Young 'Mame' co-star is a trouper on the rise
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor
Then there's Kanoa Goo, 12, who is both an actor and a singer. And cute and adorable.
As Young Patrick, in Diamond Head Theatre's current musical, "Mame," he is wowing the audience with his seasoned performance with a mostly adult cast, and he's so extraordinary in his reach as a stage trouper, even leading lady Shari Lynn, his Auntie Mame, is abuzz with excitement.
"This is what I love to do," said Kanoa, a seventh-grader at Kaimuki Middle School, finishing his lunch backstage, before last Sunday's matinee performance. "I like performing and entertaining people. I had no idea what this play was about, but Nanilisa (Pascua, who, as a performer and pianist, has guided youths through church and production connections) told me there was a boy part, Patrick, that I should try for. He sings. I didn't watch the video. But I thought I'd go for it."
First, the Patrick part is a reunion with Lynn, with whom Kanoa previously did a Christmas show at the Hale Koa Hotel, where Lynn does a weekly cabaret act. Second, they maintain a bond that is as genuine as a nephew and his aunt. Happily, the young lad can hold his own vocally, in his duets with the leading lady and in his ensemble jaunts with the rest of the adults. Equally blissfully, the leading lady welcomes the spit-and-polish calibre of, and is not intimidated by, her young costar.
"He's not just a kid. He plays a crucial element in the show, around whose life the musical is built, not only Mame's," said Lynn, who has become an unofficial backstage auntie.
"He's an old soul," Lynn said. "You know what that means?" she asked Kanoa. No, he didn't.
"It means you've been reincarnated; you're very wise inside. Some people believe in reincarnation. God gave you so many things, like that wonderful voice and an ability to act. But you have the temperament of a normal person."
In other words, not a starstruck brat.
"She's so nice," said Kanoa, his eyes radiating joy, when he talks theater and theater people.
"My first big production was here (at DHT) in 'Phantom (of the Opera)' but I've also been a Shooting Star," said Kanoa. The Shooting Stars is a youth ensemble at the theater, which annually does one "young" take on a season musical, the last being "Cinderella" in which Kanoa played the Prince. He also has graced the stage in "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" and "Carousel."
"They treat me real good. They treat me like everyone else," he said of his rapport with the cast. "I feel like an adult."
Of course, he has homework that adults don't have, so the rehearsal phase was tough going. "I would stay late in school, or do homework in homeroom," he said. With the production schedule running Thursdays through Sundays, school work is less of a burden now.
He credits a supportive dad, Leroy Goo (his parents are divorced), for shuttling him to and from rehearsals and performances.
Kanoa is the youngest of six children; his three elder sisters are in their 20s; one brother is 16, another 18. So far, his siblings haven't seen the show, though dad has.
Kanoa didn't know he could sing, though he got smitten about performing through a church camp that featured a culminating production.
Before becoming a Shooting Star, he was a member of Jamarama Productions, another youth-targeted ensemble (preparing, with adult leads, a revival of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" for an April 18 launch at the Hawai'i Theatre).
Kanoa said he still gets butterflies before going onstage. "I really get nervous before every performance," he said. "I feel that it tells me that I'm ready. If I'm not nervous, there's something wrong."
Lynn is amazed at Kanoa's professionalism, his stage presence, his ability to connect with the audience and his acting colleagues.
"He's so good, he can be on Broadway right this second," Lynn said. "God knows, we've seen child stars; he's as good as they come. In fact, to psych myself up, I've been listening to the original soundtrack of the musical and Kanoa is so superior to the child on the recording. Now, don't let this go to your head," she cautions him her in an Auntie Mame tone.
Together, Kanoa and Lynn are evoking tugs at the heart, tears to the eye, in heartfelt moments in the musical. Not just musically, but emotionally.
One is when they belt out "My Best Girl," Patrick's homage to his endearing Aunt Mame. "I nearly lost it the other night, when I thought of Patrick leaving me," said Lynn about their chemistry in context of the show. "I had to stop thinking of him and think of spaghetti instead."
The other is late in Act 1, when Mame gets involved with her beau, Beauregard, who sings the glory of his new love in the show's title tune, and Patrick is far off, literally distanced from the adult love-in-bloom situation.
"I get very emotional, thinking wow, they're dancing, I'm losing her," said Kanoa, the actor. "I didn't get it at first. I see her with her Beau, and not with me, and think about losing her forever. Left out in the cold."