Opera comes to Maui

“I want to bring the best singers in the world to the most beautiful place in the world to make music for the people of Maui,” says Opera Maui founder Jim Price. “Opera is not just for rich old white people, it’s for everyone.” The newborn Maui performing arts organization will offer its first ever performance and fundraiser tomorrow night. The event features Hawaii’s own Grammy Award-winning opera stars Quinn Kelsey and Audrey Luna, along with the Metropolitan Opera’s Shoshanah Marote, and Price. Toronto-based Hawaiian pianist Maika’i Nash accompanies this evening of opera’s greatest hits.

Price’s passion for opera has an unlikely beginning. He and Kelsey are former neighbors and UH classmates. “Quinn and I were a couple of long-haired hooligans. I had recently moved to Oahu and I didn’t know a thing about classical music. We were talking story one day and he said he was singing in an opera and he said, ‘So what brah, you gonna come watch my opera?’ I said, ‘no,’ and then he asked, ‘You ever been to one opera?’ Again I said, ‘no,’ and he said, ‘Well how do you know you’re not going to like it?’ Good point, so I said, ‘okay, I’ll come.’ When the curtain finally went down, I was wiping away tears and all I could think was, wow. It was at that moment I thought to myself, I don’t know if I can sing like that, but I want to try.”

Friday’s concert will include selections from “Carmen,” “Rigoletto,” “Candide,” “The Barber of Seville,” and several others, including crossover compositions as well. “I’d like to do ‘Bring Him Home’ from Les Mis,” says Price. “It’ll be an incredible night of music.” If Price’s goal is to bring Maui “the best,” then Opera Maui is off to an impressive start with its inaugural lineup. This season, Kelsey is scheduled to perform in Frankfurt, Chicago, San Francisco and with the English National Opera in London. Luna, who can be seen regularly at the Metropolitan Opera, will be performing as Madame Mao in “Nixon in China” in Ireland later this year. Shoshanah Marote, another Metropolitan Opera veteran, starred in Baz Luhrmann’s Broadway production of “La Boheme,” for which she received an Ovation Award. Nash is the resident musical director for Opera 5 in Toronto, and serves as musical director and pianist for opera companies all over North America. Maui residents know Price as Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables,” but he has also performed at Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, and in China, Finland, London, Belgium and Berlin. In addition, Maui’s Leighanna Locke (“Les Miserables,” “Miss Saigon”) will be making a guest appearance.

Price also has an eye on the future. “If we start with a few concerts, then move into a Christmas concert, an opera in English, and next summer, a rock opera, I’m betting Maui will love it. Within a year, we could realize a fully staged opera that is a product of Maui. Opera is what I have to offer. Our mission is to entertain and educate Maui through opera.”

Also This Week

In Uptown Chicago lies the Green Mill, an establishment once owned by Al Capone. The nightclub restaurant hasn’t really changed since the 1920s. When you enter, you’ll find a mural detailing the timetable and history of Chicago’s mafia wars. Resting on the grand piano is a photograph of Bugs Moran (Capone’s longtime rival) and in the center of the bar is an oddly placed booth. When seated, you can see every entrance to the club including the bathroom. The only thing you won’t see is the jazz band performing behind you. That was Capone’s booth.

In 1976, a young British filmmaker conceived, wrote and directed a campy, musical farce meant as parody of Chicago Gangland, and gangster movies like the original “Scarface,” with an all kids cast. The film “Bugsy Malone” went on to be lauded by the press, but was a financial flop. A few years later, the film developed a cult following. The director, Alan Parker (“Fame,” “Pink Floyd The Wall”), had gone on to great success, and its stars, Scott Baio and Jodie Foster, were teen idols. It was Baio’s first film. He has frequently related his show business beginning to “Bugsy Malone.”

“You got to dress up as a gangster, shoot guns that fired whipped cream drive cars with pedals that looked like real cars I mean, you couldn’t ask for a better first big gig.”

Songwriter Paul Williams (“Evergreen,” “the Rainbow Connection”) was hired to write the score; and its title track was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Academy Award. The musical stage version, adapted by the National Youth Musical Theater (United Kingdom) in 1998, is the story of two child gangs, set in a fictitious city populated entirely by children. The two gangs are engaged in a 1920’s Capone-like rivalry for control of the city.

Theatre Theatre Maui will present its Westside youth theater camp production of “Bugsy Malone, Jr.,” this weekend at Lahaina Intermediate School.

“Our campers have been working hard all summer learning their lines, songs, and new dances for the show,” shares Angie Thompson, executive director of Theatre Theatre Maui. “The unique part of Theatre Theatre Maui is that the campers get to stick their jazz hands into almost every aspect of camp. This year, many of the props have been made with paper mache, and the kids have helped create, paint and decorate the pieces alongside our creative team and volunteers.”

The play, “Bugsy Malone, Jr.,” will be performed at 7 Friday and Saturday nights and 2 p.m. Sunday at Lahaina Intermediate School’s cafeteria stage. Based on the book by Alan Parker, the lyrics and music are by Paul Williams and director is Kristi Scott. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children and are available at the door. For further information, contact Angie Thompson at 214-7443.