I was honored to be invited by Kamehameha students to a brush-up rehearsal of "Our Time" last week. It was the first event I had ever attended at the facility. Wow! It's a mini Castle Theater. The state-of-the-art amenities blew my mind; most colleges do not have these luxuries. I was thoroughly impressed by the acoustics combined with the quality singing voices of the cast.
When I choose to single one performer out, it does not mean others are inferior, but Rachel Bega is immensely talented. Although I hope we all have the chance to see her perform in future musicals on Maui, I hope for her sake she moves on to bigger and better opportunities, because she has a legitimate shot. If you, like I, have never attended a Kamehameha production, do, if for no other reason than to appreciate the sound quality alone.
My three favorite moments of the student-created revue were the boys (Kapa Gormley, Ryan Foree, James Krueger and Mason-Mahoe Pallazar) singing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" from "Kiss Me Kate;" the girls (Rachel Bega, Amber Kama, Hoku Krueger, Kamalani Makua, Kaili Mossman, Kalani Ruidas, Kaylee Thompson and Lindsey Watson) singing "For Good" from "Wicked," and an incredibly cute scene called "Looking for Corky Johnson" with Kaylee Thompson and Amber Kama. The two girls debate what makes a boy cute. They both have different tastes. It was all so very sweet, real and simple that I felt as if I was eavesdropping on a conversation at the mall.
The cast of “Our Time” at Kamehameha Schools Maui
Kamehameha Schools Maui photo
Each Maui high school has developed a philosophy for its drama department and no one program is superior to the other. Kamehameha lets the kids pick their show and lets the adults assist the kids at being their best.
The Seabury Hall philosophy seems to encourage students to push themselves into college-level challenges and beyond. When it comes to an acting challenge, it doesn't get any more difficult than Chekhov and Stanislavski. When attending high school productions, one must remember that it is a class. Most adults would not pass an AP Physics class; Anton Chekhov is AP Physics. The teen who attempts any AP class is better prepared to graduate from college.
The artisan team that created "The Cherry Orchard" scenery needs to be praised to the utmost. Director Todd Van Amburgh's set and lighting design was one of the most beautiful, if not the best, artistic designs of the season thus far. In addition, Van Amburgh's sound design choices of Russian music were impeccable. Chekhov is the genesis of method acting. It is hard for me to believe that any teen is capable of finding these characters in the manner that Constantin Stanislavski (the play's original director) intended.
There are several scenes that worked very well, especially in the second act. The confrontation between Lyubov (Celina Bekins) and Trofimov (Ryan Noufer) was quite captivating. The on-again, off-again romance of Varya (Laura Mayron) and Lopakhin (Zeb Mehring) built and crescendoed nicely into their final not-getting-together scene. Taka Tsutsui as the loveable and ancient Firs, a servant, was wonderful. Tsutsui should be very proud of his commitment, consistency and focus.
There are many lessons that all teen actors will learn and build upon from show to show, class to class and year to year. Listening to each other and reacting to the lines is more important than memorizing incredibly difficult lines. For whatever my opinion is worth, there is a line of how much challenge a young person can handle. Pride in achieving excellence can go a long way toward taking on bigger risks and future college challenges.
The granddaddy of Maui high school theater is Baldwin. At the risk of being too blunt, the Baldwin approach seems to be, it's a dog-eat-dog world, because if you plan on going into showbiz, you'd better learn how to take care of yourself. Adults are not going to fix it for you at Baldwin. The students make the costumes, build the set, design and run all things technical, sell tickets, manage the concession stand and clean the theater at the end of the night. In all honesty, that's showbiz, so you might as well get used to it sooner than later.
My high school weekend culminated with the Maui premiere of "Hairspray." The colorful and fun show was a major audience pleaser from the moment Tracy (Cera Souza) hits the stage with the opening number "Good Morning, Baltimore." Souza is a delight to watch and by her stage enthusiasm, I'm guessing this is the part she's always wanted to play. "Hairspray" could be a logistical nightmare with the number of scene changes, but the Baldwin teens pull it off better than some adult productions. Scenery flies in from the rafters, flats roll on and off, and bedrooms and living rooms are constantly being assembled manually.
I was equally impressed by the full orchestra made up of students and alumni. The 13-piece band encompassing flute, clarinet, trombone, two percussionists and more was the most complete I've heard since MAPA's "The Music Man."
In addition to Souza's fine portrayal, three other Baldwin seniors should be praised for their work. Sienna Minnock was simply perfect as Amber Von Tussle, so much so I could easily see her being cast in the role had it been produced by Maui OnStage or MAPA. Julianna Scharnhorst plays a great villain in the role of Velma Von Tussle, and Kenny Komatsu is awesome as Edna Turnblad. Komatsu may have been a bit type-cast, but I can't imagine any other Maui teen who could have done a finer job at playing the big, loud, ridiculous and cartoonish, Edna.
Where director Linda Carnevale's "Hairspray" gets a little awkward is that "Hairspray" is supposed to have 15 to 20 African-American cast members. The power of the story revolves around 1960s segregation. It takes some getting used to and it can be slightly confusing to keep track of which characters are black unless you already know the story. TJ Idemoto, however is very good as Seaweed and very believable as a young black man, plus he's got some pretty sharp Jackie Wilson moves to boot.
Andre Morrisette choreographs what appears to be the original Broadway choreography, altering it only slightly to allow the Baldwin dancers to look their best. There may be a handful of missteps and missed notes here and there, but "Hairspray" is a joy to watch. Ecspecially its closing number, "You Can't Stop the Beat," which will be stuck in your head for several days after. Ironically a color-blind production of "Hairspray" is the reality of that 1962 dream. Motormouth Maybell (Vida Falon) belts, "There's a road we must travel worth the risks and the chance we must take," and that is the lesson of teen theater.
n Baldwin High School Performing Arts Learning Center and Baldwin Theatre Guild present the Maui premiere of "Hairspray" at the Baldwin Auditorium through Sunday. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available at the door only: $12 for adults, $9 for seniors, and $7 for 17 and younger. The box office will open one hour prior to showtimes and seating begins one half hour prior to the performance.
Also this week
Don't miss the final weekend of "Grease" through March 11. Book, music and lyrics are by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey; New York's Brian Swaseyis the guest director/choreographer. The Maui ensemble cast features Eric Peterson, Jacqui Sherwood, Lia Krieg, Rueben Carrion, Patty Silva, Jonna Ahn, Aly Cardinalli and Jerry Eiting.
n Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $40 and $22; keiki 12 and younger are $15 for all performances. Dinner packages are available with Caf O'Lei and Bistro Casanova. For tickets or more information, call the Maui OnStage box office at 242-6969 or visit mauionstage. com.
ONO! returns to the Historic Iao Theater with "Songs For a New World" by Jason Robert Brown. The musical revue features Lia Krieg, Dale Button, Aly Cardinalli, Lina Aiko Krueger, Charles Cook, Eric Peterson, Alison Mikes, Jonna Ahn, Steven Dascoulias and Vania Jerome. The free one-night-only performance is at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
MAPA's 16-member advanced teen acting troupe presents "Snow Angel," a funny and eerie play about teen angst and friendship, directed by Sally Sefton. When the quiet town of Deerpoint, Vt., is hit by the biggest blizzard in 107 years, a mysterious girl named Eva steps out of a snow bank.
Told through journal entries of the students over the course of a single day, it is a tale of the power of believing. "Snow Angel" is the creation of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire whose credits include the Tony Award-winning "Rabbit Hole" and the book and lyrics for the Broadway hit "Shrek: The Musical."
* Performances of "Snow Angel" are at Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka'ahumanu Center March16 through 25. Tickets are $8 for students 18 and younger, and $12 for adults. For tickets or more information call MAPA at 244-8780.
Maui OnStage presents its second annual "Sneak Peek" fundraiser. Be the first to get a glimpse at the 2012-'13 season. The event is an all-inclusive dinner party at the home of Hal Jobe and Gary Mohrlang in Wailuku Country Estates. Cocktails at 5 p.m.; dinner buffet and peeks at 6 p.m.; season announcement, dessert and music at 7:30 p.m. The menu will feature four buffet stations offering Brazilian, Mexican, Mediterranean and local cuisine. Spirits by Pau Vodka, fine wines by Whole Foods and local beers by Maui Brewing Co.
* For tickets or more information, call 244-8680 or visit mauionstage.com.