A theatrical return
If you’ve ever been surprised to find out that actors like Hugh Jackman and Meryl Streep can sing and dance too, what you may not know is that most actors start out in youth theater groups, followed by high school and college productions of shows like “Oklahoma” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” Amy Hanaiali’i, like so many other local performers, shares that background, and the star will be returning to her roots as Eva Peron in the Maui Academy of Performing Arts production of “Evita” in August.
Hawaii’s top-selling female vocalist started out as a MAPA kid, with Maui Youth Theater as it was known at the time. I asked if Hanaiali’i remembered her first role.
“I played Bofur in ‘The Hobbit.’ I believe I was 13. Linda Takita was the director and we did the play at War Memorial gym,” she shared.
Like her brother Eric Gilliom, and on-stage husband, Francis Tau’a as Juan Peron, Hanaiali’i was soon a member of Baldwin Theatre Guild in addition to MAPA. The Baldwin High School program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer, and its founder, Sue Ann Loudon, helped to shape the artistic careers of many local performers.
“Miss Loudon was a huge influence with my drive and my career,” said Hanaiali’i. “I graduated with a BFA in musical theater from a private school in California and was shocked when I got there, mostly because I didn’t have to build anything, hang lights or do someone’s makeup. I was a tech nerd.”
After graduating, Hanaiali’i pursued professional musical theater.
“I was in line in Los Angeles for the role of Fantine in ‘Les Miserables.’ My number was 7,392. I realized then that I really wanted to do something that would last a lifetime and something that was meaningful. I realized that if I incorporated everything I’ve learned into recording, I could make a difference.”
Hanaiali’i would go on to become the first artist to have an all-Hawaiian-language album on the Billboard charts.
“With all of this training, I mostly produce all of my shows,” she explained. “My last solo tour (Japan), I performed for about 70,000 people in 12 shows. The shows are really spectacular.”
I asked what drew her to return to her musical theater roots.
“I feel it’s time in my life to get a little more disciplined. Touring is one thing, but playing Eva Peron is a whole different thing. It’s extremely challenging vocally. I miss the theater – I’ve always wanted to work with David Johnston. It was just the right time.”
While Hanaiali’i prepares to play Eva Peron, her daughter Maddy is in rehearsals for the upcoming youth production of “Oliver!”
A few weeks ago, I interviewed Gilliom about his “Swingin’ Tiki Time” show and the matriarch who birthed a true show biz family, Napua Woodd.
“It all started with my grandmother. She was one of the first pioneers to push Hawaiian entertainment up and out of Hawaii. My tutu was one of the original Royal Hawaiian Hula dancers She was a kumu hula and choreographer in New York and Hollywood. She worked on every Pacific-themed motion picture in the 1940s and 1950s, and defines that cinematic genre. While in New York, she was in ‘Helzapoppin’ on Broadway. My grandmother was the complete package in Hollywood – from motion pictures, commercials, choreography, to raising her children.”
Hanaiali’i and Gilliom’s father, Lloyd Gilliom, grew up on the MGM lot in Hollywood.
“My father was in a ton of movies,” Hanaiali’i added. “I was born into show biz.”
I asked if this was just a beginning and if she would be returning to acting in the future.
“Jamie Foxx is my classmate from college. He just sent me a script to read. You never know. Once it’s in your blood, you never know.”
With mother and daughter both in rehearsals all summer, I wondered how the experience was going.
“I feel that theater helps shape a child – breaks them out of their shell and helps them communicate. I felt privileged to grow up in Baldwin Theatre Guild and Maui Youth Theater.
Maddy tours with me, so she is not scared of the audience at all. Once I saw that glimmer in her eye, I knew it was time for MAPA. I’m really happy she is enjoying the camp. She loves friends and she sees how important carrying your own weight on stage is and that your fellow cast relies on you. She’s in all of the rehearsals for ‘Evita’ – who knows, she might wind up in that, too.”
The Maui Comedy Festival summer series continues with Jim Jefferies at 7:30 p.m. July 9 in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Subsequent summer shows include Patton Oswalt on Aug. 6 and Sinbad on Sep. 24, also in Castle Theater.
* Tickets range from $42.50 to $72.50 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or by visiting www.mauiarts.org.
Maui OnStage presents “The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy,” written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and based on the character of Charles Addams.
* Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays from July 10 to Aug. 2 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets range from $20 to $40 and are available by calling 242-6969 or online at www.mauionstage.com.
The Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents “Oliver!” with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart and based on the classic tale by Charles Dickens. Sally Sefton will direct the show, choreographed by Andre Morissette with musical direction by Marti Kluth. This youth production is the culmination of MAPA’s musical theater camps, which offer intensive training in acting, dancing and singing. This year’s camps include 72 students ages 8 to 19 from Maui and the Mainland.
* Performances will be at 7 p.m. July 17, 18, 23, 24 and 25, and at 3 p.m. July 26 in the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center at Seabury Hall in Makawao. Reserved seating tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students, with general admission available at $15 for adults and $12 for students. For tickets or more information, call 244-6272 or visit www.mauiacademy.org.
Lahaina’s Theatre Theatre Maui presents “Annie Jr.” with direction by Kristi Scott and musical direction by Vania Jerome.
* Performances will be at 7 p.m. July 17 and 18 and 2 p.m. July 19 at the Royal Lahaina Resort in Kaanapali. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children younger than 12 and may be purchased at the door one hour prior to the performance or in advance at Lahaina Music. For more information, contact Theatre Theatre Maui at 661-1168.
“Sesame Street Live: Let’s Dance!” is coming to Maui in July. Audience members will be invited to dance with all of their favorite “Sesame Street” friends in this all-ages production. Elmo will use his imagination to “Do the Robot,” Cookie Monster will teach the “feets” of dance and Ernie will perform “Shake Your Head One Time.”
* Performances will be at 6:30 p.m. July 24; 10:30 a.m., 2 and 5:30 p.m. July 25; and 1 and 4:30 p.m. July 26 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets range from $10 to $75 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or by visiting www.mauiarts.org.
Kamp Krazy Tales returns for a summer session. The Drama Queen (Kristi Scott) and Keyboard Kim (Kim Vetterli) are teaming up again to present three drama and music Kamps this summer for the keiki of Kihei and beyond.
Students will learn fun drama games and music techniques, and the Kamp will culminate with a short performance for parents. Pre-registration is required. No previous experience is necessary. The session runs from 9 a.m. to noon July 20 to 24 in the ProArts Playhouse at the Azeka Shopping Center in Kihei.
* Kamp Krazy Tales is intended for children ages 5 to 12, and tuition is $150 per child with two-hour extended day care available. To enroll, or if interested in sponsoring a child, call 463-6550 for more information visit www.proartspacific.com.