Maui’s top performers honored
Broadway celebrated its biggest night of the year on Sunday with the 67th Tony Awards. For most theater geeks like myself, it is the one night to catch a glimpse of the new hit Broadway productions.
The big winner of the night was Harvey Fierstein and Cyndi Lauper’s “Kinky Boots.” I’m reasonably certain that “Kinky Boots” will come to Maui someday, but that will only happen after a national tour and the rights become available for smaller theater companies around the world to make their own productions.
It took 20 years for the “Les Miserables” rights to become available, but Maui Academy of Performing Arts will present the Maui premiere in August. Maui OnStage premieres “RENT” in July, and “Legally Blonde” in July 2014. Other recent big Tony winners that may show up on Maui someday could be “The Book of Mormon,” “God of Carnage,” “Avenue Q,” “War Horse” “Spamalot,” and eventually, “Wicked.”
One of my favorite Tony traditions is honoring one smaller theater company every year with a regional Tony. Past honorees have included companies from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Seattle, Minneapolis and even towns like Ashland, Oregon and Waterford, Connecticut. Perhaps someday a Hawaii theater company will join this elite list.
It has been my contention for several years that Maui needs its own version of the Tonys to honor the work of local volunteer actors. The debate has always been: Who is going to pay for it? Where would it take place? How could it remain impartial?
Does honoring one person slight others? To me, an award is a tribute, not a contest, and a means to offer respect and admiration for service.
Motivated by all the Sunday fanfare, I decided to take a risk (which may ruffle a few feathers) and honor the finest Maui acting performances of the season with my own personal and pretty much meaningless Tonys. Possibly the Loudons? I’m also choosing to limit this to adult actors from community theater productions. Conceivably, a future legitimate ceremony would include youth theater, designers, technicians, costumers, choreographers and directors.
My pick for the best performance by an actress in a featured role in a play is Kristin Jones for “Doubt.” Jones has made an immediate impact since her arrival on Maui last year. If you haven’t seen her perform yet, make her next appearance in a play a priority.
For best performance by an actress in a featured role in a musical, my choice is Felicia Chernicki for “Shout!: The Mod Musical.” Chernicki’s nerdy Red Girl was a delight to watch and her “To Sir With Love” and “Those Were the Days” brought down the house.
My best performance by an actor in a featured role in a play goes to Rick Scheideman for “Hollywood Arms.” Favoritism aside (I directed the play), his portrayal of Jody, the alcoholic deadbeat dad, was a tour de force performance evoking angst, disappointment and sympathy from the audience.
Best performance by an actor in a featured role in a musical goes to Francis Tau’a for “Man of La Mancha.” Tau’a delivers phenomenal performances show after show and year after year, but his Sancho was something very special and very worthy of being honored as a “best.”
My choice for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a play is Carla Pew for “Doubt.” To date, this is the only role Pew has played on Maui, as well as the only role she has played in 25 years. As I stated back in September, Pew was so good as Sister Aloysius that she makes acting appear easy. Hopefully she’ll return to the stage in the near future.
Best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical is Jonna Ahn for “Shout!: The Mod Musical.” Ahn, generally cast in sidekick roles, had the chance to shine as the Blue Girl struggling with her sexuality, and dazzled on her rendition of “Diamonds Are Forever.”
For best performance by an actor in a leading role in a play, I chose J. Marc Mance in “Driving Miss Daisy.” This is a role Mance can conceivable play for the rest of his life, and whenever he does, future audiences will be mesmerized by the depth of his performance as Hoke.
Best performance by an actor in a leading role in a musical is Dale Button for “Man of La Mancha.” As I said back in February, this may be the role that the multi-talented Button was born to play. From the whimsy of Don Quixote, the passion, the despair and the powerfully poignant “Impossible Dream,” this was a master actor at work.
My choice for Best Play is the ProArts production of “Doubt.” The entire cast delivered stirring performances in this emotional, controversial and magnificent piece by John Patrick Shanley. Mahalo to Jonathan Lehman and director Kristi Scott for taking a chance on a risky Tony award winning drama.
For Best Musical, my choice is Maui OnStage’s “Shout!: The Mod Musical.” If that wonderful cast and band could have stayed together, I could easily see “Shout!” running at a Kaanapali resort for months, if not years. “Shout!” was a perfect little musical, and first-time director Kalani Whitford deserves the highest praise for his casting and direction.
Don’t miss Brian Regan in concert at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Regan has distinguished himself as one of the premier comedians in the country, and his non-stop theater tour has visited more than 80 cities each year for the past eight years.
The quality of his material, which relates to a wide audience, is revered by his peers and continues to grow Regan’s fan base. Using the perfect balance of sophisticated writing and physicality, Regan consistently fills theaters nationwide with fervent fans that span generations.
Special guest Kermet Apio from Oahu will open the show. The performance is at 8 p.m. June 29 at the MACC’s Castle Theater. Tickets are $45.50 and $55.50 (plus applicable fees). For tickets, visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.