Religion has the power to cast spells - both good and bad. In the right hands, these spells can transform, heal and empower. In the wrong hands, they can distort, dehumanize and even kill. We'll have the opportunity to contemplate very different aspects of Christian doctrine and faith when Maui OnStage presents the hit musical "Godspell" and Baldwin High School presents Arthur Miller's classic "The Crucible."
"The heart of this show is about building a community through the parables and teachings of Jesus Christ," said Tommy Labanaris, who came all the way out from New Hampshire to play Jesus in the Maui OnStage production of "Godspell."
"The disciples all want to better themselves, their world and their relationships."
KARRIE LASATER photo
Baldwin High School’s production of “The Crucible” directed by Linda Carnevale features Chris Komatsu (from left), Jesie Rocetes, Anuhea Sebstad, Betty Arnold, Janolan Endrina, Alia Dela Cruz (kneeling), Kaitlyn Brunner and Sienna Minnock.
"Godspell" enthralled audiences when it opened on Broadway in 1971. Audiences responded to its fun, wacky staging, its humor and, most of all, its unforgettable score. Written by Stephen Schwartz, who would later create the music for current megahit "Wicked," songs like "Day by Day," "It's all for the Best" and "Prepare ye the Way of the Lord" had people who'd never been to church rocking in the aisles to words straight from the Gospel According to St. Matthew. The music and message may inspire many to look further into what Jesus had to say, but, like much of the gospel, it also transcends religious boundaries.
"There's a timeless quality to these words," said Labanaris. "The scripture is very simple and poetic. You just say the words and it works."
"Godspell" is a colorful, whimsical walk through Jesus' life with his disciples, but the musical doesn't shy away from the more heady questions: How did Jesus handle his changing position within the community? How did he feel about his disciples' growing idolatry? It presents Jesus as a real person with conflicted feelings; one whose message of love and fellowship never wavered.
John Proctor, another complex, highly conflicted character, lies at the heart of "The Crucible." Baldwin senior Chris Komatsu plays the respected farmer whose sin ignites a wildfire of hysteria, rumor and vengeance at the center of Salem's infamous witch trials.
"It's easy to identify with him," Komatsu said. "It's common for a man to be a philanderer (like Proctor), but Proctor's a man of integrity and faith. He's willing to put himself on the line for the sake of his integrity."
If "Godspell" reminds audiences that Jesus' message is simple, universal and peaceful, "The Crucible" reminds us what can happen when religious doctrine is used as the basis for judgment, persecution and repression.
Kendra Carter, also a senior, plays Elizabeth Proctor, John's stoic but loving wife who must come to terms with her husband's adultery. It's a heady role for a teenage girl, but one Carter relishes.
"On the surface she is solemn, quiet and reserved, but she's actually the opposite. She tries to keep a straight face and protect her family, but her love is extremely powerful," she said.
In "The Crucible," love, pride, sexual infidelity, theocracy, rumor, vengeance, jealousy and greed mingle and collide, create a perfect storm and lead to the near-destruction of an entire community.
Salem's witch trials are among the most confounding and mesmerizing real-life tragedies in our country's history.
"Godspell" and "The Crucible" run at least two weekends, so get out and see both productions. Bring your family and friends. You'll have a wonderful time and a whole lot to discuss afterwards.
* "Godspell" opens Friday and runs through May 16 at the Historic Iao Theater. It plays at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Ticket prices are $15 and $20 with preferred seating available for $40 (you get the best seats in the house and help the Iao get its new, state-of-the-art sound system!) Call 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com for more ticket information. Maui OnStage ticket outlets include If The Shoe Fits in Wailuku and Lava Java in Kihei.
* "The Crucible" opens Friday and runs through May 9 in Baldwin High School's Loudon Mini-Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 seniors, $6 students 17 and younger, available at the box office 45 minutes before the show.
The Maui Celebrity Series welcomes David Spade at Lahaina's Maui Theatre Friday. Crooner/producer Brian Evans opens the 9 p.m. show with his signature swing standards and comic Nick Swardson will make a guest stand-up appearance. For tickets and information, call 205-5592 or log on to: www.themauicelebrityseries.com.
Maui Arts & Cultural Center presents Hawaii Opera Theater's "Great American Voices" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Castle Theater. Enjoy favorite arias and show tunes from "La Traviata," "Don Giovanni," "My Fair Lady," "South Pacific" and many, many more. Tickets are $55, $40, $25 and $15 plus applicable fees; a $100 package includes a champagne post-show reception. Tickets are available at the MACC box office, 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.
Pro-Arts of the Pacific presents "Cinderella" in its brand new Kihei Playhouse in Azeka Makai Shopping Center, May 14 to 30. This fractured musical version of the familiar story is boisterous, wacky fun for the whole family. For information and tickets, call 875-4367 or log on to www.proartspacific.com.
The Maui Arts & Cultural Center presents comedian Jim Gaffigan in the Castle Theater at 8 p.m. Friday, May 21. Tickets are $35 and $45 (plus applicable fees) and are available through the MACC box office, 242-7469 or online at www.mauiarts.org.