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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, December 14, 2001

Stage Scene
'Santa Claus Lives' on the Army stage

By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor

The cast of "Santa Claus Lives in Hawaii" includes, from left, Chris Bates as the Elf, JanDee Abraham as Mother, Marcus Shinbo as Kimo, Kawika Vega as Santa and Robbie Brandt as Mrs. Claus.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

'Santa Claus Lives in Hawaii'

Premieres at 7:30 p.m. today; repeats at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Dec. 22-23; and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21

Richardson Theatre, Fort Shafter

$15, $12 general; $8, $6 children


Some things happen for a reason. After being rejected at Diamond Head Theatre, where "Santa Claus Lives in Hawaii" was first proposed, the writers, Roslyn Catracchia (music) and Art Freedman (lyrics and book), took the musical to Army Community Theatre, where Army entertainment director Vanita Rae Smith turned out to be as hospitable as Santa. Well, Mrs. Santa.

"They needed a place, and we were interested in a holiday show," said Smith, who assembled her elves to get the show mounted at Richardson Theatre, Fort Shafter. The support crew includes Jim Hutchison, director and choreographer, and Kathe James, costumer, with Catracchia conducting the music on tape, aided by John Bryan.

It's an ambitious run, premiering tonight, with matinee and evening shows Saturday and Sunday, repeating five more times next weekend — an ACT first.

"I had written a song, 'Santa Claus Lives in Hawaii,' for a Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center contest, which I thought would be a good play," Freedman said. Entertainer-composer Ron Tish originally performed it, and Freedman, who proceeded to write the play and "poems" that had not yet been matched with music, tried to get Tish committed.

But some things happen for a reason. Freedman met Catracchia, who was in the midst of finishing "On Dragonfly Wings" earlier this year, a collaborative musical with Lisa Matsumoto, and it turned out to be a blissful union.

"Art gave me a script," Catracchia said. "Over a piece of pie and coffee at Yum Yum Tree, he read it to me, word for word, and I found it captivating."

"The story made me laugh and cry, the lyrics were beautiful," said Catracchia, who normally does words and music. "One by one, a melody would jump out at me, sometimes quickly, one a day."

A soundtrack CD was recorded, with Catracchia's show biz friends helping out, so that the disc could be sold . Freedman wants the play to be published and made available elsewhere, and to develop a property that would be to the stage what "Nutcracker" is to ballet companies: an annual holiday bon-bon.

Freedman has dabbled in publishing, putting out Lani Goose children's books. "Santa Claus" is his first play, though he has got another country-western musical in the works, suitable for a Nashville or Branson showcase.

Catracchia, a recording artist, actress and composer, said it's a particular joy that Hutchison is directing "Santa Claus."

"When I was a kid, Jim was my director; I played a gingerbread boy in 'Hansel and Gretel,' and now, my goodness, 30 years later, we're having so much fun together," she said. "I was the only girl playing a boy then, and we laugh about it now."