HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – La Cage aux Folles – the Palace Theater’s Fall Musical

by Kelly Moran

La Cage aux Folles – the Palace Theater’s Fall Musical

Suppose your son or daughter wanted to marry someone whose family you didn’t like?  Maybe you’re political opposites . . . or you just don’t like the way they live . . . or both?  And now they’re coming to dinner, to meet you!

That’s the dilemma at the heart of La Cage aux Folles, the 13th annual Fall Musical at Hilo’s Historic Palace Theater.  The French title is slang for “the madhouse” — an appropriate description for this madcap farce.  Based on a French play, the “book” was adapted by Harvey Fierstein, who won a Tony Award for it; and the music and lyrics are by Jerry Herman, who previously wrote the musicals Mame and Hello Dolly.

La Cage aux Folles - the Palace Theater's Fall Musical

Georges (Saul Rollason) owns the night club next door, where the star attraction is his longtime partner Albin (Douglas Wayman), who’s famous as “ZaZa,” a female-impersonator in drag.  Georges’s son Jean-Michel (Kevin Landucci) lives with them, and sheer madness ensues when he announces he has invited his fiancée Anne (Dana Bebmanoff) and her ultra-conservative, anti-gay parents (Michael Stevens and Erin Smith) to meet them.

Georges and Albin

Georges (Saul Rollason) reacts in mock-horror when his partner Albin (Douglas Wayman) says he wants to meet the uptight, homophobic parents of the girl Georges’s son wants to marry. Photo by Daniel Nathaniel.


What should they do?  Maybe Albin could pretend to be an “uncle,” and act macho, with coaching by their neighbors Monsieur and Madame Renaud (Randall McEndree and Stephanie Becher)?  Or maybe he should get up in drag and pretend to be Jean-Michel’s “mother”?  It doesn’t help that their “maid” Jacob (Alston Albarado) is given to hilarious antics of his own.  Nor that, right next door, the show must go on, with the “Cagelles and Cagettes” (Billy Shakley, Norman Arancon, Tanya Aynessazian, Cole Stremski-Borero, Carmen Richardson and Amber Lopez) dancing up a storm. When Jacob burns the dinner, everyone retires to a restaurant run by Jacqueline (Justine A. Thompson), but they won’t be able to relax there, either.  You’ll have to come to the show to find out what happens next!

Doug Michael and Dancers

During a rehearsal, Director Doug Scheer (far right) and Choreographer Michael Misita (next to him) strike a pose with four of the “Cagelles and Cagettes” dancers, Cole Stremski-Borero, Tanya Aynessazian, Billy Shakley and (below) Norman Arancon. Photo by Daniel Nathaniel.


Also in the cast are Phill Russell, Gene Gold, Jherrie Rubeyiat, Bria Callaway, Katherine Wilson, Stephanie Hull, Mary Chapman and Jessica Dempsey.  Michael Misita is the Choreographer.  Catherine McPherson is Stage Manager.  And Music Director Cheryl “Quack” Moore will lead the Palace/Cage aux Folles band.

ZaZa and The Cagelles

ZaZa (Douglas Wayman) is the star attraction at La Cage aux Folles, in a dance number with the Cagelles. Photo by Daniel Nathaniel.


For the show’s Director, Doug Scheer, “La Cage aux Folles is really about the relationship between Georges and Albin — their marriage, their partnership, whatever you want to call it, which is not really different from any other relationship between two people who love each other, and who stay together as a family through thick and thin.  Bigotry does come into it.  That homophobic politician ultimately gets a better understanding of gay people – that we’re just like everybody else.

“But I believe that people in Hawaii will see something that’s actually very familiar,” he said.  “There are so many hanai families here, with cousins raised as siblings, or relatives and family friends who take in the children of their troubled neighbors.  Extended and non-standard family life is part of the culture here.  I’m sure that audiences will be able to relate to this story, and understand that unconventional families are really the same, underneath it all.”

The Cagelles

The Cagelles are the dancers at the nightclub called La Cage aux Folles (“the madhouse”). Photo by Daniel Nathaniel.


La Cage aux Folles will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday evenings October 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18; with matinees at 2:30 p.m. Sundays October 12 and 19.  Tickets are $15 in advance; $20 on the day of the show.  The box office is open weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; advance tickets can also be purchased with credit cards, over the phone, at 934-7010.

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – High Victorian Fun in Volcano

By Kelly Moran

High Victorian Fun in Volcano

Every few years, one of the greatest legacies of the Victorian Era is celebrated on the Big Island. If you enjoy musical comedies, you can thank the “operettas” that premiered in London in the 1880s and ‘90s. Their tone was light and comic; much of the dialog was spoken; the songs introduced the characters and advanced the plot – in other words, the model for all the musical comedies that have followed.

The greatest (and still the funniest) of the Victorian operettas were invented by two rather unlikely collaborators.  Sir Arthur Sullivan was a celebrated classical composer. His theater pieces are snappy and beautiful and immensely memorable, but he thought he was wasting his talents on such light fare. Sir William S. Gilbert was England’s leading humorist, able to fill his lyrics with more rhymes in English than anyone before, and few since. But he had no ear for music. Yet the entertainments that Gilbert and Sullivan created together have been performed continuously, all over the world. You can be sure that there is a G&S production on stage, somewhere, right now.

In fact, you can see one here on the Big Island this coming weekend and next. G&S operettas are a regular feature of the Kilauea Drama and Entertainment Network (KDEN), presented at the Kilauea Theater, in Volcano. Producer/Director Suzi Bond has been doing two musical shows a year, there, for ten years, and this is the fifth in her G&S series.

On stage this year is Ruddigore, or The Witch’s Curse. Though not as well-known as The Mikado and HMS Pinafore, this one has plenty of what G&S operettas are famous for: lovesick maidens, hidden identities, an elderly spinster, a hero who’s not as bold as he might like to be, and a “topsy-turvy” conflict between love and duty. (Full disclosure: I’ve gotten the lowdown on Gilbert and Sullivan from one of my clients, who’s in the show.) The plot of Ruddigore is laugh-out-loud funny, a quirky parody of old-time lurid melodramas, complete with a mustache-twirling villain, and ghosts who come to life from their painted portraits!

Dame Hannah + Bridesmaids

Dame Hannah (l.) astonishes the corps of professional bridesmaids with the legend of the witch’s curse on all the Baronets of Ruddigore.

The orchestra is large, and so is the cast, with much young local talent — as there always is in the KDEN shows. And the theater itself is a little 280-seat gem inside Kilauea Military Camp, built by the WPA and CCC in the 1930s for servicemen’s R&R, within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (From about half an hour before show-time, you won’t have to pay the park admission if you’re going to the theater.)

Ghosts Torment the newest Baronet

The ghosts of his ancestors hound the newest Baronet of Ruddigore to suffer the curse: he must commit one heinous crime a day or die in agony.


There are six upcoming performances: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays July 18, 19, 25 and 26; and 2:30 matinees on Sundays July 20 and 27. Tickets are available in Hilo at The Most Irresistible Shop, in Volcano at Kilauea General Store, and in Kea’au at Kea’au Natural Foods. The price is $15 general; $12 for students, $10 for children. Call KDEN at 982-7344 or email for more info about this delightful musical — oops, I mean operetta.

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Summer Bon Dance Season 2014

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Bon Dance Season is Here
by Kelly Moran

In the Buddhist tradition, during the summer months, Japanese residents welcome back the spirits of departed loved ones at lively and festive dance events called o-bon (most in Hawaii shorten the word to bon). There are numerous o-bon dances at venues around the island of Hawaii set for this summer season between June and August.

Photo: Hawai’i Magazine (

In Japan, the summer o-bon festivals date back to more than 500 years. In Hawaii, Buddhist temples take turns hosting the festivals and these dances have become as much social affairs as religious observances.

Everyone is welcome at the Hawaiian festivals, regardless of religious background or ethnicity making the temple festivals well-attended.

What can I expect to see at an o-bon festival?

  • Dances that participants can engage in (called bon-odori). These generally involve people circling and dancing around a high wooden scaffold called a yagura (wooden musicians’ tower). Flutes and gongs may accompany singers and taiko drums.
  • A variety of foods for sale, including musubi (rice balls wrapped in dried seaweed), stir fried noodles, andagi (sweet fried dough), barbeque sticks, stew & rice, chirashi sushi, bentos, Spam musubis, shave ice cones and more.
  • Some dressed in a yukata (summer cotton kimono) or a hapi coat.
  • Plenty of colorful chockin hanging lights. O-bon translates to “lantern festival” and the lanterns are believed to light the way for ancestral spirits, who are then greeted with offerings of flowers, food and incense.


Here are the upcoming festivals for this year:

• July 11, 12
Honpa Hongwanji Hilo Betsuin, 398 Kilauea Ave., Hilo, 7 p.m.

• July 12
Kona Daifukuji Soto Mission, 79-7241 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, 7 p.m.
Kohala Jodo Mission, Hawi, 7 p.m.
Paauilo Hongwanji Mission, 43-1477 Hauola Road, Paauilo, 7 p.m.

• July 18, 19
Hilo Meishoin, 97 Olona St. Hilo, 7:30 p.m.

• July 19
Honokaa Hongwanji Mission, 45-5016 Plumeria St., Honokaa, 7 p.m.
Keei Buddhist Church & Cemetery, 83-5569 Middle Keei Road, Captain Cook, 7 p.m.

• July 26
Papaaloa Hongwanji Mission, Papaaloa, 6 p.m.
Hilo Hongwanji Mission, 457 Manono St. Hilo, 7:30 p.m.
Kona Hongwanji Mission, 81-6630 Mamalahoa Hwy, Kealakekua, 7 p.m.

• Aug. 2
Hawi Jodo Mission, Hawi, 7 p.m.
Paauilo Kongoji Mission, 43-1461 Hauola Road, Paauilo, 7 p.m.
Taishoji Soto Mission, 275 Kinoole St., Hilo, 7 p.m.
Kurtistown Jodo Mission, Iwasaki Camp Road, Kurtistown, 8 p.m.

• Aug. 9
Hamakua Jodo Mission, Honokaa, 7 p.m.
Kona Koyasan Daishiji Mission, 76-5945 A Mamalahoa Hwy, Holualoa, 7 p.m.
Hilo Higashi Hongwanji, 216 Mohouli St., Hilo, 8 p.m.

• Aug. 15
Life Care Center, 944 W Kawailani St., Hilo, 6 p.m.

• Aug. 16
Kamuela Hongwanji Mission, Church Row, Kamuela, 7 p.m.
Hakalau Jodo Mission, Hakalau, 8 p.m.

• Aug. 23

Pahoa YBA Kaikan, Pahoa, 8 p.m.

• Aug. 30
Honohina Hongwanji Mission, 32-896 Mamalahoa Hwy, Ninole, 7 p.m.

SOURCE: Tsukikage Odorikai (

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – A Shakespearean Double Feature

By Kelly Moran

A Shakespearean Double Feature

You might not think of Hilo as a venue for Shakespeare. But every July, the Hilo Community Players presents one of the Bard’s plays – free of charge – right downtown in Kalakaua Park. And this year they’re doing not one but two. Well . . . almost. They’ll perform Antony and Cleopatra –Shakespeare’s historical drama of love and war in the Roman Empire. But they’ll also present a modern comedy, with a lot of youngsters in the cast, called This Is Hamlet.

The Hilo Community Players is the second-oldest theatrical organization in the Islands, having been formed in 1938; and it’s the only troupe in Hawaii that does Shakespeare every year. They’ve been doing it since 1978.

HCP Shakespeare Stage 2014

A chessboard for giants?  No, it’s the stage set for the Hilo Community Players’ production of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, and for the comedy This is Hamlet, in downtown Hilo’s Kalakaua Park.

The park used to be the front lawn of King Kalakaua’s vacation-house; Kalakaua Street is the park’s southern border; and a statue of the king by local sculptor Hank Bianchini is in the center. Everyone knows he was an enthusiast for hula: Hilo’s huge “Merrie Monarch” festival and competition is named for him. But he loved stage plays, Shakespeare especially, and the Players have long felt that performances in “his” park similarly honor his legacy.

This year’s audiences will see an innovative Antony and Cleopatra. The script is all Shakespeare, of course, though carefully edited to run just about two hours, with one intermission. But the director, Jake McPherson, has chosen to take what he calls a “minimalist” approach to the play. It will be performed by only six actors, four of whom play multiple roles; even the actors playing Antony and Cleopatra will take on one extra role apiece. McPherson will also clothe his actors not in history-evoking togas and silks, but in monochromatic costumes with only an accessory or two to establish which character they’re portraying. McPherson is one of Hilo’s most experienced directors, and has taken a similar approach in other plays, because, he feels, it focuses the audience’s attention on the most important aspect of the theater-going experience: hearing the spoken word.

This is Hamlet is something completely different. It’s a lighthearted guided-tour through Bard’s most famous play, led by a couple of old biddies and a gaggle of kids, poking fun at the most serious parts, yet never losing touch with what makes Shakespeare great.

Families have always come to the Players’ productions; indeed many of the actors who are now in their twenties and thirties first came with their parents, or joined the Players after having been in Hilo High School’s famous Performing Arts Learning Center – a for-credit afterschool activity. But This is Hamlet is the start of what director Jackie Pualani Johnson sees as a new tradition for the Players, which she calls “Kid Shakes.” Johnson is the chair of UH-Hilo’s Performing Arts Dept., and is the city’s best known actor (she had the title role in the Players’ production of The Trial of Lili’uokalani last summer.) Her concept is that plays with young people in the cast will give not only children but grown-ups too an easy entry-point into the local theater community, and into the wider world of Shakespearean theater as well.

Antony and Cleopatra will be performed on at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from July 10-26; and at 2 p.m. on Sunday July 13 and 20.

This is Hamlet will be performed at 11 a.m. on Saturdays July 12, 19 and 26, and Sundays July 13 and 20.
Admission is free; seating is on bleachers or on the grass (bring your own lawn chair); and “the show must go on” – meaning performances will begin on schedule, rain or shine!

To learn more about the Hilo Community Players, access Cast Lists, audition, become a volunteer or see upcoming productions, click here.

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – The People’s Theater – a Hamakua gem


By Kelly Moran

The People’s Theater – a Hamakua gem

Quick – what’s the biggest historic theater on the Big Island?  There are several, after all: The Aloha in Kainaliu (built in 1932), with 298 seats?  Downtown Hilo’s Palace (from 1925), with 485 seats?  Getting warmer.  Believe it or not, it’s the 525-seat People’s Theater in Honoka’a.


When it opened in 1930, it was the largest of three(!) movie houses on Mamane St., the main artery of Honoka’a, which was then the booming center of sugar production on the Hamakua Coast.  (Hilo, about an hour’s drive away, and Kea’au, further away in Puna, were the cane-capitals to the south.)

The People’s Theater was built by the Tanimoto family, which owned several other theaters on the Big Island; and like many theaters in that era, one of the owners lived in an apartment upstairs.  (The Palace and Aloha had similar apartments, which are now their offices).  By 1988, however, the matriarch of the Tanimoto family was too ill to manage the family business, and she sold it to her physician, Dr. Tawn Keeney, who undertook a massive renovation project.

Besides making necessary repairs, painting and restoring historic details, he installed a 50-foot movie screen and a modern sound-system, and encouraged producers to bring in musical and dramatic acts.  The theater also became the home venue and practice-hall for the national-award-winning Honoka’a High School Jazz Band.  The current manager is Dr. Keeny’s daughter Phaethon; and the lobby now boasts a café with locally-made refreshments.

It’s on the “circuit” for many touring musicians, such as Maria Muldaur and John Sebastian, who are well-known to the Big Island’s sizable population of baby-boomers.  On April 3, for example, the theater will feature bluegrass dobro-guitar virtuoso Jerry Douglas, playing with Hawaiian slack-key guitar giants Ledward Ka’apana and Mike Ka’awa.  One-night-only acts like these can command top ticket prices of $40 or more.  But regular first-run movie tickets at the People’s are only . . . (wait for it) . . . $6.

Visit for schedules and more info.

“The Trial of Lili‘uokalani”

By Kelly Moran

 “The Trial of Lili‘uokalani”

It’s 1895.  Hawaiian nationalists have tried – but failed – to restore the Queen and her government by force of arms.  Convicted of treason against the new Republic, they’ve been sentenced to death.  And now Lili‘uokalani  — the deposed Queen — faces an American military court, accused of knowing her people were going to rise up, and not stopping them.
This month, the Hilo Community Players present The Trial of Lili‘uokalani, a historical drama about these real events and historical figures, with some characters created by the playwright to personify loyalties in conflict.  In the throne room and the court room, we see the loss of her kingdom and her husband; the frustrations of her supporters; the defense of her reign against the men who ended it . . . and the political undertow of America’s westward “manifest destiny.”  Atop a stellar cast, as the Queen, is Jackie Pualani Johnson, celebrated local actor, and chair of UH-Hilo’s Performing Arts Dept.  Directing the play is Justina Taft  Mattos, PhD, director of “Much Ado About Nothing” for HCP’s Shakespeare in the Park; the Palace Theater musical “Once Upon One Noddah Time;” and UH-Hilo’s production of “Go Dog, Go.”

The Trial of Lili‘uokalani was written here in Hilo in 1973 by Maurice Zimring, a Hollywood screenwriter who’d retired to Keaukaha – a largely Hawaiian community — and was active in the Big Island Press Club.  Drawing on remembrances, books, archives and transcripts, Zimring combined historical figures and dramatic characters to create this drama of patriotism and passion.



[In The Trial of Lili‘uokalani, politics threatens the budding romance between Jenny Thornton (Nicole Cowan), daughter of the leading Annexationist, and Paki Kealoha (Ray Campainha), the firebrand Hawaiian nationalist.  Can the Queen (Jackie Pualini Johnson) bring them together?]


2013 is a significant year for this play.  It is the 120th anniversary of the Queen’s overthrow, the 50th anniversary of the creation of the play, and the 75th anniversary of the Hilo Community Players (HCP), the second-oldest theatrical organization in the Islands.  HCP’s mission is “to educate, enrich and entertain” through theater.  So the program for the show is also a study-guide that leads the playgoer to explore what Hawaii was like in the 1890s, and to understand the people who lived what the playwright and the players bring to the stage.



[In The Trial of Lili‘uokalani,  the fate of the Queen (Jackie Pualani Johnson) hangs in the balance, as Presiding Judge Whiting (Peter Veseskis, l.) and defense counsel Paul Neumann (Randal McEndree, r.) argue over her indictment for misprision of treason.]


The Trial of Lili‘uokalani will be performed upstairs at the East Hawaii Cultural Center (EHCC), 141 Kalakaua St. in downtown Hilo.  Friday and Saturday evening shows start at 7 p.m. on September 6, 7, 13, 14, 20 and 21.  Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. on September 8, 15 and 22.  Individual tickets are $15 at the door; $10 in advance and for students with ID; $5 for keiki 12 and under.  Group discounts are available (by advance-sale only) at $9 each in blocks of ten or more; and at $8 each in blocks of twenty or more.

For tickets, please phone the box office at EHCC: 808-961-5711.  For more information about the production, or more background on the play, please contact my friend Hal Glatzer, who is Secretary of the Hilo Community Players.  Email or phone 808-895-4816.

The Man in the Sculpture Garden

By Kelly Moran

The Man in the Sculpture Garden

In 1969, Henry Bianchini and his family were sailing their trimaran from San Diego to a new life Hawaii. From far out at sea, they saw Kilauea erupt at Mauna Ulu. It wasn’t obvious, at that moment, but the Bianchinis would stay and make their home here, and Henry – Hank to his friends – would become one of the Big Island’s most respected and successful artists.

He works in many media. As a painter, he does oil portraits and abstracts on canvas. As a sculptor, he works in ceramics, wood, stone and cast concrete, not only carving individual pieces but joining them in assemblages and collages. And as a metal-worker in bronze and steel, he employs heavy machinery and wields a welding torch to make both sculptures for display and artistic but utilitarian pieces such as driveway gates. His studio is almost as big as his house, and behind them both is a half-acre backyard sculpture garden that is also his largest gallery.

Some of his works are whimsical and abstract, like “Enlightening the Spirit,” installed at Ha’aheo Elementary School, near Hilo; or “Rain Woman,” which is in a private collection. Others, like his statue of Hawaii’s King Kalakaua, installed in downtown Hilo’s eponymous Kalakaua Park, are life-size and naturalistic.

Rain Woman In Sculpture Garden

“Rain Woman” stands in a private collection, overlooking Hilo.


Still others mix the figurative with the imaginative, as he showed last month when he unveiled his latest grand-scale work. It was commissioned by a longtime patron in Los Angeles who wanted a sculpture, in his late wife’s memory, to be installed at his synagogue. Called “A Plea for Peace,” it incorporates symbolic Hebrew letters into the figures whose arms are raised to plea.

A Plea for Peace - Installed

“A Plea for Peace” has been installed in a Los Angeles synogogue.


Making it, took Bianchini back to 1941, when he was six, on St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands. His father was an Italian-American from New Jersey, serving in the U.S. Navy, and married to a Moroccan Jew from what was then called Palestine. When Nazi submarines started prowling the Caribbean, his and other service families were evacuated; so he has long had empathy for families who were lost elsewhere, in the war, and how important it is, still, to remember.

Henry Bianchini with A Plea for Peace

Sculptor Henry Bianchini with his new work, “A Plea for Peace.”


It wasn’t his family’s first or last move: before Hawaii, he’d lived in New Jersey, San Diego, even the Canadian province of Newfoundland. “Maybe it’s because we moved around a lot when I was a kid,” he said, “but in my art, I tend to skip the details and go straight to the essence. I look at everything, at the big picture, which is why my sculptures are typically simple. I have to describe myself as an ‘artist,’ but that word is inadequate. I’m multi-layered and adaptable.”

If you ask him about the key influences on his art, he’ll respond: “Picasso and Matisse – but that doesn’t say it all. I could get into specifics about the periods in those artists’ creative lives that inspired me – the years when they were the bridges between Post-Impressionism and Modernism. But that doesn’t say enough, either. Maybe it’s better to say my art is a kind of jazz.” (In his youth he did, in fact, try playing jazz saxophone, but quickly realized that his real talents were in the visual arts.) “I say jazz, meaning improvising on a theme,” he explained. “Where it starts – the inspiration – and where it ends – the finished work – is what I see in its entirety.”

There’s more about Henry Bianchini, and photos of his works, at

What’s So Funny About Nuns?

By Kelly Moran

What’s So Funny About Nuns?

Everybody knows that “Broadway” means big theatrical extravaganzas, but in New York, “off-Broadway” shows are smaller productions in smaller theaters or even cabarets.  Now, one of the most famous and popular of off-Broadway shows is coming to the Big Island.  It’s the outrageous, hilarious (and slightly irreverent) musical “Nunsense.”  Performances start February 8th at the Kilauea Theater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; shows are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, and 2:30 p.m. Sundays, through February 23rd.

As you might expect, “Nunsense” is about Catholic nuns, five of them, and they are in a pickle.  Nearly all of the sisters in their convent have perished accidentally, and the survivors decide to stage a variety show to raise money so they can bury them.  To put the best face on their predicament, they tap into their inner divas, singing, dancing, and – not always intentionally – clowning around.

(l-r) Christina Hussey, Stephanie Becher, Kathy Frankovic, Erin Gallagher and Corey Yester, in “Nunsense.”

Producer-Director Suzi Bond is a bundle of energy who regularly presents two musicals a year at the Kilauea Theater.  One is typically for and with children, such as “Peter Pan” and “Beauty and the Beast” (which is coming up this summer); the other offers more grownup fare, such as “The Fantasticks” and the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas.  Three of the five “nuns” are well-loved veterans of Suzi’s shows: in last year’s “Cinderella,” Stephanie Becher, Erin Gallagher and Christina Hussey were (respectively) the stepmother and the two ugly stepsisters.  Kathy Frankovic has sung in two musicals at Hilo’s Palace Theater, including “The Music Man” in which Corey Yester was Marian the Librarian.

To say “Nunsense” is a theater classic is an understatement. The original New York production ran for nine years – it’s the third-longest-running off-Broadway show ever.  It spawned a couple of spinoffs, and is widely performed all over the world in twenty different languages.  The reasons for its success go beyond its hilarity: there’s sympathy for the sisters’ lifestyle as well as their predicament, and there is quite a lot of interaction with the audience, in both expected and unexpected ways.

Kathy plays the Mother Superior and says – with a hint of what her character will do in the name of show-business – “It’s falling-down funny!”

Tickets are $15; students and seniors pay $12; children $10.  Advance sales are available at the Kilauea General Store in Volcano, Kea’au Natural Foods in the Kea’au Shopping Center, and at Paradise Plants and The Most Irresistible Shop in Hilo.  For reservations and more information, phone 982-7344.

See Us at the Movies


By Kelly Moran

See Us at the Movies

Most people know that South Pacific and From Here to Eternity were filmed on Kauai and Oahu, respectively.  But while the Big Island isn’t widely famous as a backdrop for movies, quite a few have been shot – or have had scenes shot – here.

The first were silent pictures, like The Hidden Pearls (1918) and The White Flower (1923), with backdrops of Kilauea Volcano.   When talkies came in, Four Frightened People (1934) was shot in Hilo; Hawaiian Buckaroo (1938) on the Parker Ranch in Waimea; and Song of the Islands (1942) in Puna – though, sadly, its Kapoho and Kalapana locations have since been covered by lava.

Those films are obscure today, and hard to find, even on Turner Classic Movies.  Later films with Big Island scenes are better-known.  Kona Coast (1968) a melodrama starring Richard Boone, was shot almost entirely (you guessed it) in and around Kailua-Kona.  Black Widow (1985), a mystery-thriller, followed stars Debra Winger and Theresa Russell to Kona, to Volcano, and to the office blocks of downtown Hilo.

More often, though, the Big Island stands in for imaginary or faraway places.  Waterworld (1994), a science-fiction epic set in a future where the oceans had risen and swamped the continents, was shot looking seaward from the harbor at Kawaihae.  The longest car-chase in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008), ostensibly taking place in South America, was actually filmed in Puna, along a private road near Kea’au.  And a gender-bent version of The Tempest (2010), starring Helen Mirren, used bleak West Hawaii lava fields and lush East Hawaii parks for the surreal landscapes of Shakespeare’s magical isle.

Shakespeare’s The Tempest
(In Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Helen Mirren – as the sorceress Prospera – stands in a West Hawaii lava field. Those flames, however, are a digital artifact, added by computer in post-production.)

Only a small part of The Descendants (2011) was shot on the Big Island: a drive along the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, and a visit to the Hawaii Preparatory Academy in Waimea.  (The rest was filmed on Oahu and Kauai.)   But the movie is widely acknowledged, here in the Islands, to be the most realistic depiction of everyday life in Hawaii — at least, among prosperous kama’aina haoles — that Hollywood has ever produced.

Japanese tourism is big business here, so it should not be surprising that Japanese studios make movies here, too.  The historical drama Picture Bride (1993) was set in 1918, and filmed on the Hamakua Coast; and Honoka’a Boy (2008), filmed in and around (yes) Honoka’a, went on to win four Japanese cinema awards.

Some television programs have been made here too, including a segment of the 2001 season of The Amazing Race that brought globetrotting contestants to Kona, and a week’s worth of the game show Wheel of Fortune in 2008, taped at a South Kohala resort.  The only TV series ever entirely shot and set here on the Big Island was Roseanne’s Nuts (2011), a “reality” show about comedienne Roseanne Barr on her macadamia farm near Honoka’a.

Are you interested in making cinema or video here?  Contact John L. Mason, commissioner of the Big Island Film Office, headquartered in Kailua-Kona.  Besides keeping a list of locally-shot films, his office has a photo archive of prospective locations, maintains a database of local resources for equipment, crew and support services, and helps producers expedite the permit process.

The Palace Gets a New Crown

By Kelly Moran

The Palace Gets a New Crown

A new roof is going on the Palace Theater, but most folks won’t notice because the shape will stay the same. Hilo’s last surviving “picture palace” retains much of its original 1925 appearance, from the neon sign over Haili St. to the Art Deco tiles and paint jobs in the lobby and the auditorium.

The Palace is one of three movie theaters in Hilo. There’s an eight-screen multiplex in the mall at Prince Kuhio Plaza, for 3D and mega-hits, though also for live HD broadcasts of Broadway shows and opera from the Met in New York. And there’s the Kress multiplex, downtown on Kalakaua St. where half a dozen films go after they’ve run at the mall, for only $1.50! (The next-closest theater showing movies on a regular basis is the People’s Theater, a 40-mile drive up the Hamakua Coast, in Honokaa.)

The Palace is something of an “art house” most of what’s screened are independent productions and foreign-language films, and prices fall between the mall’s and Kress’s. Surfing movies draw big crowds to The Palace, and so do outdoor and conservation pics. A special treat at The Palace, once or twice a year, is the opportunity to see a silent movie from the ‘20s, accompanied – as it was then – by an enormous pipe organ, for The Palace is home to the only surviving theater organ in Hawaii.

Palace Theater

But films aren’t all you can see at The Palace. A 45-minute stage show called “Hawaiiana Live” is performed every Wednesday at 11 a.m., free of charge; it’s popular with visitors, and many local folks take visiting family, to get a taste of Hawaiian mele (song) and hula (dance).

Annual festivals and unique performances are also in The Palace’s calendar. In any given month there might be a classical music series showcasing young performers, a celebration of Taiko drums, a recital by the Puna Men’s Chorus . . . even an organ concert.

And every October, the Palace hosts the Fall Musical, a production of the local theatrical community. Past shows include “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and – coming up this Fall – “Jesus Christ, Superstar.”

As I was saying, The Palace still has much of its original charm . . . but it also some of its aging infrastructure. Earthquake-bracing, modern sprinklers, and other code- and safety work has been done, so now it’s the roof’s turn. The materials will be new, but the new roof will keep the same familiar shape. It’s all thanks to historic-preservation grants, and to donations made to the “Crown” Project by local theater-goers, through the not-for-profit Friends of the Palace Theater [].

Hooray for them!