In the age of Google Earth we can gaze into our computer screen and be instantly transported anywhere in the world. We might fly through a dusty neighborhood in Zihuatenejo, zip over to a pristine square in Singapore, then zoom in close to peek at a hidden courtyard in Marrakech. What we can't do (yet) is drop into a tiny Welsh seaside village and listen in on the dreams, fears and longings of its people. For that, we're lucky enough to have the lingering murmurs of Dylan Thomas in Maui Academy of Performing Arts' upcoming production, "Under Milk Wood."
April is poetry month, so it's fitting that MAPA would choose to bring Thomas' "play for voices" to Maui's Steppingstone Playhouse next weekend. The play is set in a radio station, with 45 real actors playing radio actors playing 60 colorful characters of the village - all of whom have distinctive, lyrical voices only someone as poetically gifted as "Welsh bard" Thomas could create.
The play's narrator, "First Voice," welcomes the audience to the town of Llareggub in the middle of the night:
Kristi Scott and Paul Janes-Brown share a tender moment in MAPA’s “Under Milk Wood.”
"You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing.
"Only your eyes are unclosed to see the black and folded town fast, and slow, asleep. And you alone can hear the invisible starfall, the darkest-before-dawn minutely dewgrazed stir of the black, dab-filled sea."
It's voyeuristic, reality entertainment, Dylan Thomas- style. You may never again log onto Facebook or someone's tiresome "let me tell you how exciting my life is" blog - or tune into "The Real Housewives of Orange County" - after the play's deeply affecting, funny and lush language gets under your skin. This is the kind of theater that raises the bar - and our sensibilities - several notches.
* Maui Academy of Performing Arts' "Under Milk Wood" plays April 16 to 25 at Steppingstone Playhouse. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are available by phone at 244-8760 or in person at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center's customer service kiosk. Tickets are $16 for adults and $12 for students and seniors.
" 'Under Milk Wood' is an unusual show," says director Mark Collmer. "It sneaks up on you. This play isn't done very often, but when people see it, they love the warmth and beauty of it."
American audiences familiar with Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" will note many similarities between Wilder's Grover's Corners, N.H., and Thomas' Llareggub, Wales. Llareggub is much more raucous - populated with gnarled, hard-drinking sea captains, enchantresses, hooligans, blousy barmaids, illicit lovers - but just as emotionally provocative and touching as Wilder's upright New England burg.
It takes a very talented, experienced cast to pull off a production like "Under Milk Wood," and Collmer has some of Maui's best on hand. Led by veteran actor Frank Kane as First Voice, the diverse cast includes 42 actors and live musicians ranging in age from 10 to 70ish.
Dancing under the rainbow: This Sunday, Alexander Academy of Performing Arts presents a technicolor ballet version of "The Wizard of Oz" in Lahaina's Maui Theatre. Danelle Watson, choreographer and newly appointed director of the Upcountry dancing 'ohana, calls it a gift to our community, and rightly so. Children and adults will delight in the whimsical costumes and lively fusion of ballet and modern dance in this return to everyone's favorite musical adventure!
* For tickets and information, call the Maui Theatre's box office 661-9913, ext. 1. VIP seating: keiki (3-10) $15; adults $25. Premier seating: keiki $9; adults $15.
Acting locally: Talking Stories and Maui OnStage present Lee Cataluna's "Half Dozen Long Stem" in Wailuku's Historic Iao Theater. Derek Nakagawa directs the comic, true-to-life story of a group of local characters trying to save a neighborhood flower shop. Maui's favorite "Tita," Kathy Mayo Collins, stars as cantankerous business owner Mrs. Fujiuchi who's really unhappy that her recently-deceased ex-husband has decided to leave his share of the shop to his new wife.
* "Half Dozen Long Stem" plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday and 10 a.m. Monday. Admission is $5, 17 and younger, free. For tickets call 242-6969 or www.mauionstage.com.
Saint Damien: Kamehameha Schools Maui presents "Damien" the story of Saint Damien of Kalaupapa, starring Vinnie Linares. One night only-7:30 p.m. Saturday.
* The performance is free and open to the public. Call 573-7000 for more information.
Maui Choral Arts Association presents "Some Enchanted Evening: Music from Broadway & Movies" in Kihei Baptist Chapel at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 17. Celia Canty will direct the Maui Concert and UH-Maui College choruses, along with an ensemble of Maui's superb instrumentalists and leading local soloists in an array of Broadway musicals and popular movies like "South Pacific," "Sound of Music," "Rent," "Mamma Mia!" "West Side Story" and more. This is an event the whole family will enjoy.
* Advance tickets through April 16 are $15 for adults; half-off for ages 18 and younger and students with ID, available from singers in the choruses or at Topaz Goldsmith and Gallery in Kihei's Dolphin Plaza, as well as by phone at (800) 838-3006, or online at www.MauiMusicArts.com. Tickets are $20 at the door, half off for youths and students.
"The Lady Pirates of Captain Bree" invade King Kekaulike High School on April 23. The swashbuckling, marauding play revolves around a brood of lady pirates who invade the British ship Kayla May and take the men and the aristocratic Prescot family hostage.
* Show dates are April 23, 24 and 25 and May 7, 8 and 9 in the King Kekaulike cafeteria/mini-theatre. Show times are 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with 3 p.m. matinees Sundays. Tickets are $4 for students and $6 for adults, available at the door a half-hour before show times. Performed by special arrangement with Pioneer Drama, Inc.
Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) announces auditions for two upcoming productions featuring children and adult actors - "Disney's Aladdin, Jr." and "South Pacific." All auditions will take place at the MAPA studio building in Wailuku.
Adult actors (ages 19 and older) interested in auditioning for "South Pacific" should contact production manager Mark Collmer at email@example.com or 244-8760, ext. 224 (e-mail preferred) to schedule a 10-minute audition slot. Auditions for adult actors will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Auditioners should prepare 16 bars of a ballad or uptempo piece. An accompanist and iPod dock will be provided. A contemporary monologue no longer than 1 minutes is welcome but not required.
Teen actors (ages 14 to 18) wishing to try out for "South Pacific" should call the MAPA office to reserve a place at the auditions for MAPA's Teen Sum'R Musical Theatre Camp from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. No preparation is necessary. Auditioners should wear comfortable clothes, arrive 15 minutes early with a parent to register, and be prepared to stay until 4 p.m.
Open to students ages 8 to 14, auditions for "Disney's Aladdin. Jr." will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 18. Students interested in auditioning should call the MAPA office to reserve a place. No preparation is necessary. Performers should wear comfortable clothes, arrive 15 minutes early with a parent to register, and be prepared to stay until 4 p.m.
For more information about MAPA, visit www.mauiacademy.org or call 244-8760.