Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2001

Center stage

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

Lawrence Paxton will star in "Jekyll and Hyde," a musical drama opening at the Diamond Head Theatre next month.

Diamond Head Theatre

For show-goers, the 2001-2002 theatrical season, under way this month, is big on variety. There are premieres galore, operas, loads of laughs and a hefty serving of musicals. Even a smidgen of stardust.

Revivals are part of the landscape, too, even written-in-Hawai'i comedies and dramas. And a few edgy works to make you think.


  • Hawai'i's top-rated TV news anchor and the host of America's No. 1 game show unite for a classic stage comedy. Joe Moore of KHON-2 and Pat Sajak of "Wheel of Fortune" co-star in Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple," a Manoa Valley Theatre presentation next month at the Hawai'i Theatre.
  • Lee Cataluna, who writes plays when she's not tapping out columns for The Advertiser, has three new projects this season for three competing theater groups, including an adaptation of a children's book ("Musubi Man," for Honolulu Theatre for Youth), an original comedy ("Super Secret," for Kumu Kahua) and a new musical ("You Somebody," for Diamond Head Theatre).
  • If you're star-gazing, you can catch Marcel Marceau, the mime, as part of the French Festival at the Blaisdell Concert Hall in November; comedians D.L. Hughley and Pat Morita in September at the Hawai'i Theatre; Jim Nabors in his annual Christmas concert in November and December at the Hawai'i Theatre; and singer/performance artist Laurie Anderson in February at Leeward Community College Theatre.
  • Garrison Keillor is tentatively slated to do his "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show live at the Hawai'i Theatre in January, under the auspices of Hawai'i Public Radio.
  • Expect snow to return in "Slava's Snowshow," in December, at the Hawai'i Theatre.
  • "Jekyll and Hyde," a Broadway favorite about a madman scientist with two personalities, kicks off DHT's season next month. That sinking feeling emerges when "Titanic" bows in May.
  • Jukebox gold arrives via "Smokey Joe's Cafe," with oodles of songs you'll recognize, at MVT in September.
  • Also, MVT takes a risk by premiering "Wit," an off-Broadway drama examining the realities of ovarian cancer and sure to get you talking and thinking. Ditto, Kumu Kahua's "A Language of Their Own," with gay characters and an HIV-positive storyline.
  • Army Community Theatre stages a wartime musical, "Sayonara," in November. It has racial tensions, not unlike that of "Miss Saigon" and "South Pacific."
  • Kennedy Theatre maintains its reputation as a cultural beacon by staging a Beijing opera, "Judge Bao and the Case of Qin Xianglian," in February.
  • Kabuki for kids? It happens in March, when HTY presents "Wondrous Tales of Old Japan," which taps kabuki staging elements, at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii.
  • The Windward side may get a new theatrical facility, too, some time during the academic year. At least, that's the plan, since a 300-seat theater is being built at Windward Community College. So far, however, there are no bookings in the hall.

Some specifics:

Odd squad

Ever since they collaborated on stage, in the Moore-written "Prophecy and Honor" (a play about Billy Mitchell, produced by Diamond Head Theatre), Sajak and Moore — Army buddies from way back — have been itching to do something together again.

"When I got the film rights to do 'Moonglow,' which was originally a play by Jonathan Daley, I sent the script to Pat and told him I was turning it into a small film," said Moore. "With five weeks of filming, Pat wasn't available, so the angel character went to Milos (O'Shea). We couldn't make it work."

When Sajak still was adamant about a collaboration, the TV host suggested "The Odd Couple," the most popular of Neil Simon's comedies, in which Moore will play Oscar and Sajak Felix.

Three's company

It's just "a happy accident," Lee Cataluna said about her trio of new shows. "Kumu asked me first, then HTY, then Diamond Head."

Does this mean she'll be rolling in dough? "Money? What money? You mean there should be money?" she said with a chuckle.

She's signed two of three contracts (DHT has yet to get her Jane Hancock on the dotted line) and is eager to test her comic meter.

"Musubi Man" is adapted from a children's book "so I didn't have to come up with the characters or the plot (based on the 'Gingerbread Man' tale), just how to stage the story with only two actors (BullDog and Cynthia See). I always love writing for BullDog. He says he's my DeNiro and I'm his Scorsese, whatever that means."

"Super Secret Squad" deals with five University of Hawai'i guys "in their eighth year of a four-year degree ... who are at that point in their lives where they're idealistic and unrealistic." They want to fix all that ails Hawai'i; they think of themselves as modern-day menehune and "do battle with bureaucracy, inaction and indecision." Cataluna wrote this one during a frustrating time in her own life, so "it's no accident I started writing characters who could fix stuff when I was in a place in my life where I couldn't fix anything."

"You Somebody" tracks a local family in search of fame ... who want to be in Wayne Harada's column, said Cataluna. "Still neva sign contract, so hard to comment," she said. But it's a musical, and they sing about their aspirations.

Cataluna admires the pidgin comedies of Lisa Matsumoto ("a goddess and a total sistah to me," said Cataluna) but doesn't consider her plays "pidgin comedies." "I try to write dialogue that's realistic to each character, and not all the characters I write speak in pidgin, or even the same kind of pidgin. I try to write stories that people can relate to, emotions that ring true, conflict that feels familiar."

Ming (Alvin Chan) and Oscar (J. Martin Romualdez) in Kumu Kahua Theatre's production of "A Language of Their Own."

Brad Goda

Special mentions

Other details:

  • Dreaming of a White Christmas? Snow will blanket the inside of the Hawai'i Theatre, when Russian clown Slava Polunin returns in "Slava's Snowshow" in December.
  • There's no kabuki this year at Kennedy Theatre, but "Judge Bao and the Case of Qin Xianglian," a Beijing opera, will be staged in February. Elizabeth Wichmann-Walczak translates and directs, with visiting masters Shen Xiaomei, Lu Genzhang, Shen Fuqing and Li Zhenghua training the cast.
  • Kabuki is part of HTY's season, when "Wondrous Tales of Old Japan" is staged in March at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii. David Furumoto has incorporated kabuki elements in three Japanese classics, intended for youngsters age 7 and older.
  • "A Language of Their Own," Kumu Kahua's September-October offering by Chay Yew, is a slice-of-life drama, about two gay Asian-American men whose relationship is challenged when one tests HIV positive. "Wit," a highly regarded drama about a professor coming to grips with ovarian cancer, is a tour de force for the MVT actress who portrays the central character, Vivian Bearing.
  • The three big guns in local theater — DHT, MVT, ACT — open up their seasons with lavish musicals. "Jekyll and Hyde" at DHT retells the story of the good doctor/bad doctor, with Frank Wildhorn's robust score, which includes the show-stopping "This Is the Moment."
  • "Smokey Joe's Cafe" at MVT is a feast of nostalgic hits including "On Broadway," "Hound Dog," "Stand by Me," "Charlie Brown" and "Spanish Harlem."
  • And ACT's "My Fair Lady" brings back ol' Professor Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in a canopy of Lerner and Loewe classics, including "I Could Have Danced All Night," "On the Street Where You Live" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face."
  • Smaller groups such as Cruel Theatre and Hawai'i Pacific University also add variety and a sense of eclecticism. And 'Ohi'a Productions brings back "On Dragonfly Wings" next summer.
  • There are more performing venues than ever, with the arrival earlier this year of The ARTS at Marks Garage in Chinatown; HTY, the gypsy theater, showcasing its plays in locations from McCoy Pavilion to the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii; and the eventual opening of WCC's theatrical facility capable of seating 300 to 350 patrons in convertible space — proscenium and in-the-round configurations, according to overseer Ben Moffat.
  • So far, no word on a visiting Broadway musical in the realm of a "Phantom of the Opera" or "Chicago." But the buzz is that "Spirit of the Dance," the evening of Irish dance, was so popular, the company wants to come back. The season is still young, after all.