‘Somebody’ at Diamond Head Theatre better 1st time around
By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Special to The Advertiser
By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Diamond Head Theatre's revival of Lee Cataluna and Keola Beamer's "You Somebody" is a study in the difficulty of keeping a show fresh the second time around.
Five years ago, the DHT premiere production was new and audacious. Built around a pushy stage mother who bullies her family into a stage act for the sole purpose of earning a mention in Wayne Harada's newspaper column, Cataluna grabbed plot elements from several sources and gave them local color and zip. Beamer's songs added playful Hawaiian soul.
The show's problems with split focus and predictability were mostly brushed aside by Mark Lutwak's spirited staging and the bullish charm Loretta Ables Sayre brought to the title role. A trio of authentic Miss Hawaii fairy godmothers was a surprising and delightful drop-in.
Sayre successfully reprises her role for current production and navigates a sure comic line as a heroine who demonstrates love through browbeating. The emphasis here is on the love, while the "Mommy Dearest" elements are played for laughs.
The Miss Hawaiis in this version (Cheryl Toma Sanders, Traci Toguchi and Denby Dung) are better than the first time, singing two numbers in Act 1 and retuning in Act 2 for a comedy routine that mixes outrageous topical jokes with excellently timed physical byplay.
To her playwriting credit, Cataluna has reworked the material, adding topical references and letting the Miss Hawaiis satirize themselves at the same time they satirize everyone else.
Cataluna takes huge risks with her humor. When it works, it scores big, as with a deprecating reference to the City Council. Alternatively, they sneak up and grab you with the thud of paralyzing word plays and puns. (Sayre's character is prophetically named "Pua Lusa" — get it? Before she married, she was known as "Pua Ting".)
But while the show's creators and director John Rampage reworked some of its elements for this revival, its original problems are not only still present, they seriously weigh down the show's charm.
The current version is swamp-ed by its length and overproduction. It lingers, reprises and repeats when it should make its points and move on.
Wil Kahele, James Kimo Kaona, Leilyn Lui and T.J. Tario do well as the performing Lusas, but the pull-and-tug between Ma Lusa and her reluctant daughter (Pomai Lopez) is a faint "Gypsy" carbon copy that misses the needed depth.
Costumes and sets make the show look good, but the orchestra is not up to DHT standards, with solo passages that invite kazoo comparisons.
"You Somebody" still offers much to delight but lacks its original punch.