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Ingenuity and creativity enliven ‘Showstoppers’

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Hawaii’s community theater groups don’t have the luxury of responding to the state’s ongoing economic crisis by raiding special funds, quadrupling ticket prices or lobbying for an increase in the excise tax to support their programs.

‘Showstoppers’

» Where: Richardson Theatre, Fort Shafter
» When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, through March 13
» Cost: $20 adults, $15 children
» Info: 438-4480 or www.armytheatre.com
» Note: Civilians are welcome but should be prepared to show ID, vehicle registration and proof of insurance

For most, the only viable options are getting the most from the resources at hand and cutting production costs where possible without reducing the quality of their shows.

Army Community Theatre managing and artistic director Brett Harwood did that last summer with his imaginative production of "Nine," and he’s doing it again with an aptly titled original musical revue "Showstoppers."

Harwood deploys a cast of almost three dozen performers through more than two hours of numbers culled from seven decades of Broadway musicals. Costumes and sets are minimal, but "Showstoppers" is a solid evening of entertainment.

The biggest "wow" moment is Raymon del Barrio’s superbly executed solo interpretation of "Mr. Bojangles," a number that displays his formidable talents as a dancer, choreographer and singer. Del Barrio utilizes the entire stage in a glorious celebration of the magic of motion and captures the poignancy of the lyrics as well.

Several other performers also stand out. Guy Merola illuminates every subtlety and nuance in "Bring Him Home," and Shawna Masuda touches the heart and soul with "On My Own," both songs from "Les Miserables." Madison Eror brings out the full range of emotions in "Quiet," from a show that has yet to open on Broadway.

Sam Hesch balances a strong voice and commanding skills as an actor in "Gethsemane" ("Jesus Christ Superstar"), Brianna Pratt does a beautiful job with "Defying Gravity" ("Wicked"), while Jennifer Sojot earns applause for her skill blending irony and frustration in "Send In The Clowns" ("A Little Night Music").

Brett Hudson delivers "Try To Remember" ("The Fantasticks") with engaging simplicity, and Ingrid Harwood requires no "American Idol"-style theatrics to convey the emotions in "You’ll Never Walk Alone" ("Carousel").

Dramatic performances and Grace Bell’s choreography are key components in the success of "Big Spender" ("Sweet Charity"), an ensemble performance by the female members of the cast. It’s no secret that "paid women" are often bored and heartily dismissive of their masculine prey, but it would be hard to find a group that could sound more jaded or less enthusiastic than this bunch. It’s a clever comic approach to the familiar number.

Choreography, staging and the work of musical directors Lina Doo and Peter Rucci also come together beautifully in the "Hair" medley that closes Act 1.

Harwood adds a visual component to "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" ("Mary Poppins") by having cast members hold the individual letters and move them in unison while the stage is bathed in "black light."

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