ProArts presents Maui production of ‘The Cemetery Club’

Opening night Friday at ProArts Playhouse in Kihei

Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre performers will take the stage tonight in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater. • Photo courtesy MACC

Ivan Menchell’s “The Cemetery Club” might make you think of “Steel Magnolias,” “Beaches” and the 2014 ProArts Inc. Maui production of “The Dixie Swim Club.” This comedy-drama about three Jewish widows who meet once a month to visit their husbands’ graves debuted on Broadway in 1990, and Menchell quickly adapted it into a film that starred Ellen Burstyn, Olympia Dukakis, Diane Ladd, Lainie Kazan and Danny Aiello.

Menchell has specialized in romantic comedy ever since his work as a writer and producer of “The Nanny,” as co-writer of the Broadway musical adaptation of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” and, most recently, as co-writer of the 2014 Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore film “Blended.”

I asked Lee Garrow, director of the upcoming ProArts production of “The Cemetery Club” and past director of “The Dixie Swim Club,” what attracted him to the play.

“I worked backstage doing props and costumes for a production of ‘The Cemetery Club’ about 20 years ago,” he said. “I fell in love with the characters, and I loved how the author made the characters so wacky and funny in some scenes and then changed gears in other scenes so we could see them getting angry and fighting with each other. It’s a real roller-coaster of emotions.”

On its similarities to “The Dixie Swim Club,” Garrow shared, “Yes, there are a lot of similarities between the two shows. Each show showcases female characters of an older age, and both shows include emotions ranging from silly to serious, funny to sad, angry to loving — I enjoy directing comedies with a little more meat to them. Both of these shows offered me the chance to direct some hilariously funny scenes, and some more serious heartfelt scenes.”

• Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre performers will take the stage tonight in the Maui Arts & Cultural Center’s Castle Theater.

Both Garrow and wife Beth Garrow (“Noises Off,” “Mary Poppins”) are originally from Wisconsin where they worked for a number of theater companies ranging from children’s theater to community theater to semi-professional theater.

“After working as an actor and singer for about 15 years, I decided I wanted to try directing, so in 1980 I applied to direct “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” for Wausau Community Theater,” he shared. “I enjoyed directing that show so much that I continued directing one or two shows each season. The rest of the time, my wife and I stayed ‘on the boards’ as actors.”

The stage couple moved to Maui in 2008 “to get away from the brutal Wisconsin winters,” said Garrow. “We got involved with ProArts as soon as we got here working backstage on ‘Urinetown,’ then we both got involved with Maui OnStage and I got my first chance to direct on Maui with the Maui OnStage production “Love, Sex and the IRS.”

Garrow met Beth while they were in college in the 1970s and have been working together regularly in theater for several decades.

“We were both about 18 or 19 years old when we met,” he shared. “At that time, she had never worked in theater at all. After we got married I continued doing shows, which meant that there were many evenings when I had rehearsals and Beth was home alone. She was nice enough to step in and get involved working backstage on the shows so that we’d be able to spend more time together. Then after a number of years working backstage, she decided it might be fun to try her hand at acting, so she auditioned for a production of ‘Mame’ and landed the comic role of Agnes Gooch. Ever since then, we’ve worked together in the theater. It is so much more fun when we are together every evening sharing our love of theater.”

I asked Garrow whether he prefers directing to acting.

“I guess it depends on the show,” he said. “Sometimes a show comes along and I think, ‘Oh, I’d really like to play that part.’ Other times, I see a show and think, ‘I’d love the chance to put my vision up on the stage.’ Either way it’s so much fun doing both that I’m addicted to the stage.” Garrow shared that his dream role was to play Peter Pan and get to fly.

“I did that a number of years ago, in Wisconsin, so now I just wait to see what ProArts and Maui OnStage is doing each season, and I always manage to find roles and shows that seem to call to me,” he said. “When ProArts decided to do ‘The Cemetery Club,’ I jumped at the chance to direct it, and I’m so lucky to have such an experienced cast of professionals.”

ALSO THIS WEEK

Miami’s Rosie Herrera Dance Theatre makes its Maui debut tonight presenting two of its most renowned dance pieces.

“Cookie’s Kid” is a solo work performed by Herrera that explores inherited muscle memory using her unique and diverse performance background in cabaret, classical music, urban and contemporary dance. Iconography ranging from La Lupe, Charles Bronson and Walter Mercardo serve as the framework to use movement in an exploration on how these seemingly unrelated idols are connected within a theme of rebellion, strength, vulnerability and the ethereal.

“Dining Alone” is an examination into the deconstruction of empathic instincts assigned to age, fragility, youth and isolation. Addressing the inherent drama and comedy attached to food, the piece invites you into the bittersweet and private moments that are amplified by the experience of dining.

The members of RHDT range in backgrounds from theater, performance art, opera, drag and contemporary ballet.

* The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. today in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului. Tickets range from $35 to $45 (plus applicable fees) and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.

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Rick Scheideman’s one-man show series continues with “An Evening with Albert Einstein” on Sunday, and “The Old Man and the Sea” on Feb. 19 with an additional short accompanying play, “The Journey of C.S. Lewis.”

* Performances are at 6:30 p.m. Sundays through May 28 at Pioneer Inn courtyard in Lahaina. Courtyard dining is also available. Tickets range from $22 to $30 and may be reserved by calling (303) 507-0987 or purchased at the door.

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ONO! returns with a Valentine’s Day-themed evening of improv comedy presented by Free Range Comedy.

* The performance will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. The free ONO! productions happen every second Monday of the month.

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Women Helping Women presents “The Vagina Monologues 2017: Defending the Vagina” by Eve Ensler. Translated into 48 different languages, “The Vagina Monologues” offers a series of wildly divergent experiences of women performed by a diverse cast of Maui women.

The Women Helping Women fundraiser will support self-defense classes for women.

* The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Historic Iao Theater. General admission tickets are $20 and are available by calling 242-6969 or online at www.mauionstage.com.

UPCOMING

The celebrated Ailey II dance company of New York, under the direction of Troy Powell, is coming to the MACC.

Started in 1974 as the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, Ailey II embodies Alvin Ailey’s pioneering mission to establish an extended cultural community that provides dance performances, training and community programs for all people. The Maui performance will include the four works from the company’s current repertory, “In & Out,” “Gemeos,” “Something Tangible” and a premiere, “Sketches of Flames.”

* The performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets range from $35 to $65, with half-price tickets available for children 12 and younger (plus applicable fees), and are available at the box office, by calling 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.

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Celebrate World Whale Day with Adaptations Dance Theater, which will present “Whale Song” in partnership with Trilogy Excursions, an all-inclusive sunset cruise that will feature food, drink, whale watching and a dance performance to the live sounds of humpback whales.

The event will raise funds for the group’s second annual “Bring it Home” concert event.

* The cruise will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Feb. 18 out of Maalaea Harbor. Admittance is a minimum donation of $99, with reservations and more information available at www.adaptationsdancetheater.com.

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