 of his money. Mel does the only thing left for him to do – he has a nervous breakdown.
“The Prisoner of Second Avenue” is directed by Kristi Scott, starring John Peterson as Mel and Jennifer Rose as his devoted wife, Edna. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. ProArts offers reserved seats for $20. Kamaaina nights feature discounts for Hawaii residents and are scheduled for Saturday, May 4 and Thursdays, May 9 and 16. For tickets or more information, call 463-6550.