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Fresh approach to material reinvigorates pidgin musical

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    Pomai Lopez (Da Wicked Queen) and Daryl Bonilla (Da Mean Mongoose) assume the roles originally played by Lisa Matsumoto and Patrick Fujioka in Manoa Valley Theatre's "Once Upon One Time."

Country star Tim McGraw’s recent hit, "If You’re Reading This," includes the words: "If you’re reading this/There’s gonna come a day/When you’ll move on/And find someone else/And, baby, that’s OK." Manoa Valley Theatre’s summer production of "Once Upon One Time" shows that sentiment can apply equally well to theater.

The show is the first community theater production of playwright Lisa Matsumoto’s definitive pidgin musical since her death in 2007, and only the second time another actor has had to play a role Matsumoto wrote and developed for herself.

The core group of actors Matsumoto featured in her shows are absent for other reasons, but that heightens the sense of moving on. MVT guest director Elitei Tatafu Jr. and his talented cast make that surprisingly easy to do.


Where: Manoa Valley Theatre, 2833 E. Manoa Road

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 3:30 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 8

Cost: $35 general admission; $20, age 25 and younger

Info: Call 988-6131 or


After all, the show is Matsumoto’s ever-popular amalgamation of ideas from MAD magazine, Rocky & Bullwinkle’s "Fractured Fairy Tales," Kent Bowman and Abbott and Costello’s "Who’s On First?" routine.

The recipe never gets old for Hawaii audiences, and, as always, the comic characters stand out.

Da Menehunes — Shawn Thompson (Who), Chris Riel (Wat), Braddoc DeCaires (Wen), Allan J.N. Lau (Wea), Marvin Miyoshi (Why) and Allan Okubo (How Come) — are a tightly synchronized team. Single-monikered Kala’au has several good scenes as the dim-witted hunter. Michael Ng (Narrator 1) and Jarrod Kamakoa Bailon (Narrator 2) are also assets to the production.

Cross-dressing performers and stereotypical Filipino characters have been a staple part of Matsumoto’s musicals from the beginning.

Michael Pa’ekukui as Da Mean Step Motherr (sic), Blaise Baldonado as Hauna and Chevy Martinez as Tanataran uphold both those traditions in crowd-pleasing style.

Most important in the "moving on" process is the success of Pomai Lopez (Da Wicked Queen) and Daryl Bonilla (Da Mean Mongoose) in stepping into the roles originated and developed by Matsumoto and Patrick Fujioka, respectively.

Director Tatafu improves on Matsumoto’s work in one respect.

Much of the dialogue consists of characters being rude to other characters and with "outsider" characters who speak standard English typically being objects of ridicule. Tatafu’s take feels a bit kinder and gentler in that respect, making "Once Upon One Time" even more suitable for audiences of all ages.


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