When a family of pampered pets falls in with a ragtag gang of alley cats, laughs, adventure, romance and jazz ensue. Disney's "Aristocats, Kids" hits Steppingstone Playhouse tonight, performed by a cast of 43 kids grades 3 to 8 from Maui Academy of Performing Arts' Youth Musical Theatre Camp.
Director Kathleen Schulz, musical director Vania Jerome, choreographer Barry Brinker Jones and acting coach Eva Sikes have had to step up their game this summer, because this year's camp is only three and a half weeks long.
"It's been a whirlwind," said Schulz. "We've never done a show in three and a half weeks. It's been an absolute crash course."
Gabriel Elfman-Hanson (left) is Berlioz, and Jayden Bartolome is Toulouse ) in MAPA’s high-spirited production.
Alley cat Thomas O’Malley (Alioune Fall) falls in love with beautiful Aristocat Marie (Kassidy Star Rambaud) as the story unfolds.
Even with the pressure of producing a show in record time, Schulz and the other teachers have made a point of instilling basic performance techniques and, just as importantly, life skills like discipline and teamwork.
"It is important not only to teach them the foundations of acting - to listen and react, to know what it is that you want in a scene, to know the back story or your character - but also to focus on all of these other skills that are so perfect for teaching in theater - how to work as a team, how to show each other respect, how to respect the space, how to be kind. All of the social skills that are important to get along in life, they're all there in theater."
Schulz sees theater as especially good training for energetic kids who need help developing self-control.
"When we have kids that are a little bit rambunctious who haven't had enough discipline at home, that's the first thing we teach those kids," said Schulz. "We teach them that with great talent, you have to have great discipline. Otherwise you won't be able to manifest what you want in your life."
Far from drill sergeants, though, the MAPA teachers focus on making lessons positive, supportive and fun.
"It's a very nurturing, loving, safe environment," said Schulz. "The kids need to feel safe with each other and with us so that they can be creative, so that they can be silly and try new things and be funny in their roles."
With so much opportunity to foster learning, creativity and growth in young kids, MAPA's theater camp is as rewarding for the teachers as it is for the students.
"When those kids come in in the morning, all of us, our faces light up," Schulz said. "We're so happy to see them, and looking forward to working on a project together, working hard, being silly and having fun. There's nothing like it. It's just the absolute best job in the world. It's instantly gratifying because you see how the kids are empowered by what they're doing. Every day you see the progress. Every day you see the results."
The parents are noticing the benefits, as well. Schulz said, "The parents say to me, 'What are you doing every day there? My kid comes home exhausted but can't wait to get up and come the next day. My kid has never been this excited about anything!' "
MAPA's summer camps makes such a lasting impact on kids' lives that many keep coming back, even after they graduate. Christina Sutrov, Katie Iannitello, Ryan Foree and Anneka Johnston, all former MAPA Youth Campers, have returned to help produce "Aristocats."
Don't miss this musical adventure brought to life by Maui's up-and-coming talent.
* "Aristocats, Kids" shows at 7 tonight and Friday, 5 and 7 p.m. Saturday, and 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday at Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center. Tickets are $12 for adults and $8 for students. Call 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org for tickets.
"Chicago": Maui OnStage makes a bang with a raunchy, razzle-dazzling production of the hit 1975 Broadway musical "Chicago." Winner of six Tony Awards and an Academy Award for Best Picture, "Chicago" follows the exploits of Roxy Hart, a murderess with a knack for showbiz, as she navigates death row, vies for the spotlight with fellow vaudevillian murderess Velma Kelly and discovers that fame and fortune may be only a gunshot away. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, this razor-sharp satire features music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, including unforgettable numbers like "All That Jazz," "Cell Block Tango," "Mr. Cellophane" and "Razzle Dazzle."
n "Chicago" comes to the Historic Iao Theater at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, July 8 through 31. Tickets are $15 to $40. Enjoy preshow dinner theater packages with Caf O'Lei in Wailuku or Bistro Casanova in Kahului. Call the Maui OnStage offices at 244-8680 for dinner theater information. For ticket reservations, visit mauionstage.com or call the Maui OnStage box office at 242-6969.
"Honk, Jr.": Sally Sefton directs MAPA's Teen Musical Theater Camp students, grades 6 to 12, in "Honk, Jr," an Olivier-winning, contemporary retelling of the Ugly Duckling story. With music by George Stiles and book and lyrics by Anthony Drewe, "Honk" is a fun-filled adventure about overcoming prejudice and discovering the joys of being different.
* "Honk, Jr." shows 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, July 15 through 24, at Steppingstone Playhouse. Tickets are $14 for adults and $10 for students. Call 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org for tickets.