Seabury Hall's spring play, "Marvin's Room," and Baldwin High School's musical "Oliver!" may seem like polar opposites, but the award-winning comic drama and hit musical share a crucial message about love, family and the importance of caring for one another.
"Marvin's Room," winner of the Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award and George Oppenheimer Award, is a play about a family coming together to cope with illness and the proximity of death. The father has been slowly dying of a stroke for 20 years when his daughter, his main caregiver, is suddenly diagnosed with leukemia.
"Now, this sounds super dark, and like a really long evening at the theater," said director Sally Sefton-Johnston, "but this playwright had a great sense of humor. He determined that he was going to infuse as much comedy as he could into the darkest hour of these characters' lives."
Baldwin High School’s “Oliver!” features Serena Perry (from left), Jesie Rocetes, Jordyn Clarke, Kenny Komatsu and Janolan Endrina
LINDA ROSE photo
The playwright, Scott McPherson, experienced his own share of tragedy growing up, having lost both his brother and his father as a child. "He said that the way he could best cope was through laughter," said Sefton-Johnston.
A few years after he published the play, McPherson became sick with AIDS and eventually died at age 33. "He and his partner cared for each other until his partner died," Sefton-Johnston said. "He died six months later. So he said that his life started to mimic the play."
Although "Marvin's Room" is a play based in hard reality, it approaches tough themes with curiosity and openness rather than a rigid agenda.
"It never works you as an audience member," Sefton-Johnston said. "It just brings up questions that I want people to think about. That's the reason I'm doing it."
She also sees the play as an opportunity to expose students to experiences they will probably face later in life.
"I try to pick something that I think is going to bring another level of awareness to the students," she said. "I want them to be conscious that even if they don't have to care for someone at this point in their lives, that this will be part of the fabric of their lives at some point. I want students, teenagers, to realize that we're really here to take care of each other. That's why we're on the planet. We're on the planet to realize our potential and to be a community."
Baldwin High School's production of "Oliver!," a Broadway classic filled with lively song and dance numbers, drives home the same important theme. Based on Charles Dickens' novel about an orphan boy who finds love and family in unexpected places, "Oliver!" shows the importance of looking out for one another even through the toughest times. Director Linda Carnevale said, "It's a really wonderful, good-feeling play."
Performing "Oliver!" is a lot of fun, but it is also a good introduction to some of the powerful ideas Charles Dickens explores in his novels.
"The kids have heard of Charles Dickens, they've heard of 'Oliver Twist,' but they never knew the story behind all of it," said Carnevale. "So we talked a lot about the back-story. There's a lot of dark stuff that happens in the original novel."
The story's darker themes add a bit of depth to what is essentially a big, lighthearted Broadway-style show. Carnevale, choreographer Andr Morissette, musical director Bob Wills and orchestra director Stephen Rodrigues lead a cast of 40 students and 14 musicians, including five alumni.
"It's a big production!" said Carnevale.
Choreographer Morissette had a blast creating the show's huge dance numbers. "Working with the kids was very very exciting," he said. "It's a group of very dynamic kids. The numbers are big production numbers with a lot of people in them, and the music is fun and exciting. It's a classic!
Audiences will be humming along to the memorable score, including favorites such as "Consider Yourself," "Oom-pah-pah," and "I'd Do Anything."
"Marvin's Room" performs weekends, 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, this week to March 12, and Thursday, March 10, at the Seabury Hall Performance Studio. Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for seniors and $5 for students. Call 573-1257 for reservations and details
"Oliver!" shows weekends, 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, this week through March 13, with a special Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. March 12 at the Baldwin Auditorium. Tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and $7 for kids 17 and under. No reservations are required. Call 984-5656 ext. 315 for details.
"Meow Mix": This "friendraiser" for Maui OnStage and the Maui Humane Society features sneak peeks from "CATS" plus the Kit Kat Club and a cat-themed evening of song with Randall Rospond, Cassandra Wormser and Genie Calagna and Michael Pulliam. An "adopt a cat" promotion, where audience members can adopt a character from the show, receive tickets to a performance and meet the actor for a photo opportunity onstage, and special box seats located onstage will be available for purchase only at "Meow Mix."
"Meow Mix" is part of First Friday on Market Street in Wailuku. Three sets of performances will begin at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. Friday at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $5 or free with a donation of Kirkland brand cat food. Call 242-6969 for more information.
George Lopez at the MACC: As part of his "I Can Never Do Nuthin' " tour, George Lopez performs "Live! - Vivo!!" in Hawaii. Lopez is one of the top five highest grossing comedians in the world and has recently brought his stand-up skills to late-night television as host of his own talk show, "Lopez Tonight." His groundbreaking sitcom, "George Lopez," remains a hit in syndication and his 2009 comedy special, "George Lopez: Tall, Dark and Chicano" was the highest rated stand-up special on HBO in five years. In 2010, he starred in three feature films. Time magazine named George Lopez one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America, and the Harris Poll named him as one of the Top Ten Favorite Television Personalities. George Lopez performs at 8 p.m. Friday, March 18, at the Castle Theater. Tickets are $42.50 and $57.50. Call 242-7469 or visit MauiArts.org for tickets.