Mini Stage Reviews: Youth theater shines

Productions showcase talented island kids

Shelsea Wurts (left) plays the title character in Lahaina’s Theatre Theatre Maui’s production of “Oliver!” Ray Chin photo

Lahaina’s Theatre Theatre Maui’s current production of “Oliver!” is a bold choice, armed with many standout performances in an unconventional setting, which moves the classical tale by Charles Dickens from Victorian London to an unspecified post-apocalyptic British future.

Director Kristi Scott shared in the program that the shift, “makes us sit up and notice more,” adding, “it makes things less dated.”

Additional changes include making the character of Fagin (Sydney McCarney) a female. McCarney’s on-stage effortlessness, dramatic skill and strong vocals on “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” and “Reviewing the Situation” made her one of the standout performers.

Equally notable are the performances of the Wurts sisters. In a smaller role, Charlise Wurts as Mrs. Sowerberry, displays accomplished vocals on “That’s Your Funeral,” and Shelsea Wurts as Oliver sparkles on the difficult solo song, “Where Is Love?”

Gianna Bauchman as the Artful Dodger leads the traditional “Oliver!” show-stopper, “Consider Yourself,” and seasoned Maui youth performer Rory Delaney gives an impactful performance as Nancy. Delaney’s musical numbers impressively showcase her range from the lively “Oom-Pah-Pah” and “It’s a Fine Life,” to the touching “As Long as He Needs Me.”

Gianna Bauchman (below left) and Sydney McCarney are the Artful Dodger and Fagin. Ray Chin photo

Meticulous set design, props and scene painting by Annabehl Sinclair-Delaney are other “Oliver!” highlights, as is the sophisticated and well-executed choreography by Felicia Chernicki-Wulf. In embracing challenge and enlarging the scope of their annual summer youth musical, TTM’s cast and creators continue to expand theatrical opportunities for all on Maui’s west side.

* Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lahaina Gateway Center Suite 601(next to Island Ice Cream Company). Tickets are $12 for age 13 and older, $7 for ages 3 to 12 and are available in advance at Lahaina Music. Children age 2 and under are admitted free. “Oliver!” contains mature themes that may not be suitable for all audiences. For more information, call 661-1168 or visit www.ttmwestmaui.org.

*****

Maui OnStage Youth Theater’s current “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast JR.” is considerably more elegant than previous productions, and a noticeable advancement for the blossoming program. The 75-minute show moves along swiftly, and is an excellent fit for preschool-age children.

In its opening number “Belle,” Stefani Peterson showcases her outstanding soprano vocals — near worthy of holding her own in an adult Maui OnStage musical. As her unwanted suitor Gaston, the diminutive Ethan Baysa lands loads of laughs throughout the production, as does his trio of groupies, credited as “Silly Girls,” played by Madison Cordeiro, Naomi Paa and Leianna Santos.

Jaysen Giroux (left) as Beast must learn to love and be loved by Belle, played by Stefani Peterson, in Maui OnStage Youth Theater’s production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, JR.” Jack Grace photo

Kanoa Goring as Lefou aids in the comical portions of “Beauty and the Beast,” especially on the number, “Gaston.” As the Beast, Jaysen Giroux offers an elegant, dignified performance and is perfectly matched opposite Peterson.

The enchanted household items at the Beast’s castle energize the musical with added humor and notable vocals on the numbers “Be Our Guest,” “Something There,” “Human Again” and the title track. Makai Neustein as Cogsworth the clock, Sachiko Pierner as Lumiere the candelabra, Heather Robinson as Mrs. Potts the tea pot, Olivia Robinson as Babette the feather duster, Rachel Robinson as Madame De La Grande Bouche the armoire and the adorable Lucia Romero as Chip the tea cup embody their characters giving them personality and spirit.

The high school- and college- student production team of Ray-Anne Dela Cruz, Brianna Kenar, Bailey Miller, Emma Smith and Erin Tsue collectively have designed a wonderful set, sophisticated lighting and projections, stylish costumes and quality props under the guidance of director and choreographer Dejah Padon. Padon also brings an elevated level of dance to this “Beauty and the Beast,” uncultivated in previous Maui OnStage Youth Theater productions.

* Maui OnStage Youth Theater continues “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast JR.” Performances are at 11 a.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children. For information or to purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

*****

Congratulations and welcome to Maui OnStage’s new Executive Director N. Andrew Toney and Production Manager Amy Lord. The duo replaces the departing Alexis and Steven Dascoulias this week.

“Having lived on Maui years ago, I have always hoped for a chance to return,” Toney says. “When this opportunity at Maui OnStage arose, I knew I had to throw my hat in the ring.”

The Indiana-native has lived in Oregon since 1992 and worked for the past eight years as the theater manager for Willamette University in Salem. Toney previously served as executive director of several nonprofit arts organizations including the Portland Baroque Orchestra, the Oregon Symphony Association and, from 1989 to 1991, the Maui Philharmonic Society.

Toney shared that when he arrived on Maui to interview for the position he was, “immediately struck by the warm, supportive nature of Maui OnStage.

“Alexis and Steven Dascoulias have done amazing things here, and I’m looking forward to working with the board and staff to build on that incredibly strong foundation.”

“I have been blessed to be able to spend the last 30-plus years working in the entertainment industry,” says Chicago-native Lord, who has served as a technical director and lighting designer at the Maui Arts and Cultural Center in Kahului, Maui OnStage and local high school productions.

“When I was 17, I told myself that I would always work in the entertainment industry. Nineteen years ago, I moved to Maui to start a family, I have been blessed with a son and have worked in every theater on Maui. I am excited to continue my career by serving this incredible and talented community of actors, directors and designers,” she shared.

Also this week

The Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents “Disney’s The Lion King JR.,” music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, book by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi, co-directed by Logan Heller and Sally Sefton, choreographed by Kathleen Schultz, under the musical direction of Danielle Mealani Delaunay.

* Performances are at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the ‘A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Reserved seating tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for children; general admission tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for children. For tickets or more information, visit www.mauiacademy.org.

*****

Maui OnStage continues “Singin’ in the Rain,” book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, songs by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, directed by Alexis Dascoulias, choreographed by Erin Kowalick and under the musical direction of Richard Vetterli.

Adapted from the MGM movie musical of the same name, and set in Hollywood at the advent of talking pictures, “Singin’ in the Rain” features all the familiar songs from the film including “Fit As A Fiddle,” “All I Do Is Dream of You,” “You Are My Lucky Star,” “Good Morning” and the title track.

In the three roles made famous by Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds, Chris Kepler takes on Don Lockwood, John Galvan is Cosmo Brown and Lia De Souza plays Kathy Selden.

v Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 5 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets range from $20 to $40. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event, call 242-6969 or order online at www.mauionstage.com.

Upcoming

Iliza Shlesinger, the only female and youngest comedian to win “Last Comic Standing,” is returning to Maui. In 2016, Shlesinger performed at the Castle Theater at the MACC with “Iliza: The Confirmed Kills Tour,” and has since hosted the syndicated comedy dating show, “Excused,” and her late-night talk show, “Truth & Iliza.”

Last fall she released her first book, “Girl Logic: The Genius and the Absurdity,” a collection of essays and observations on a confident woman’s approach to friendship, singlehood and relationships.

* Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 3 in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets range from $19.50 to $39.50 (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.

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