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Saber Theatre actors have strong performances in ‘As You Like It’

Natasha Adamson as Rosalind (right) and Jordan Vaughn as Celia offer college-quality performances in “As You Like It.” They are believable as the young cousins, present two distinct contrasting characters and properly exemplify the approximate age Rosalind and Celia are intended to be. Adamson is love-struck, self-assured, resilient and beguiling as Rosalind. Vaughn is her comedic counterpart armed with good-natured contempt and apathy. TINA KAILIPONI photo

This past weekend, Maui High School Saber Theatre opened William Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.” Though challenged by lighting, sound sets, scene changes and a quality performance space that most Maui theater companies have, Saber Theatre rose above these hindrances by means of strong acting performances.

Embracing the pastoral intention of Shakespeare himself, the play is staged in a nestled outdoor courtyard on the Maui High School campus. Seating and sightlines are not optimal, but the teen actors champion old-fashioned projection, and the Bard’s text is clearly heard and well-delivered.

Five actors of note deserve special recognition. Natasha Adamson as Rosalind and Jordan Vaughn as Celia offer college-quality performances. They are believable as the young cousins, present two distinct contrasting characters and properly exemplify the approximate age Rosalind and Celia are intended to be. Adamson is love-struck, self-assured, resilient and beguiling as Rosalind. Vaughn is her comedic counterpart, armed with good-natured contempt and apathy. Madison Koskey also impresses with her range and stage presence doubling as the assertive Duchess Frederique and the weak-kneed Silvius.

Fletcher Maea gives a tremendous and memorable performance in the difficult role of melancholy Jacques. His skill in relating Shakespearean language to a modern audience is worthy of holding his own alongside experienced adult actors. In addition, Tyler Fisher nobly portrays youthful rage, infatuation and bashfulness as Rosalind’s besotted suitor Orlando. Well-coached and directed by Roxanne Wada, “As You Like It” is a little, hidden, Maui gem.

* MHS Saber Theatre continues “As You Like It,” directed by Roxanne Wada and music by MHS Music Club. Performances are at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the B-Building Courtyard on the Maui High campus in Kahului. Tickets are $5 and are available at the box office before showtime or through www.mauihighschoolfoundation.com.

Shandon Obregon (left) is a genie and Edrienne Daguio is Aladdin in Baldwin Theatre Guild’s production of “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.” BALDWIN THEATER GUILD photo

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Opening this weekend, Seabury Hall Performing Arts travels back to the Vietnam War to share the true story of five nurses, a serviceman and a singer who serve, survive and return to rebuild their lives. The Vietnam Veterans of America calls Shirley Lauro’s “A Piece of My Heart,” “The most enduring play on Vietnam in the nation,” and D.C. Theater Scene says, “While the first act sets up the conditions, the challenges and the resourcefulness of the nurses to function and survive, the second act shows what happened when they finally return home, sometimes to a hero’s welcome, but more often not, like the soldiers, they caught the brunt of the public’s outcry and antiwar protests and rage.”

“I’m so impressed and touched by the effort and commitment these students are bringing to their roles” says director Marsha Kelly. “They’re learning so much about the war, themselves and ensemble acting. As a Vietnam-era Army brat growing up on Okinawa in the ’60s and ’70s, these characters and the events depicted are all too familiar to me. Because the play deals with the disturbing realities of war, the play contains uncomfortable situations, some strong language, and the use of sound effects. You should also anticipate scenes of great humor, personal transformation and the power of love to heal,” she shares.

* Seabury Hall Performing Arts presents “A Piece of My Heart” by Shirley Lauro, directed by Marsha Kelly. Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Feb. 28 through March 7, 3 p.m. Sunday, March 8, at the A’ali’ikuhonua Creative Arts Center on the Seabury Hall campus in Makawao. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 seniors and $5 students. For more information or to purchase tickets online, visit ww.seaburyhall.org. “A Piece of My Heart” contains adult content and may not appropriate for children.

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Also opening next week, Baldwin High School will present their annual spring musical “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.,” based on the 1992 animated film and the Broadway stage version. Aladdin (Edrienne Daguio), and his three friends, Babkak (Maile Libonati), Omar (Richard Hernandez), and Kassim (Dwight Semanero), are down on their luck until Aladdin discovers a magic lamp and a genie (Shandon Obregon) who has the power to grant three wishes.

” ‘Aladdin’ is a favorite of all ages. It’s got great songs, lots of energetic dances and colorful characters. The cast is a combination of Baldwin High School students and intermediate school students from Iao, Maui Waena, Hawaii Technology Academy and Lokelani intermediate schools. It’s a treat seeing the students of different schools and grades working together onstage. They complement each other’s amazing energy and talent,” related director Linda Carnevale. I asked about Baldwin’s longstanding annual tradition of a big spring musical. “Ms. (Sue Ann) Loudon began doing musicals in the auditorium in the mid ’60s. The auditorium is like a treasured Grand Dame. It is the largest permanent indoor seating venue on Maui, and we are lucky it is on our campus to use. Many local and professional shows have played, and still do, on this iconic Maui stage,” she replied. Although the Baldwin Auditorium and Castle Theater both share exactly 1,200 seats, since it’s opening with the Loudon-directed “Bye Bye Birdie” in the spring of 1965, no one can dispute the its rich history and longevity.

Carnevale also shared the importance of Maui’s high school theater programs. “Having an educational arts program in the schools enables the student this avenue that goes beyond traditional learning with a book and paper. From the discoveries during rehearsal, to performing the fruits of their creation, all of it is part of the journey of theater that will affect them for the rest of their life.”

* Baldwin Theatre Guild presents “Disney’s Aladdin Jr.,” directed by Linda Carnevale, choreographed by Erin Kowalick and Rachel Lockhart and under the musical direction of Tana Larson. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, March 6 through 8, at the Baldwin Auditorium on the Baldwin High School campus in Wailuku. Tickets are $12 adults, $10 seniors, $7 students 12 to 17, $5 11 and younger, and are available at the box office 45 minutes before showtime.

Next week Maui OnStage Youth Theater opens “The Ants and the Grasshoppers” by Ross Mihalko and Donna Swift. This comedy adapted from Aesop’s fable depicts a gaggle of goofball grasshoppers and an army of ants who realize all the fun they’ve been missing out on every summer. When winter arrives, the ill-prepared grasshoppers are now out in the cold leaving the sympathetic ants to rescue them.

“I am always looking for shows that are new and different to allow the kids to experience a story they may not be as familiar with and that also has a positive moral lesson,” reflected director Jessica Nelson. “Maui OnStage Youth Program is meant to offer children and teens a real production experience through a safe and accepting environment. We teach the children that no matter what role you play, everyone is important. Children also participate in the making of props and we also offer behind the scenes opportunities such as sound, lighting design and backstage help,” she added.

Nelson, who also serves as the educational coordinator for Maui OnStage, spoke on why audiences should support youth productions. “The kids put hours of work into the show and the youth shows are of quality. Our youth shows are also short, running between an hour to an hour-and-a-half. This is the perfect length for exposing young children to the theater.” 

* Maui OnStage Youth Theater presents “The Ants and the Grasshoppers” by Ross Mihalko and Donna Swift, directed by Jessica Nelson. Performances are 11 a.m. Saturdays, 1 p.m. Sundays, March 7 through 15 at Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $10 adults, $6 children. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event call 242-6969 or order at www.mauionstage.com.

ALSO THIS WEEK

Maui OnStage presents “Xanadu,” book by Douglas Carter Beane, music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar, collaboratively directed and choreographed by Kalani Whitford and Camille Romero, under the musical direction of Kirsten Otterson. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, Feb. 28 through March 15, at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets range from $20 to $40. To purchase tickets for any Iao Theater event call 242-6969 or order at mauionstage.com.

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