Who says there's never anything to do on Maui? There's so much live entertainment happening between now and Christmas, it would difficult to attend everything. From comedy, to music, dance and drama, covering it all leaves me with quite the full plate.
It all starts Friday night at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center's Castle Theater where you can catch comedian's comedian Wanda Sykes. You know you're funny when all of your peers place you on the short list of funniest people in America. Years ago I worked in special events at the Friar's Club of California and debates would ensue as to who are the geniuses, who are the funniest people ever. Many comedians instantly gravitate toward Richard Pryor and George Carlin; some go for the even more controversial Lenny Bruce and Andy Kaufman; others insist guys like Jack Benny and George Jessel made observational and experimental comedy possible. Regardless, a basic list of 10 or 12 people is always agreed upon, and then there is the idea of which working comics are in their prime, who's on-fire funny? Wanda Sykes is one of those. That said, when entertainers in their prime come to town - go see them! Think the 1981 Rolling Stones versus now.
I could rattle through her credits, but looking at her picture I know you're all saying, "Oh her - she's hysterical." This will be the first time Sykes has ever performed on Maui, and aside from a Honolulu performance for the troops, her first-ever Hawaii performance.
Tickets are selling fast for Wanda Sykes’ 8 p.m. performance Friday in Castle Theater at the MACC.
Photo provided by the Maui Arts & Cultural Center
Sykes was born in the Washington, D.C., area where her father served as a U.S. Army colonel at the Pentagon and she herself was employed with the National Security Agency after college.
Fascinated by this, I couldn't help but ask,"What! Why? How?"
"Living in D.C., that's what you did," she explained. "You got a job with the government."
Wanda described her former procurement officer duties: "It was boring. I bought stuff for the government. I bought everything from couches to spyware."
Unhappy at the job, she signed up for the Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington, D.C.
"They had a stand-up comedy category, that's what grabbed my interest." Wanda continued to develop her act in the D.C. area over the next five years, (many times with fellow up-and-coming comic Dave Chappelle) while still employed by the NSA.
When asked about her inspirations, she didn't hesitate: "Richard Pryor." In many ways, the only thing all comics agree on is that if there has to be a No. 1 how can it NOT be Pryor? Sykes, like Pryor, brings her own unique, cutting- edge style to her stand up. In true comedian's comedian fashion, Sykes again didn't hesitate when asked which project she is most proud of: "I'ma Be Me," her hit 2009 HBO comedy special. Her favorite bit? "The bikini wax story. When I heard that laugh, it was like a rush, I knew I had something with that one."
Aside from her lengthy list of film and TV credits, she performed the role of Miss Hannigan in "Annie" at the Media Theater in Pennsylvania earlier this year and in 2009 she became the first African-American woman as well as the first openly LGBT performer to appear at the annual White House Correspondents Association dinner. Sykes garnished headlines with a controversial joke about Rush Limbaugh. Mocking Limbaugh's statement that he hoped President Obama fails, Sykes responded, "I hope your kidneys fail."
* Catch four-time Emmy winner Wanda Sykes at Castle Theater at the MACC at 8 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $46, $66 and $76 plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or mauiarts.org.
At the other end of the spectrum, Vinnie Linares reprises his role in Aldyth Morris's "Damien." In celebration of the 10th anniversary of his hit one-man show, Linares, with support from the Hawaii Tourism Authority and Maui OnStage, will present three free performances at the Historic Iao Theater, Saturday through Monday.
Morris's play highlights the significant moments in the life of St. Damien, canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. Damien was renowned for his pioneering work with lepers on Molokai. The play finds Damien, awakened from his deathly slumber, taking a journey through his turbulent and compelling life while answering his detractors and critics, a journey that eventually takes him home again.
St. Damien's historical significance to Hawaii is so profound that his bronze figure stands in front of not only the Hawaii State Capitol building but also the U.S. Capitol alongside King Kamehameha. The Maui News said Linares' "bravura performance reveals its subject as both man and saint. Linares' 'Damien' is an emotional powder keg full of energy only slightly tempered when he is being his most introspective. Damien performed by Linares is more than theater. It is an affirmation of how powerful devotion can be."
* Three free performances of "Damien" will be presented at the Historic Iao Theater at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 6:30 p.m. Monday as part of Maui OnStage's monthly ONO! series. Call 244-8680 for more information.
Also in Wailuku, you won't want to miss MAPA's 23rd annual Garden Party: "Celebrating Broadway" on Sunday. If you've never attended, this is one of the most enjoyable events on Maui. Plus, how often do you get the opportunity to dress up like you're off to Churchill Downs?
This year's additions include singers Jerry Eiting, Steven Dascoulias, Leighanna Locke, Cyndi Mayo Davis, Francis Tau'a, Eric Peterson and many more performing show tunes from past MAPA productions such as "South Pacific," "The Music Man" and "Damn Yankees." Guests are encouraged to dress up as their favorite Broadway characters and enjoy an elegant afternoon sipping wine and indulging in fine cuisine while strolling the lovely Yokouchi family estate in historic Wailuku. Gourmet food and beverage vendors will include Whole Foods, Maui Brewing Company, Roy's Kahana, Saigon Caf, Caf O'Lei, Vineyard Foods, Flatbread, David Paul's, Maui Tacos and more. And while you dine, enjoy live jazz from Moondance (Jim Howlett and Rudy Esquer).
The event's signature offering is "Fresh Art": Wander through the grounds watch some of Maui's finest painters and sculptors create beautiful works of art to be sold at the end of the afternoon. This year's participating artists include George Allan, Karen Camara, Jackie Pias Carlin, Michael Clements, Joe Fletcher, Jack Hamilton, Susie Monroe, Jamie Roth, Janet Shaner, Koana Smith and Steve Turnbull. An additional silent auction will include hotel stays, activities, fine jewelry and themed baskets.
* Tickets are $125 for VIP reserved seating (private tables available), $75 general seating ($85 at the event), available by phone at 244-8760 or in person at the MAPA office. The Garden Party is for adults 21 and over only. New to the annual event is Garden Green. Pay $75 and you get a Garden Green certificate worth $100 to be spent at auctions and the Garden Shoppe (advanced purchase only). For more information contact MAPA at 244-8760 or visit mauiacademy.org.
"The Garden of BE" by Tess Cartwright. Experience a joyous musical fantasy for all ages wirh original music by Joe DeRose, original choreography by Aly Cardinalli, directed by Steven Dascoulias from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2 at the Historic Iao Theater. "The Garden of BE" is a mix of puppetry, magical effects and live action with fantastical costumes and a lavish set constructed of recycled materials.
* Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, Sept. 23 to Oct. 2. Tickets are $40, $22, $15 and $10 for children 12 and younger. For more information, contact Maui OnStage at 242-6969 or visit mauionstage.com