Nothing says summer like a good, old-fashioned love story. Lucky for us, Maui OnStage and Maui Academy of Performing Arts have two first-rate musicals on offer, both of which celebrate the power and pervasiveness of love in two very different eras and settings.
Maui OnStage's "The Wedding Singer" is a raucous, sometimes rauncy look back at the spandex-laden, hairspray infested 1980s - the decade that spawned cultural icons like Mr. T and Alf and indispensable phrases like "Where's the beef?" and "Gag me with a spoon." The lively production - featuring Mark Bolden as loyal, lovelorn loser Robbie Hart, a wedding singer with a heart of gold, and Jacqui Sherwood as wide-eyed Julia Sullivan, a waitress with a DeLorean-driving, junk bond-trading fiancee who's longing for something a little more real - asks the question, "Can anything authentic or eternal emerge out of all this plastic, synthesized schlock?"
The answer, of course, is a resounding, rocking: "Yes!"
Maui Freelance Photography photo
Maui OnStage’s “The Wedding Singer” continues weekends through Aug. 1
Bolden and Sherwood have beautiful singing voices, which work well together. It's a joy to watch and listen as they navigate their way through the turbulent, totally tubular sea that is '80s culture. At the apex of the "greed-is- good" era, Robbie lives in his grandparents' basement and hangs with his rag-tag, fashion-victim band mates, Sammy and George, played energetically and humorously by Brad Wilson (check out his "Flock of Seagulls" coif) and Kalani Whitford ("Karma Chameleon" anyone?), respectively. Julia is engaged to slick Wall Street "winner" Glen Guglia; she enjoys Robbie's company and realizes fairly early on that she's falling for him, but she can't shake her shallow attraction to Glen's Don Johnson-esque panache. Robbie reminds her, to her utter horror, that her impending wedding day means she'll soon be "Mrs. Julia Guglia" - but the pull of security and affluence still holds Julia in thrall.
Several unforgettable, toe-tapping production numbers later-Robbie's oversexed, headbanger ex-fiancee Linda (expertly embodied by the talented Casey Murphy) shows up; Robbie turns to the dark side temporarily, trading his guitar for a briefcase and tie and asking dastardly Glen for an entree into Boesky-style insider-trading; Hip-hop-lovin' Grandma Hart "moves that thing"; Mr. T., Billy Idol and Imelda Marcos join forces in Vegas-and everyone, including the audience, is addicted to love. Director Lisa Teichner has assembled a winning cast for this fun production, the exceptional costuming serves as one continuous, hilarious sight gag, and the tight four-piece band rocks. What a feeling!
* "The Wedding Singer" runs weekends through Aug. 1 in Wailuku's Historic Iao Theater. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets are available at the Iao Theater box office, 242-6969, or online, www.mauionstage.com; $20 for general admission, $40 for preferred seating and $15 for bargain matinees.
MAPA's open-air production of Rogers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific" oozes vintage romance even before the overture's familiar strains waft over Maui Tropical Plantation's scenic lawn. As soon as Leighanna Locke and Steven Descoulias - kanoodling exiles Nellie Forbush and Emil De Beck-saunter onstage at the beginning of the first act, the audience is well aware that while "South Pacific" is, of course, a period piece about the War in the Pacific and the lives it affected, it is, above all, a love story.
As far as entertainment opportunities on Maui go, David Johston's ambitious project pretty much had me at "hello." Lounging, drinking, noshing Hollywood Bowl style beneath a tropical sky while watching one of the world's most loved musicals? Count me in! Judging from the maximum-capacity crowd assembled on opening night, it was just the kind of enchanted evening we'd all been waiting for.
"South Pacific" more than delivered on its promise. Locke, with her buoyant, flirty stage presence and sweet-as-a-nightingale voice, is the quintessential Nellie. "Honey Bun" and "Wash that Man Right Out of my Hair" are especially engaging numbers. Descoulias' De Beck is composed, debonair and palpably kind. It's no wonder that his real-life wife fell in love the first time she heard Steven sing "Some Enchanted Evening."
Local favorite Kathy Collins is a cantakerous, rough-around-the-edges Bloody Mary. Collins' tininess makes her feistiness funnier, and her scratchy, baritone singing voice offers welcome dimension to a nearly tired trope. Collins fairly whispers "Bali Hai" and "Happy Talk" -two tunes that are traditionally belted. Although (or perhaps because?) it's not what we expect, it works.
Gregory Cotton plays crusty Seabee Luther Billis with the right amount of slapstick bravado and "aw shucks" charm. Billis' obsession with exotic Bali Hai and its fabled exploits make him the only geographic stalker in the history of theater.
One of the musical's most difficult subplots involves Lt. Joseph Cable and enterprising islander Bloody Mary. Mary arranges a "love affair" between Cable and her young daughter. Francis Tau'a approaches the role (and the disturbing situation) with delicacy and sincerity. It's absolutely essential that the audience sees Cable's humanity shine through, or we'll turn away in disgust, despite the fact that this is a serious, historically correct depiction of a common practice. We must feel that Cable really falls in love with Liat. When Tau'a serenades dewy Liat with "Younger Than Springtime," he strikes just the right chord and, boy, are we relieved.
Outdoor theater is not without its challenges. Some of the actors' microphones failed and strong winds interfered with the audio on opening night, but the ambiance and excitement of an al fresco production more than made up for a few technical issues.
"South Pacific" reminds us that love's the most insurmountable force of all. It prevails even amid unimaginable horrors of war, in an unfamiliar place, between people of different backgrounds, creeds and races, in the face of misunderstanding and prejudice. We seem to need reminding, especially now.
It's not a short show - running time is nearly three hours. Bring a comfortable chair, a cuddly sweatshirt and a blanket.
* "South Pacific" continues today through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Maui Tropical Plantation. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors (62+) and $18 for students. WWII veterans may attend free of charge. For information, call the MAPA box office at 244-8760. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Arrive early for the best seating. Well drinks, beer and wine are available for purchase. Dinner and dessert provided by Bruddah Willie's Sticky Ribs.
Theatre Theatre Maui presents "Follow that Rabbit," an updated version of Lewis Carroll's classic "Alice in Wonderland," in the Westin Maui Resort and Spa's Haleakala Ballroom from Friday to Sunday. Directed by Kristi Scott, the 42 cast members, ranging in age from 8 to 16, have devoted their summer days to dance, acting and voice lessons, and look forward to wowing audience members from all over the island. For more information, call 661-1168 or e-mail TTMWest Maui@aol.com.
Do you love Mozart? Do you miss singing in a chorus over the summer? Are you a choral music buff, yet don't have time to belong to a chorus? Are you an aspiring choral singer who needs to improve your sight-reading? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, Maui Choral Arts Association's Summer Sings are for you!
All singers on Maui are invited to participate in Maui Choral Arts Association's performance of Mozart's Coronation Mass, the second of MCAA's 2010 Summer Sing and Support events. The benefit for Iao Preschool convenes Tuesday at 7 p.m for singers and 8:15 p.m. for listeners at Iao Congregational Church, 2371 Vineyard St. in Wailuku.
To participate, e-mail Maui ChoralArts@hawaii.rr.com or call 870-5560 by Monday. Dust off your Mozart Coronation Mass score or download the public domain version from Maui Choral Arts website: www.mauimusicarts.org. Registration/admission for community singers is $15 or $10 plus one new or gently used book suitable for preschoolers.; youth under 18 need to bring just one book as admission.
The general public is invited to attend the informal performance and is encouraged to be there by 8:15 p.m. Admission for listening audience is $10; or $7, plus book suitable for a preschooler. Proceeds go to Iao Preschool, Iao Congregational Church and Maui Choral Arts Association.
Maui OnStage announces auditions for its fall production "Arsenic and Old Lace." Directed by Steven Dascoulias, "Arsenic and Old Lace" will run Oct. 8 to 24 at the Historic Iao Theater as the Maui OnStage season's opening show. Auditions will be held on from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Iao Theater. Performers should prepare a comedic monologue, bring a current headshot and resume, and come prepared to read from the script. All roles are open and will be cast based on auditions. Callbacks will be held July 28. Please call 244-8680 for an audition appointment. Visit www.mauionstage.com for more information about the show and roles.