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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 17, 2009

Hutchison lit up Broadway, local stages

By Wayne Harada
Special to The Advertiser

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Jim Hutchison

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Jim Hutchison, a do-it-all stage icon who left his footprints on Broadway and Hawai'i stages, died yesterday at The Queen's Medical Center. He was 75.

Hutchison's career spanned nearly 40 years.

"He was my friend my dearest friend," said his former wife, Wisa D'Orso, also an actor and singer. "We were married for 20 years and got divorced; but we've been friends longer than we were married. Now there's a big hole in my life."

Hutchison and D'Orso had worked together throughout much of their careers, encompassing numerous TV shows and Broadway theatrical musicals on the Mainland. They also left a huge imprint on the local theater, dance and music front since relocating to Honolulu.

"You never forget the memories of those gypsy days," said D'Orso of their early performing gigs. "We met when we were working on 'The Ed Sullivan Show.' "

Hutch, as theater colleagues called him, was a director, actor, dancer, choreographer, producer and teacher. A flock of colleagues and students gathered bedside at Queen's before he died of bladder cancer.

"I was told that two of his tap-dancing students wanted to come visit," said D'Orso. "So I was expecting some young folks; turned out to be two senior ladies. How cute!"

Terence Knapp and Glenn Cannon, his theatrical peers who also act and direct, came to say their goodbyes.

Knapp, best known for portraying Father Damien on stage and in film, brought a nail from Kalaupapa as a blessing for Hutchison, said D'Orso. "We said the Lord's Prayer and Terry led a reading of the 23rd Psalm. Now he's at peace."

"It was a sad, cruel and painful death," said Knapp. "It's the end of an epoch; Jim represents the Great American musical tradition; he was a dear friend."

Hutchison was born in England, Ark. Early in his career, Hutchison had roles in such Broadway musicals as "Kean," "Happy Hunting" with Ethel Merman and Fernando Lamas, "The Ziegfeld Follies" with Tallulah Bankhead and "The Pajama Game." His film credits include "Hello, Dolly!" opposite Barbra Streisand.

On TV, Hutchison appeared in "Dancing is a Man's Game," a Gene Kelly special, and frequented the shows of Jackie Gleason, Steve Allen, Pat Boone, Patti Page, Garry Moore and Perry Como.

After relocating to the Islands, he was a frequent figure in filmed-in-Hawai'i shows such as "Hawaii Five-0" and "Magnum, P.I."

Hutchison headed the Honolulu City Ballet, which later became Ballet Hawaii, where he served on the board of directors and conducted tap-dancing classes.

For 18 years, Hutchison was artistic director at Honolulu Community Theatre (now Diamond Head Theatre) but he also starred in or directed shows at Army Community Theatre and Manoa Valley Theatre. He has earned Po'okela Awards for his direction.

Survivors include son, Kurt Adam, and daughter Tita Jo. Services are pending.

Reach Wayne Harada at wayneharada@gmail.com.