Performance-filled weekend

at Seabury Hall and King Kekaulike High School campuses

The Seabury Hall Dance Ensemble dazzles in “Spanish Nights” as part of the Seabury Hall Performing Arts’ Dance Showcase 2017 in the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the school campus in Makawao at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. The seats are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. For tickets, visit www.seaburyhall.org. Jack Grace photo

The Seabury Hall Dance Ensemble dazzles in “Spanish Nights” as part of the Seabury Hall Performing Arts’ Dance Showcase 2017 in the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the school campus in Makawao at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. The seats are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for students. For tickets, visit www.seaburyhall.org. Jack Grace photo

Now in its 28th year, Seabury Hall Performing Arts’ Dance Showcase is a culmination of a year’s worth of first-rate dance training. The popular event annually features all levels of the program in a recital of jazz, modern, ballet, world and contemporary dance.

For 2017, director of dance, David Ward, has set several new pieces, including the Flamenco-inspired “Spanish Nights,” as performed by the Seabury Hall Dance Ensemble to the music of Jesse Cook, and a new blues suite for Level C to be performed to blues standards sung by Queen Latifah.

“Level B is super excited by the new piece I’m doing with them,” says Ward. “Instead of the usual pop, their dance is a thought-provoking piece with partner work and an uplifting spiritual feeling. The students were so happy to push beyond their regular range. They were extremely motivated by doing this kind of sculptural, abstract piece.”

Ward also choreographs a Level A gospel-inspired piece set to music written and performed by Stevie Wonder and Arianna Grande from the recent animated film “Sing.”

Revived from January’s popular Common Ground festival is the show-stopping “Sing Sing Sing” by Portland-based guest choreographer Julane Stites. Stites brought 18 of her students to collaborate with Seabury’s top dancers, and will perform the toe-tapping piece this weekend.

King Kekaulike Dramaaticans presents “Disney High School Musical” with Vince Neil Sotoza and Puakenikeni Kepler. King Kekaulike Drama photo

King Kekaulike Dramaaticans presents “Disney High School Musical” with Vince Neil Sotoza and Puakenikeni Kepler. King Kekaulike Drama photo

Ballet instructor Vanessa Cerrito’s three classes each have new spring-inspired works. Ballet 1 will dance to LeRoy Anderson’s “Belle of the Ball,” Ballet 2 to music from the 15th century in the mysterious and whimsical “Masquerade,” and Ballet 3 will perform a Roaring Twenties-inspired piece set to “At Last I am Happy” by Red Nichols and his Big Ten musical group.

Andre Morissette brings back his award-winning “Metropolis,” a piece about city life to be performed by the ensemble, and one of his best-loved works set to Edwin Starr’s “War” for the Level C dancers.

Ward has always incorporated guest choreographers, such as Adaptations Dance Theater’s Nicole Yezzi and Bay Area-based Meghan and Tito Reyes. This year Yezzi will present the contemporary work “Conflicted Conformity,” which the ensemble debuted in November at the Dance Maui 2016 festival. The Reyes’ have choreographed a pop-culture, hip-hop infused piece for the Level C dancers.

“Level C had so much fun working with Meghan and Tito during their week long residency,” says Ward. “They came away from the project inspired and working harder than ever before.”

*****

ProArts Inc.’s “Dial M for Murder” with William Makozak (from left), Marsi Smith and Dale Button. Dick Vetterli photo

ProArts Inc.’s “Dial M for Murder” with William Makozak (from left), Marsi Smith and Dale Button. Dick Vetterli photo

Four years ago when auditions for “RENT” and “Les Miserables” were being held simultaneously on Maui, it seemed as if every local Generation X musical theater performer was going gaga over the opportunities. For teenagers that weren’t yet born when “RENT” and “Les Miserables” toured the country, they experienced their first musical crush from watching The Disney Channel a decade ago.

Contemporary musicals that a parent might not identify with serve as a catalyst for each generation, and like it or not, “Disney High School Musical” introduced the genre to the Millennials. “HSM” tells the tale of Troy (Vince Neil Sotoza), a popular high school basketball star and Gabriella (Puakenikeni Kepler), a shy, academically gifted newcomer. When they discover a shared secret passion for singing, and both audition for the leads in the East High musical, it threatens the high school social order.

King Kekaulike dramatic instructor Chris Kepler first presented “High School Musical” in 2010, and I asked why he chose to bring it back.

“First, I love the show,” he says. “The students wanted to do something a bit more contemporary this year after ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ and ‘The Music Man’ the past two years. ‘Disney High School Musical’ is this generation’s ‘Grease,’ wildly popular, for many of the same reasons. I knew the kids would be super excited to perform it.”

I asked Kepler if his students had all the songs memorized before they began rehearsing.

“As for lyrics and music, it was an interesting paradox for us. The Disney movie and the show share most of the same songs, but the stage version brings changes to lyrics, tempo and rhythm. Unlearning what they already knew from the movie soundtrack was the difficult part,” he explains.

n The King Kekaulike Dramaaticans present “Disney High School Musical,” by David Simpatico, directed by Chris Kepler, with orchestra direction by Casey Nagata, vocal direction by Bill Kepler and choreography by Dejah Padon. Performances are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, opening Friday and running through April 30 in the cafetorium at the King Kekaulike High School campus in Pukalani. Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for students and are available at the door only one- half hour before the show.

*****

In reviewing a mystery-thriller, one must be cautious not to reveal any surprise plot twists. In the case of Frederick Knott’s cleverly crafted masterpiece, “Dial M for Murder,” it is considerably trickier. The exposition-filled scene one of act one and most of scene two of this British play might at first seem a bit dry to Maui audiences. Yet as William Makozak, who plays Tony Wendice, an aging tennis star past his prime, grills Jim Oxborrow’s Captain Lesgate, a former Cambridge University classmate, “Dial M for Murder” hits its stride.

Through blackmail Wendice coerces the shady Lesgate to murder his wife Margot (Marsi Smith). Makozak’s calculated creepiness oozes from the stage, especially when Margot is away, allowing him to display his true persona. Oxborrow, at first an intimidating figure, softens and transforms into an anxious, defeated and reluctant co-conspirator. Smith’s Margot, rooted in classic ollywood style, is charming, detached and, at times, humorous. Margot has been two-timing Tony with American mystery novelist Max Halliday (Scott Smith). Tony plays the fool, affably welcoming Max into his home, and Scott Smith’s likeable portrayal presents palpable guilt in accepting Tony’s camaraderie.

In act two, after a bungled murder plan appears to have righted itself for Tony, Inspector Hubbard (Dale Button) arrives on the scene to re-investigate. Makozak’s nervousness adds another layer to his quality performance, and Button’s coolness, light comedy and stage patience make their scenes together a production highlight.

In his Maui directorial debut, Francis Tau’a includes his voice and a very funny one-second stage appearance very reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s frequent film cameos. One chilling insertion by Tau’a is his use of the 1950’s sister-singing act Patience and Prudence’s recording of “Tonight You Belong to Me.” This inclusion underscores “Dial M for Murder’s” critical murder scene. Shrouded in shadows and heightened by Smith’s pitch-perfect horror movie scream, the disquieting scene is one of the best staged on Maui this season.

* ProArts Inc. continues “Dial M for Murder,” by Frederick Knott, directed by Francis Tau’a. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through April 30 at the ProArts Playhouse at Azeka Shopping Center in Kihei. Tickets are $26 and are available by phone at 463-6550 or online at www.proartsmaui.com.

Upcoming

Maui OnStage presents the Maui premiere of Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men,” directed by Rick Scheideman. When two Marines face trial for the death of a fellow Marine at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a Navy lawyer makes a valiant effort to defend his clients by putting military mentality and the Marine code of honor on trial.

* Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays beginning April 28 through May 14 at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets range from $20 to $40. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

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