How? And, wow!-is the buzz on Maui in regards to local theater. When you factor all five large-scale productions in performance or rehearsal this month alone, you're talking 300 actors, singers, musicians, designers and directors involved in "101 Dalmatians," "The Little Mermaid," "RENT," "Fame" and the upcoming "Les Miserables."
Only a handful of individuals worked on more than one of these productions, and Maui OnStage has just assembled a cast and crew of 15 additional people for "Love, Sex and the I.R.S.," which opens in late September.
Not to diminish past years of great Maui theater, but this current collective of performing artists in residence is quickly turning Maui into an artist's mecca.
More than 300 actors, singers musicians, designers and directors are involved in Maui productions right now, including Nikki Armour (from left), Eliza Wright and Casey Hearl of “Fame — The Musical.”
JACK GRACE photo
Is it unrealistic to think that when you add fashion, burlesque, music, art and a blossoming film community Maui may be on the verge of greatness. To suggest that Maui could become what San Francisco experienced in the '60s and '70s may be a bit too much to hope for, but if an active film studio can provide hundreds of job opportunities for entertainers and technicians, something incredibly exciting might be blossoming on this little island. Much of this opportunity may be a few years away, but after witnessing 120 young people perform over the past three weekends, Maui is amply supplied for that future.
The talented teens of Maui Academy of Performing Arts, collectively representing 12 Maui high schools, teamed up this summer for a massive, polished and impressive youth performance of "Fame -the Musical" last week. The performances were what made "Fame" so wonderful. Director Sally Sefton, musical director Marti Kluth and choreographer Rebecca Owen all delivered an above-the-bar youth production.
"Fame - the Musical" acknowledges the movie in its script, but also reinvents nearly identical characters from the film. Aaron Candelaria plays Schlomo, a brilliant musician with a famous musical family. I have seen Candelaria sing, dance and ham it up in previous youth productions, but he also has a very strong grasp on dramatic acting. If Candelaria attended "PA" he would do very well. Opposite Schlomo is Carmen, played by Ashlyn-Jade Aniban. Aniban has an accurate and sweet singing voice, but needs to add a little more volume in future performances. Carmen is a triple threat, she sings, dances, acts and writes songs. Aniban coveys her own supreme confidence as she sings "remember my name" and "Fame, I'm gonna live forever." Schlomo and Carmen collaborate on songs, and he eventually falls in love with her.
Tyrone, played by Makena Gabin, is the street savvy dancer from the slums. Gabin is an immensely talented dancer and plays the role with the bravado that is necessary to believe he's a little dangerous and extremely troubled. Cheyanna Simmons plays the English teacher, Miss Sherman, who refuses to pass Tyrone through the system just because he is a gifted dancer.
Simmons' solo song, "These Are My Children," is the finest moment of the entire show, and the equal of adult musical performances from "RENT," and what can be expected from "Les Miserables." In conflict with Miss Sherman is Miss Block, the dance teacher, played by Jackie Gladden. Their "Teacher's Argument" is another great musical moment in "Fame."
Tyrone is paired with Iris, played by Kela Rothstein. The two are the best dancers at PA, and Rothstein and Gabin possess the talent and training to convey that. A nice girl falls for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks love story evolves, believably presented in their showcase piece, "Pas de Deux."
Comic relief is provided by Joe and Mabel, played by Joshua Franco and Casey Hearl. Joe is a Puerto Rican wise cracker with a raging libido who idolizes Freddie Prinze. Mabel is the curvy dancer with a "see food" diet, who decides to switch to the drama program. Rounding out the leads is Nick, played by Kaimana Neil, and Serena played by Lily Telford.
Neil and Telford have a natural chemistry, and both have solid singing voices. Serena is smitten with Nick, a child actor who has already done commercials, from day one.
The couple's on again, off again friendship and flirtation frames much of the show. Serena questions if Nick is gay, but eventually resigns to use that angst "in my performance," in a charming solo by Telford, "Think of Meryl Streep."
At graduation, the cast of 40 brings this well staged youth production to moments of excellence on "Bring on Tomorrow" and "Fame." My only beef with the production is that I found the writing and music of David De Silva, Jose Fernandez, Steve Margoshes and Jacques Levy to be rather mediocre. Regardless, the 200 summer hours spent by this cast, now graduating with this fine display of talent, was an achievement on its own. The levels achieved through MAPA youth theater will place these young adults well ahead of the curve as they move onto the world of college theater.
Don't miss the final weekend of Maui OnStage's production of "RENT," by Jonathan Larson, directed by Steven Dascoulias, choreographed by Sarah Loney and under the musical direction of Vania Jerome, through Sunday. The cast of 16 features Jonna Ahn, Charles Cook, Kelsey Greenway, Ricky Jones, Kisha Milling, Isaac Rauch, Francis Tau'a and Kalen Willits. Performances of "RENT" are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays at the Historic Iao Theater. Reserved seating tickets range from $17 to $28 (plus applicable fees), with a limited number of $10 rush tickets available two hours prior to each performance. For tickets or more information, call 242-6969 or purchase online at www.mauionstage.com.
The Maui Academy of Performing Arts presents "Les Miserables," with music by Claude-Michael Schonberg, original French lyrics by Alain Boulil and Jean-Marc Natel, with English-language libretto by Herbert Kretzmer, based on the novel by Victor Hugo.
The MAPA production, directed by David C. Johnston and choreographed by Andre Morissette, with music directed by Robert E. Wills, opens Aug. 16 and runs through Aug. 25.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays in Castle Theater at Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets range from $15 to $65 (plus applicable fees).
To purchase tickets for any MACC event visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469, or order online at mauiarts.org. For more details about the production ,visit mauiacademy.org.
"Shower of Stars," Hawaii's oldest ongoing talent show, returns to the Historic Iao Theater Saturday, Aug. 10. The competition is divided into two acts of competitors, younger than 17 and 18 and older. The performance is at 6:30 p.m. and admission is $10. For tickets or more details, call (808) 482-0073.
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" by Dale Wasserman, based on the novel by Ken Kesey, will be performed on Monday, Aug. 12, in a staged reading format as part of Maui OnStage's ONO! series at the Historic Iao Theater. A cast of 18 includes Brian Connelly as McMurphy, Andrea Giammattei as Nurse Ratched, and Francis Tau'a as Chief Bromden. The performance is at 6:30 p.m. and admission is free. "Cuckoo's Nest" is not appropriate for young audiences.