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Youth theater groups shine

Megan Malcolm (left), Caitlyn Campbell (below), Tahiti Cabrinha (above), Malia Jalbert (below), Aryana Johnson (middle) and Jadyn Gurley (above) are shown from a scene from “A Piece of My Heart.” PETER SWANZY photo

Over the past two weeks, youth theater has staged strong plays and musicals all over Maui. The number of students involved topped 100 with more than 10 different elementary, intermediate and high schools represented in these community productions.

Twenty eight cast members, as young as age seven, delighted a large crowd of parents and children with “The Ants and the Grasshoppers” last week at Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. The children’s theater comedy is based on Aesop’s fable and features adorable costumes by Vicki and Jessi Nelson and a few musical nods to “RENT” and Twisted Sister. The fun-loving grasshoppers (Madison Cordeiro, Jaya Greenband, Chance Harmon, Sayler Koskey, Ocean Larkey, Aleisabel Lick, Wolf Pell, Vienna Phillips, Lincoln Sherwood and Azure Toltzmann) exhibit boundless energy. Rather than preparing for the winter they prefer to play games and host picnics all summer long.

Geneva Phillips as Alexandra the Great, queen of the ant colony, is the authoritative party pooper. The distracting grasshoppers threaten ant work production. Her bored son, Eddie (Kamauoha Tomita) disagrees, embracing the grasshopper philosophy, “It’s better to die laughing.” Makayla Davis provides many laughs as the elder ant, Omicron, with her signature phrase, “You’re all going to die.”

The arrival of winter features some fun special effects designed by Caro Walker. The grasshoppers have squandered both summer and fall and are left out in the cold. Eddie leads an ant party to rescue them and Alexandra relents. The 30-minute show is a perfect first play for small children and is both easily understood and entertaining for families.

* Maui OnStage Youth Theater concludes “The Ants and the Grasshoppers,” by Ross Mihalko and Donna Swift, directed by Jessica Nelson. Performances are at 11 a.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. Sunday 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.

Twenty eight cast members, as young as age seven, delighted a large crowd of parents and children with “The Ants and the Grasshoppers” last week at Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. ORA SCOTT photo

*****

Last week Seabury Hall closed their powerful drama, “A Piece of My Heart.” In act one, six young women shared how and why they ended up in Vietnam between 1967 and ’68. Malia Jalbert as Steele is a multigenerational army brat that rises to the rank of intelligence officer. Jadyn Gurley as Martha and Aryana Johnson as Whitney are qualified nurses that want to help the soldiers of Vietnam. Caitlyn Campbell as Sissy is asked by her guidance counselor, “Do you want to be a teacher, a secretary or a nurse.” She chooses nursing and ends up in Vietnam. Tahiti Cabrinha as Leeann wants to be an Army nurse as well but is promised she won’t have to go to Vietnam unless she volunteers. The Army doesn’t live up to that promise. Megan Malcolm as Mary Jo is a singer touring the bases of Vietnam to perform for the half a million soldiers. Rounding out the cast, Preston Summit impressively played every male role. The infamous Tet Offensive frames just how bleak the circumstances were for these young women and men. A triage unit can not keep up with the wounded. A boot is removed with a foot still inside, while another soldier has no face.

Act two presents what happened to these brave women upon returning home as they suppress memories of death and rape, while struggling with home front hostility, addiction, agent orange disease, depression, failed relationships and combat flashbacks. Cabrinha poignantly proclaims, “The only thing that has changed is me.” Director Marsha Kelly and cast offered a significant, moving drama with grounded portrayals the equal of adult actors.

Also closing last week, Baldwin Theatre Guild presented their one-weekend production of “Disney Aladdin JR.” The high-energy, colorful and upbeat musical featured a cast of both intermediate and high school students from four Maui campuses.

Highlighting the production was outstanding and well-executed choreography by Erin Kowalick and Rachael Lockhart. In the title role Edrienne Daguio gives a likeable performance, especially on “One Jump Ahead” and the entertaining “Babkak, Omar, Aladdin, Kassim” alongside his boon companions played by Maile Libonati, Richard Hernandez and Dwight Semanero. Olivia Robinson impresses as Jasmine on “These Palace Walls” with her ladies in waiting played by Aliyah Cabebe, Daisey Hoe and Raina Ouye. Shandon Obregon offers an exceptional portrayal as the scene stealing, hilarious Genie with “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali.”

Victoria Navarro as Jafar and Ava Vila as Iago capture the spirit of the traditional Disney villain and comical sidekick. Ensemble inclusion to fill out these large-scale musical numbers with rich vocals and strong dancing is what made Baldwin’s “Aladdin” so enjoyable, and director Linda Carnevale’s inclusion of students from other schools gave it a true community theater atmosphere.

ALSO THIS WEEK

Maui OnStage concludes “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. Friday and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday at 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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