Happy New Year! Heading into 2010 is a perfect time to look back at last year's Top 10 - although this year, I could easily have written a "Top 15"! Despite the uneasy economy and tightening of purse strings all around, Maui's performing arts organizations found ways to come together and share resources, often with amazing results.
From the remarkable performances I had the privilege of viewing this past year, here is my personal "Top 10" list (in chronological order):
Photo courtesy of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center
Mikhail Baryshnikov and Ana Laguna
ERIC ROLPHE photo
The orphans of “Annie”
ERIC ROLPHE photo
Seabury Hall’s “Romeo and Juliet” (Nick Wright and Deni Harrelson)
RAY MAINS photo
“Guys & Dolls”
ERIC ROLPHE photo
KRISTIE SCOTT photo
“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”
Some of the best shows of the year were unexpected gems like William Inge's sultry 1953 play, "Picnic," at Seabury Hall in March. The students truly became these Kansas neighbors whose white-picket-fence lives came apart at the seams with the arrival of a swaggering drifter.
Memorable for: Emotions like longing, despair, loneliness and hope saturated the simple drama of the play and made for an enthralling glimpse of human nature in small-town America.
Favorite moment: Tatiana Bradley as single schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney letting loose with a monologue of desperation and anger that also managed to be very funny.
2) "India Jazz Suites"
Tap, jazz and Kathak, a Northern Indian dance form, sounded like an unlikely combination, but tap phenom Jason Samuels Smith and Kathak master Pandit Chitresh Das pulled it off in sensational style. Their March show at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater was a rare look at innovation in the making.
Memorable for: Both masters of their genre, these men weren't afraid to step outside their comfort zones and try something new and different and very exciting.
Favorite moment: Both artists pounding the stage with flying feet in the electrifying finale, while the audience joyously clapped along.
3) "The Grapes of Wrath"
Maui Academy of Performing Arts brought John Steinbeck's epic novel of the Great Depression poignantly to life at Steppingstone Playhouse in April. As the Joad family followed a journey of hope and anguish, the glorious language was enhanced by pensive music played by wandering minstrels.
Memorable for: Images of dry grass and stark blue sky, drab aprons and denim overalls, dust and despair that lingered long after the play was over.
Favorite moment: The tear-choked scene when Carolyn Wright as Ma sent her injured son Tom (Daryl Jane) into hiding after he fought the men who would break them down.
4) "Guys and Dolls"
Baldwin director Linda Carnevale's first graduating class put on an impressive show with a vibrant, full-scale production of "Guys & Dolls" in the Baldwin Auditorium in April. Forty students jumped into the 1950s Broadway world of gamblers and gangsters, New York accents and all.
Memorable for: A jocular atmosphere created by colorful costumes, larger-than-life sets and sizzling choreography, along with a live orchestra.
Favorite moment: Edmund Pfleegor as gambler Nathan Detroit begging his "doll" Adelaide (Jena Miller) to "Sue me, sue me, shoot bullets through me, I love you!"
Maui keiki got a treat with ProArts' production of "Cinderella" at Steppingstone Playhouse in May. The "fractured fairy tale" was appealing to all ages with its sparkling wit, clever songs - and free glowsticks!
Memorable for: Costume designer Kathleen Schulz's over-the-top attire for the evil stepsisters, most notably heart-festooned bloomers and huge nightcaps dripping with lace.
Favorite moment: The "bevy of beasties" - Gauntine (Dale Button), Pudgina (Cat Haye) and Baroness (Rose Roselinksy) - squabbling and preening as they primped for the Ball.
6) "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas"
The Historic Iao Theater turned on the red light and pulled out all the stops for the Maui OnStage production of this titillating tale in July. Miss Mona (Natalie Raynes) and her girls at the Chicken Ranch had "nothing dirty goin' on," but a whole lot of singing, dancing and socializing with the gentlemen callers.
Memorable for: Racy choreography, half-clad actors and creative staging using freeze frames and silhouettes against a sumptuous bordello backdrop.
Favorite moment: The harassed Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (Michael Pulliam) delivering a piece of his mind to the sanctimonious Watchdogs.
7) Mikhail Baryshnikov & Ana Laguna
These two legends of dance graced the MACC's Castle Theater in September with lifetimes of expertise in "Three Solos and a Duet." Baryshnikov and Laguna performed pieces by prominent choreographers, dancing with passion and precision.
Memorable for: The 61-year-old Baryshnikov may no longer execute the soaring jets of his youth, but his intense talent is unmistakable in every movement.
Favorite moment: The beaming dancers accepting a standing ovation and three curtain calls from a rapturous audience.
ProArts took a turn to the darker side with a smoldering rendition of this Broadway favorite at Steppingstone Playhouse in October. Beneath the leering gaze of Master of Ceremonies (Tom Althouse), the Kit Kat Klub in 1931 Berlin, Germany, was the hideout for a pretty cast of girls and boys in a world hovering on the brink of madness.
Memorable for: The professional cast, crew and musicians put it all on the line for this edgy and highly entertaining musical.
Favorite moment: Lynnea Barry as Cabaret star Sally Bowles, wrapped in a black trench coat with smeared eyeliner, spitting out: "Life is a cabaret, old chum! Come to the cabaret!"
9) "Romeo and Juliet"
Director Cassandra Wormser and her Seabury Hall cast and crew pulled off a remarkable production of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" in October after just five weeks of rehearsals. The play was staged outside in the intimate Cooper House courtyard beneath the bright Upcountry stars.
Memorable for: Rich and glowing costumes and exciting sword fighting scenes.
Favorite moment: Hayden Ezzy as Mercutio lighting up the stage with Shakespeare's rapier wit.
Just in time for the holidays, MAPA and MOS got together to create a bright and shiny co-production of the family-friendly Broadway musical. The spunky orphan Annie (Tyler Charbonneau) followed her dream to find her parents, with some help from Daddy Warbucks (Robert E. Wills).
Memorable for: Plenty of charm without being too soppy, and a unique set by Caro Walker that allowed the actors to literally step out of the pages of the comic strip on which the musical was based.
Favorite moment: The orphans acting out a delightful spoof of Bert Healy's NBC Radio show.
(Note: Maui's own " 'Ulalena" was also one of the most stunning shows I saw this year, but I did not count it in the Top 10, as it is ongoing.)