(This week's Backstage marks another passing of the baton in the relay of wonderful writers who have negotiated this space. Mirabel Bradley is heading East to continue her college career, ending a fruitful year of sharing her sharp insights, supportive spirit and lively voice with readers who, I'm sure, have enjoyed her graceful presence as much as I have. And on deck is Michael Pulliam, who brings wit and optimism to the extensive knowledge of Maui's performing arts community he has gained by being such a versatile contributor to it. Together they reflect the high standards and good hearts that have long made this page such a joy. Aloha and mahalo to them both. -Rick Chatenever)
The last year has been a whirlwind of surprises, lessons, tough choices and, occasionally, moments of pure delight. The rich, vibrant theater and dance community on Maui has given me so much in such a short time, including a deeper love for the performing arts and, I hope, a bit of extra wisdom and perspective.
Watching a year's worth of productions has certainly made me appreciate those rare but priceless moments when an artist touches or inspires me. Sometimes, an actor draws me so deeply into his or her character's world that I forget for a moment that I am watching a play, as did Eric Peterson, Mark Collmer and Jackie Shea in MAPA's "Theophilus North," and Joyce Romero and J. Marc Mance in ProArts' "Driving Miss Daisy." Every once in a while, a director takes a cast of amateurs and creates a show as entertaining and magical as a Broadway production, as did Doug Kendrick in ProArts' "The Fantasticks," Alexander Cardinelli in Maui OnStage's "Cats," and Alexis Dascoulias in MOS' recent production of "Chicago."
Steve Hatcher is the lovably evil “Mr. Applegate” in MAPA’s “Damn Yankees.”
MICHAEL PULLIAM photo
Even more fun to watch is when young performers demonstrate mastery far beyond their years, like Miles Kelsey, Clyde Engle and Sydney Roberts in Seabury Hall's "The Drowsy Chaperone"; Scarlett Engle in the Seabury production of "Marvin's Room"; Cameron Sparks and Isaac Rauch in King Kekaulike High School's "Big Boys Don't Cry"; Rachel Bega, Wesley Ki'aha and Ryan Foree in Kamehameha School's "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"; and Jesie Rocetes, Janolan Endrina and Dylan Bode in Baldwin High School's "Oliver!"
Always fascinating is when directors dare to make bold, risky choices, as Cassandra Wormser did with her space-age, gender-bending rendition of Maui OnStage's "The Taming of the Shrew," and Nicholas Batres and Justin Banek did with their gutsy stage adaptation of the cult film "Pulp Fiction."
The talent concentrated on such a small island has continuously amazed me. I been blessed to witness so many stunning performances, intriguing re-interpretations, and feats of creativity and teamwork in one short year.
I would like to thank all the people who have helped, encouraged and supported me in writing this column, especially my wonderful editor, Rick Chatenever, along with Kehaulani Cerizo, Sally Sefton, Marnie Masuda and Paul Janes-Brown. I would also like to thank the many people who have helped me expand and grow in my knowledge of the performing arts, including Sally Sefton, Todd Van Amburgh, Andre Morissette, David Ward, Cassandra Wormser and Mark Collmer. I am deeply grateful to you all.
Moving on to New York City to continue my education leaves me with mixed feelings of excitement and sadness. At least I know that the Backstage column will be in capable hands with the amazing Michael Pulliam, last seen in "Theophilus North" and "Chicago," who will take over where I leave off.
Thank you Maui for the amazing adventure! I know it has prepared me well for the new one I have coming up.
"Damn Yankees": Spend an evening under the stars with the whole family at Maui Academy of Performing Arts' musical comedy "Damn Yankees" at Maui Tropical Plantation's Field of Dreams. A charming retelling of the Faust legend, "Damn Yankees" follows the story of a middle-age baseball fanatic who makes a pact with the devil for a chance to lead his favorite baseball team, the Washington Senators, to victory against the New York Yankees. It's a fun, all-American, family-friendly show that has something for everyone. A nostalgic throwback to a simpler time, "Damn Yankees" is a great love story wrapped up in a terrific sports story with a variety of show-stopping dance numbers, memorable music and an engaging message about the value of love and family. Audiences are sure to walk away from the show with smiles on their face and a warm feeling in their hearts.
* "Damn Yankees" performs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Gates open at 6:15 pm. Bring blankets or low beach chairs for lawn seating or sit in the bleachers. Call 244-8760 in advance to arrange special needs seating. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors (62 and older) and $18 for students (18 and younger), available from www.mauiacademy.org or 244-8760.
"Social Security": ProArts presents its first show of the season, "Social Security" by Andrew Berman. Trendy art gallery owners Barbara and David have their life upended when Barbara's uptight sister and brother-in-law, Trudy and Martin, deposit their eccentric mother, Sophie, on their doorstep while they head to Buffalo to rescue their sexually precocious daughter. Sophie is introduced to a suave, aging artist named Maurice who brightens her life in ways she never expected. A Broadway hit, the original production starred Marlo Thomas, Ron Silver and Olympia Dukakis. The New York Post wrote, "Laugh out loud, joyfully The play is a hoot, a sophisticated, civilized hoot." "Social Security" features the best of Maui talent including veterans Chaney Cramer, Kevin Hazelton, Joyce Romero, Norman Halip and newcomers Angela Thompson and Jonathan Yudis.
* "Social Security" contains some adult content. It shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 2 through 18 at the ProArts Playhouse. There will be no performance on Sept. 4. Thursdays and Saturdays are kamaaina nights, with $15 tickets with Hawaii I.D. Regular price tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students 18 and under. Call 463-6550 for tickets or more information.
Wanda Skyes at the MACC: Called "one of the funniest stand-up comics" by her peers, Wanda Sykes is ranked among Entertainment Weekly's 25 Funniest People in America. From movies to TV shows to stand-up and comedy tours, Wanda Sykes has proven that funny is her business. She is coming to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sept.9. Get tickets early! Tickets are $46, $66 and $76, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or mauiarts.org.