This weekend at the Historic Iao Theater, Maui OnStage takes on Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical sensation "Cats."
Director Alexander Cardinalli has directed "Cats" before in New York City, but working in the Iao with a completely local cast has been a new and exciting experience.
"This theater has never done anything of this magnitude," he said in an interview last week. "Nowhere locally on Maui has anything this big been done."
Three “Cats”: Grizabela (Lina Aiko Kruger, from left), Victoria (Katerina B. Dominquez) and Munkustrap (Jonathan Salcedo-Viola).
JESSICA PEARL photo
The all-volunteer cast has been rehearsing for two and a half months to prepare this challenging and ambitious production.
"It's a dream because they all work so hard," said Cardinalli. "They love to perform, and because of that love, they're willing to put in an extreme amount of time and effort and pain, because there's a lot of pain that goes into 'Cats.' They all love it so much that they're willing to work over 100 percent. They're just willing to give and give and give. I'm so proud of them."
"Cats" is a demanding show to perform because it requires a huge range of skills, from tap dancing to opera singing to leaping and tumbling with catlike agility.
"No one comes into 'Cats' ready to do 'Cats.'" Cardinalli said. "You have to train. The performers have all had to increase their flexibility, increase their endurance, increase their vocal range. About half our cast have no or little dance training, and they've had to become professional-level dancers to be able to do this show. Some of our dancers have no vocal training, so they've had to learn to be professional singers in the two and a half months we've been rehearsing. It's a huge, huge process."
The whimsical, larger-than-life set has presented unique challenges of its own.
"All the set pieces have to be five times human size in order for it to make sense, because a cat is about a fifth the size of a human," explained Cardinalli. "However, the problem is, we can't jump five times our height like a cat can, so we've had to make some adjustments and add some things for the cats to swing off of and help them go in and out. But with the size of the set they've had to become very physically fit in order to be able to lift themselves and throw themselves around during the show, and be able to sing at the same time."
"Cats" is an exciting visual spectacle that also tells a beautiful story. "It's about family," Cardinalli said. "It's about accepting people no matter what they've done. If they ask for forgiveness and they're part of your family, let them back in and share that love. The point of 'Cats' is that happiness doesn't come from worshipping things, and happiness doesn't come from events, or getting anything. Happiness comes from cherishing the time you have with family. That's what 'Cats' is about."
With opera, pop, cabaret, ballet, tap, tumbling, wild costumes and a talented local cast ages 15 to 55, Maui OnStage's production of "Cats" will have something for everyone.
* "Cats" shows at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, this weekend through March 27 at the Historic Iao Theater in downtown Wailuku. Tickets are $40 for preferred seating, $20 for general admission and $18 for seniors and students. For reservations or more information, call 242-6969 or visit mauionstage.com.
George Lopez at the MACC: As part of his "I Can Never Do Nuthin'" tour, George Lopez performs "Live! - Vivo!! in Hawai'i." Lopez is one of the highest-grossing comedians in the world and recently brought his stand-up skills to late-night television as host of "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 8 p.m. Friday, March 18, at Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $42.50 and $57.50, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or www.mauiarts.org.
"Driving Miss Daisy": ProArts presents the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic "Driving Miss Daisy" by Alfred Uhry, the timeless, searing, funny, and ultimately hopeful meditation on race relations in America, told through the complex relationship between two of popular culture's most enduring characters.
When Daisy Werthan, a widowed, 72-year-old Jewish woman living in 1950s Atlanta, is deemed too old to drive, her son hires Hoke Coleburn, an African-American man, to serve as her chauffeur. What begins as a troubled and hostile pairing soon blossoms into a profound, life-altering friendship that transcends all the societal boundaries placed between them. From its landmark Off-Broadway production in 1987 to the remarkable success of the Oscar-winning film version (four Academy Awards, including best picture), "Driving Miss Daisy" has become one of the most beloved American stories of the late 20th century.
* "Driving Miss Daisy" shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, March 25 through April 10, at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. There will be no performance on March 27. Thursday nights are kamaaina nights with reduced rates for Hawaii residents. Reserved seat tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students 18 and under and kamaaina at Thursday performances. For reservations and more details, visit www.proartspacific.com.