Congratulations to two highly successful productions this past weekend, MAPA's "Narnia" and the Sirens of Song's "Hollywood Swing Canteen." The crowd at the Maui Tropical Plantation approached 400 people last Friday and "Narnia" sold out its entire opening weekend.
Based on the success of the Tropical Plantation's recent events it seems apparent that regular cabaret performances are in their future, as is the need for a much larger staff, plus more food and beverages to accommodate the overflow crowds. However, when it comes to problems that can surface in show business, both MAPA's "Narnia" and the Tropical Plantation have "good problems" on their hands.
What has always made MAPA special is their ability to create a Maui Ohana production comprised of parts from several theater companies. The "Narnia" team from cast to crew represent a true melting pot of Maui youth theater. The actors and instructors collectively represent Baldwin, King Kekaulike, Seabury Hall, Kamehameha, ProArts, Maui OnStage and Talking Stories.
The Evil White Witch (Sydney Roberts) and Aslan the lion (Joshua Berman) are part of the Maui Academy of Performing Arts’ production of “Narnia.” Due to popular demand, MAPA has added an additional performance of the musical at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
DAVID HESSEMER photo
This talented team brings their specialties to a community table bringing the musical adaptation of "Narnia" to life. Jules Tasca's book strays very little from the C.S. Lewis tale, but merely moves the story along efficiently which wisely keeps the production under two and a half hours.
The first musical number "Doors and Windows," music by Thomas Tierney, lyrics by Ted Drachman establishes Peter (Shane Borge), Susan (Arianna Glauser), Lucy (Erica Jernaill) and Edmund's (Nathan Sullivan) new life and new home, a very special English country estate. The influence of MAPA executive director, David Johnston is apparent in this particular number as a small number of picture frames and doors cleverly create the illusion of a vast never ending estate filled with long hallways and spacious rooms.
With 52 young people to keep track of listing their entire cast and crew would fill this week's column. As I have said in the past, when I choose to single out a young actor's performance, it is not meant to diminish the work of others, but recognize the difference between complete focus and above average character dedication. Arianna Glauser delivers a highly impressive performance as Susan. She carries herself in a confident manner worthy of moving on to leading college roles and even regional theater in the near future.
Wasting little time and eliminating multiple "Narnia" visitations the four siblings soon meet up with Mr. and Mrs. Beaver (Kiegan Otterson and Casey Hearl), whom enlighten the foursome of a prophecy that two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve will someday come to rescue "Narnia" from the evil White Witch (Sydney Roberts).
Unbeknownst to all, Edmund has already met the White Witch, and is now secretly assisting her to bring his brothers and sisters to her lair. She has promised to make Edmund a prince of Narnia, sweetening the deal with a little Turkish Delight.
Roberts' performance as the White Witch may be the finest youth theater performances of the year. In addition to playing the comedy of her character to perfection, she has the strongest singing voice of the entire cast and is an exceptional dancer as well.
Her two showcase numbers "Turkish Delight" and "Hot and Bothered," are the slickest in the show, aided by some superb choreography by Amelia Nelson.
Otterson and Hearl are charming and witty as a bickering old married couple reminiscent of the master and missus of the house from "Les Miserables."
Tierney and Drachman's "Wot A Bit A' Spring Can Do" seems right out of "My Fair Lady," and perfectly suited for Otterson and Hearl's vocal range.
The Pevensie family, now fully enlightened on Narnia's history, begins to accept that they are the prophecy, which is further amplified by the long awaited return of Aslan the Lion (Joshua Berman). Berman, another gifted teen actor beyond his years, towers above the rest of the Narnians and depicts Aslan as other worldly and God-like.
Sullivan's Edmund has some soul searching and atoning to do and Berman sweetly aids Sullivan's personality makeover with sympathy counseling "lasting change must come from the inside out."
A selfless sacrifice by Aslan to save Edmund is one of the most potent and slightly chilling moments of the show, but it is quickly off set with the near flawless choral number, "A Field of Flowers." Musical director Kirsten Otterson has done a masterful job with the song and for a split second you may think, "is that a recording or the kids?"
Other moments worthy of noting are TJ Idemoto's fearless portrayal of the White Stag. Idemoto is quickly becoming one of the top male dancers on the island and his clean, crisp movement during scene shifts is just as entertaining as the scenes themselves.
Longtime techie Kai Johnson gets his chance to shine as lighting designer, delivering a imaginative, warm display, further aiding the audience's journey to Narnia. Although not officially credited, I can't help but see a little Todd Van Amburgh and Jerry Wright in the beautiful "Narnia" set.
Acting coach, Francis Tau'a, David Johnston and director Sally Sefton have all referenced "it takes a village," in describing "Narnia" over the past few weeks. In the end some one has to coordinate that village. Sefton has done a wonderful job of making "Narnia" work. She, her melting-pot team and cast should all be very proud of what they did on their summer vacation.
* "Narnia" continues through Sunday. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. There will be a 2 p.m. and a 7:30 p.m. show Sunday. All performances are at the Steppingstone Playhouse. Tickets are $14 for adults and $10 students 18 and younger. At press time the entire run was close to sold out, advance reservations are strongly recommended, for tickets visit mauiacademy.org, call 244-8760 or purchase at the customer service kiosk at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.
Also this week
The Maui premiere of Mel Brooks' "The Producers" opens Friday. In an effort to accommodate First Friday traffic, opening night curtain will be at 8 p.m., complementary desserts and coffee will be available starting at 7 p.m. for early arrivals. Free parking is also available at the Maui Medical Group lot on Main Street.
The Maui OnStage production is directed by Jennifer Rose, choreographed by Camille Romero and under the musical direction of Stephen Haynes.
The hilarious musical features a cast of 32 of Maui's most talented musical theater performers including Dale Button, Laura Cole, Steven Dascoulias, Joyce Romero, Francis Tau'a, and Kalani Whitford.
"The Producers" runs though July 29, at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m., Sundays at the Historic Iao Theater. All-new reserved seating tickets are $15 to $28. Dinner packages are available with Bistro Casanova, Wailuku Coffee Company and Cafe O'Lei at the Dunes. For tickets or more information call 242-6969 or purchase online at mauionstage.com.
Maui OnStage's ONO! returns Monday at 6:30 p.m. with ONOLit, and evening of great literature. Excerpts from "The Little Prince," "the Yellow Wallpaper," "Ulysses," "If I Ran the Circus," "A Gift From the Sea," "Animal Farm," and "Where the River Changes Directions" will be read by local performers Alexis Dascoulias, Ute Finch, Norman Halip, Paul Janes-Brown, Pat Masumoto, Leslie Mullens, Lisa Paulson and Jason Strahn. The free theater series happens every second Monday of every month. For more information visit mauionstage.com.
MAPA presents "Disney's Sleeping Beauty," with music and lyrics by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, George Bruns, Tom Adair, Winston Hibler, Ted Sears, Sammy Fain and Jack Lawrence. The production is adapted and arranged with additional music and lyrics by Bryan Louiselle and is based on the book adapted by Marcy Heisler.
Its princess Aurora's sixteenth birthday and Flora, Fauna and Merryweather must use their fairy magic to save her from the spell of evil sorceress Maleficent.
The production will include several songs from the classic animated film including "Once Upon a Dream." The production is directed by Kathleen Schulz and features MAPA students age 7 to 12. Performances are July 26 through 29 at the Steppingstone Playhouse, at 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $12 adults and $8 students 12 and under. For reservations or more information visit mauiacademy.org, call 244-8760 or purchase at the customer service kiosk at Queen Ka'ahumanu Center.