Student theater season ends with joyous ‘Annie’

King Kekaulike shines bright with exceptional production

King Kekaulike Drama continues “Annie,” music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, book by Thomas Meehan and directed by Chris Kepler. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the King Kekaulike Performing Arts Center on the school campus in Pukalani. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and are available at the box office 30 minutes before showtime and online at www.kingkekaulike.com. Photo courtesy King Kekaulike Drama

Stage Review

Every visit to the King Kekaulike Performing Arts Center is an engaging experience due to its phenomenal amenities, but “Annie,” its latest offering, is noticeably exceptional.

Director Chris Kepler has undeniably outdone himself with this marvelous production, partly due to his additional contributions of enjoyable, well-executed choreography and an attractive set design. Teeming with countless contributions, “Annie” delights from start to finish.

In the title role, Puakenikeni Kepler gives her finest performance since Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker,” this time in showcasing her enchanting stage presence and outstanding vocals, particularly on “Maybe” and “Tomorrow.” This graduating senior has saved her best for last and she is supremely prepared for the next level of theatrical training.

Countering her great performance is that of freshman newcomer Dylan Taasan as Oliver Warbucks. Taasan’s inaugural performance is astonishing, as is his professional choice to shave his head for the role. If one door closing equals another door opening, King Kekaulike Drama is well equipped to replace its graduating senior stars.

Photo courtesy King Kekaulike Drama

The star performances don’t end there though, as senior Kaya Greene practically steals the show with her hysterical and broad portrayal of the lushy Miss Hannigan. Fellow senior Juliet Moniz also impresses with her grounded interpretation of Grace Farrell, Warbucks’ secretary.

Further highlights include a first-class performance of “It’s A Hard Knock Life” by the ensemble of orphans, and “Easy Street” with Greene, Spencer Birch as Rooster Hannigan and Anastasia Morales-Middleton as Lily St. Regis. Danny Pieper as Burt Healy also shines on “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” as does Danny Osako as President Roosevelt.

Amazingly the humor and message of this more than 40-year-old musical still hold up well, a credit to the comic delivery of the entire cast. “Hooverville,” a sarcastic commentary on the wealthiest Americans performed by the ensemble, still rings true as does Roosevelt’s words, “Everybody sing, even the Republicans” and Warbucks’ retort, “Find out what Democrats eat.”

The similar social divide conveyed by scriptwriter Thomas Meehan of the late 1970s to the Great Depression era of 1933 is still relevant as are Roosevelt’s famous line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” and Annie’s upbeat proclamation, “When I’m stuck in a day that’s gray and lonely, / I just stick out my chin and grin, and say / … Tomorrow, you’re always a day away.”

As the 2018-19 season nears its end, certainly every youth theater company has had their joyous moments in the sun, but this King Kekaulike Drama production of “Annie” shines just a little brighter.

Sean Dorsey Dance presents “Boys in Trouble” at the MACC tonight. Lydia Daniller photo

Also this week

Last seen on Maui in the spring of 2017, Sean Dorsey Dance returns with its second co-commissioned work. Its previous offering, “The Missing Generation,” bared forth the voices of AIDS epidemic survivors in a theater and dance love letter to those that witnessed the loss of a significant portion of an entire generation during the 1980s and ’90s. Dorsey, an award-winning San Francisco-based choreographer, dancer and writer, brings his latest work, “Boys in Trouble,” to the Castle Theater at Maui Arts & Cultural Center in Kahului at 7:30 tonight.

Recognized as the first acclaimed transgender modern dance choreographer, Dorsey has been awarded four Isadora Duncan Dance Awards and was named by SF Weekly as “San Francisco’s Best Dance Company.”

“Boys in Trouble” unpacks masculinity with unflinching honesty, from unapologetically honest transgender and queer perspectives. Self-described as “Powerful, explosive, humorous and sexy, ‘Boys’ hits the stage as America grapples with toxic masculinity, the Trans revolution and renewed attacks on trans and LGBTQ rights.”

• Sean Dorsey Dance presents “Boys in Trouble.” Performance is 7:30 tonight in Castle Theater at the MACC. Tickets are $35 and $45 with half-price tickets for ages 12 and younger (plus applicable fees). To purchase tickets for any MACC event, visit the box office, call 242-7469 or order online at www.mauiarts.org.

*****

Maui High School Saber Theater presents “An Irritation to a Murder,” an interactive, comedic mystery dinner theater event by Lee Mueller, directed by Roxanne Wada.

• Performance is at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, opening Friday and running through April 27 at the Maui High School courtyard in Kahului. Tickets are $9 for adults, $7.50 for students and seniors, and are available at the box office before showtime.

*****

ProArts presents the Hawaii premiere of “Avenue Q,” music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, book by Jeff Whitty and directed by David Belew. This multi-Tony Award-winning musical and adult comedy inspired by “Sesame Street” presents a puppet-filled world with outrageous R-rated realities.

• Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, starting Friday and running through May 5 at the ProArts Playhouse in Azeka Shopping Center Makai in Kihei. Tickets are $26. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event, call 463-6550 or visit www.proartsmaui.com. “Avenue Q” contains adult content and is not appropriate for children.

*****

Global Media Productions presents popular and provocative performer, Ann Randolph in her new one-woman show, “Inappropriate In All the Right Ways.”

Awarded “Best Solo Performer” by the San Francisco Examiner and Los Angeles Weekly, Randolph shares her wild ride from living in a mental institution in Appalachia, a boat off the coast of Alaska pretending to clean the Exxon Oil spill, a homeless shelter in Santa Monica, working with Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft for a one-woman show off-Broadway run to teaching thousands to take the stage and speak their truth.

• Performance is at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Historic Makawao Union Church. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 at the door. To purchase tickets or for more information, call 283-5365 or visit www.globalmediaproductions.com.

COMMENTS