Farewell to a talented friend of theater on Maui

Jonathan Lehman founded ProArts Inc. in Kihei and was an active member of Maui’s theater community. JACK GRACE photo

The first time I met Jonathan Lehman was in the Maui Academy of Performing Arts production of “The Music Man” in 2008. I took notice of his script binder labeled with his name and a “Music Man” graphic that he had obviously printed himself. This was an organized, detail-oriented man.

Less than a year later, he co-founded ProArts Inc. in Kihei, producing the kind of theater that actors love, yet rarely packs the houses. On Sept. 20, Lehman passed away. Lehman most certainly put art ahead of money and knew how to sell seats but preferred to push the envelope. I think that is how he would prefer to be remembered — tugging audiences to see “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Doubt,” a show like “God of Carnage,” “Ruthless”-ly. Lehman is the guy who produced “Urinetown” on Maui, because in his words, “You gotta go.”

Several years ago while commenting in this column that, “Adaptations can be tricky,” and “That’s why no one would dare attempt a ‘Gone With the Wind’ musical,” Lehman emailed me with a correction. In fact there had been two attempts to turn “Gone With the Wind” into a musical, one in 1973 and again in 2006, but both had flopped and never reached Broadway. His theater knowledge was immense and whenever he offered clarification, he did so in a very friendly manner. In addition, Lehman’s exceptional focus to props, posters and publicity details is a lost art.

Theater in Kihei will endure because of Lehman, however it wouldn’t exist without his guidance, passion and work ethic.

— Michael Pulliam