One night, in the early 1980s, a Maui High School freshman named Jodi Kimura accompanied her Auntie Winnie and her cousin Audrey to the Baldwin High School Auditorium for a production of "The Sound of Music," directed by Sue Ann Loudon. It was the first time young Jodi had ever seen a musical in her life and she knew, as she watched the Baldwin students take their final curtain calls, that this was something she wanted to do - maybe even forever.
Nearly 30 years later, Kimura is touring the United States and Canada in one of the most recognized and beloved roles in musical theater history. She's "Bloody Mary" in the Lincoln Center revival of Rogers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific."
"I remember seeing that show at Baldwin on opening night and thinking 'I could do that,' " Kimura recalled when I caught up with her by phone last week. "I made my Auntie Winnie take me to every single performance!"
‘Happy Talk’ with the Maui High School grad who’s now Bloody Mary in the national touring production of ‘South Pacific’
Lincoln Center Theater photo
Kimura decided she wanted to be onstage, but at that time there were very few options for young theater enthusiasts on Maui. It wasn't until she was in college in Colorado, when a professor in the fine arts department cajoled Jodi into flip-flopping her communications major and vocal performance minor by offering her a full scholarship, that she actually embarked on her career in the performing arts.
"After graduating with my master's in vocal performance, I stayed in Colorado. My first professional experience was in a very bad version of 'Phantom of the Opera,' " Kimura laughed.
She settled in Aspen, enjoying a long stint at a cabaret-style dinner theater. When the theater closed, Kimura found herself out of a job, wondering whether she should hold fast to her dream or find a "real" job.
"I really did think about giving it up, but, just as I was about to walk away, I got a call from the Alpine Theater Company in White Fish, Montana," Kimura remembered.
Even though she'd never been to White Fish, Jodi Kimura decided to pack her bags and head to the Great White North, into what might have been obscurity..or Destiny.
It just so happens that Academy Award-winning actress Olympia Dukakis was on the board of that little theater in White Fish. Dukakis caught Kimura in the musical "Godspell" and decided she would be perfect in a production of Shakespeare's "The Tempest" she was directing that season.
Kimura's haunting performance in "The Tempest" caught the eye of Tony Award-winner Kelli O'Hara, who was opening as Nellie Forbush in the Lincoln Center revival of "South Pacific."
"Kelli told me, 'Come to New York and bring your book. I'm going to make you sing!' I had no idea what I was in for," Kimura said. "I walked into the theater and there were 20 people - all the artistic directors (for the production). I was really nervous, but I got a call back - and I was cast as the understudy the role of Bloody Mary."
Now she's taken over the role and taken the act on the road.
"You don't get to sit down much," Kimura said of life on tour, "but you get to go to places you'd never go to and hook up with old friends you might not make an effort to go see otherwise."
The members of Kimura's extensive Maui ohana were elated when they learned that "South Pacific" was burrowing in for a longish run at the venerable Orange County Performing Arts Center (the show opened Tuesday and runs through Oct. 24), giving her mom a chance to gather up a posse to fly out and see her daughter perform the role of a lifetime.
"My only regret is that my father wasn't able to see me perform," Kimura said. Her father, whose impressive vocal talent inspired Jodi to follow her passion for singing, died recently.
When I asked Kimura what advice she would like to give to young people on Maui who hope to follow their own passion for the performing arts, she was emphatic:
"Stick with it and always, always do what's right in front of you. Luck is about being prepared when opportunity comes your way. You have to trust that life is going to take you where it's meant to take you ... and never, ever think that being from Hawaii is going to hold you back. Be who you are and be proud!"
Strong advice from one of our own who trusted her inner voice and let one moment of inspiration point her toward her dream.
* Catch Jodi Kimura as Bloody Mary in the Lincoln Center Production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "South Pacific" at the Orange County Performing Arts Center in Costa Mesa, Calif., through Oct. 24. For tickets and information, call (714) 556-2787 or log on to www.ocpac.org.
ProArts is proud to present its latest original, fractured adaptation, "The Emperor's New Clothes." Doug Kendrick directs the story of the vain emperor of Boondoggle who squanders his people's money for some swanky duds. Two sly swindlers and one brave emperial employee cook up a plan to teach the selfish ruler a lesson he (and we) will never forget. The show opens Friday, running weekends through Oct. 31, at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 1 and 4 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15 for reserved seats, and $10 for floor seating, available before each performance, or by calling 463-6520.
Maui Academy of Performing Arts' Dance Performance Groups offer a free performance of hip-hop, jazz and contemporary pieces at Maui Mall's center stage at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 22.
Kathy Collins and her doppelganger, Tita, invite you to a spine-tingling evening of scary storytelling at the Steppingstone Theater in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23, and 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24. Tickets are $15, available at the customer service kiosk at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center or by phone at 244-8760.
Calling all parents! If you have keiki on the wee side of middle school, you'll want to bring them to "The Magic of Friendship" at the Steppingstone Theater in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. MAPA's fall educational theater touring production stars Derek Nakagawa and Francis Tau'a. Using music and humor, the play tells the story of a young wannabe wizard who learns about the value of friendship. The play runs Halloween weekend (come in costume if the spirit moves you!): 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 31. Tickets are $4, available at the customer service kiosk in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center or by phone at 244-8760.
The Maui Celebrity Series welcomes "Queer as Folk" star Hal Sparks to the Lahaina Theatre for a night of comedy. The show features special guests Chino La Forge and DJ Aggressive Cane Spider, hosted by Janelle LeBlanc with a special appearance by series producer, crooner Brian Evans at 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 23. For tickets and more information call 876-7973.