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Do it: Improvaganza, Iggy Jang, Fandango


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COURTESY FIVE DEADLY IMPROVISERS

FRIDAY-SUNDAY 

Festival offers 3 days of off-the-cuff comedy 

Prepare to laugh your belly off at Improvaganza, the 10th annual festival of improv comedy and theater this weekend. Wait, maybe you can’t prepare, since it’s all improvised. 

The three-day event features 15 improv troupes from around the world, including the West Coast, Phoenix, Minneapolis, and Auckland, New Zealand. Honolulu and Maui groups will also perform. 

The performances take place at two Chinatown venues, The ARTS at Marks Garage and Kumu Kahua Theatre, at 90-minute intervals, so you can go from venue to venue in search of your biggest and best laughs. Many of the groups will perform twice, so you can catch a group that you might have missed or see a favorite one again. There’s also a huge "mash-up" event Sunday evening at the ARTS at Marks Garage. 

Among this year’s featured headliners is San Francisco’s Five Deadly Improvisers, who use audience suggestion to build an improvised martial arts movie. They’ll be at Kumu Kahua Theatre at 7:30 p.m., Friday, and at The ARTS at Marks Garage 10:30 p.m. Saturday. 

Another headliner, The Improv Bandits, comes from New Zealand. Formed in 1998, they’ve been invited to the famed Chicago Improv Festival five times and are considered one of the best improv groups in the world. They perform 9 p.m., Saturday, at The ARTS at Mark’s Garage. 

Hawaii groups include Double Improv Rainbows, Commedia Dell’Arte, Think Fast, It’s not Wolves, In Yo Face, Screwbuki, ImprovHI and Free Range Comedy from Maui. 

Where: Kumu Kahua Theatre, 46 Merchant St., and at The ARTS at Marks Garage, 1159 Nuuanu Ave. 

When: 7:30, 9, and 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at both venues: 7 p.m. Sunday at The ARTS at Marks Garage only 

Cost: $10 per show; passes from $60 

Info: improvaganza.com or fb.com/improvaganzahi 

COURTESY BRAD GODA PHOTOGRAPHY

SATURDAY-SUNDAY

A jazzy, evocative rendition of tango

The Hawaii Symphony Orchestra opens its Halekulani Masterworks series this weekend with a program of symphonic poems that evoke a sense of place: tango master Astor Piazolla’s "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires," featuring concertmaster Iggy Jang on violin, and two pieces from Respighi’s "Roman Trilogy": "Pines of Rome" and "Fountains of Rome."

Jang’s childhood interest in tango music, the sensual dance from Argentina and Uruguay, has resurfaced recently, starting a couple of years ago when he brought dancers and musicians from around the world to Hawaii for sold-out performances and demonstrations. JoAnn Falletta, symphony artistic director, discovered his interest last year and decided "we have just got to convince Iggy to do the Piazzolla." She said his intuitive feel for the music is paying off.

"He’s taking a lot of liberties with the solo, and he’s playing it in the kind of style that a tango player would," she said. "He’s using it almost in a sort of jazz-like, improvisatory way, and that will help us. He’s definitely going to be a large part of coaching us about what he wants and the right way to play this tango."

Respighi’s "Roman Trilogy" is probably the composer’s most popular work and is known for its technological as well as musical achievements. "Pines" is known for its fourth movement, in which the music conjures the image of a victorious Roman army, with the brass blaring in from the balcony. The third movement features the first use of a recording with an orchestra, a nightingale’s song chosen by Respighi to fit in with the music.

The Respighi works are "tour de forces for orchestra," Falletta said. " Respighi writes these incredible, surround-sound, cinematic canvases of incredible orchestra, a big orchestra, wonderful images in both ‘Fountains of Rome’ and the ‘Pines of Rome,’ which are about four fountains and four different places with pine trees in Rome."

Falletta said audiences are in for a treat with the symphony’s fourth season, adding that its custom of planning over the short term — negotiating with artists three to four months before the season as opposed to the more traditional two years — is working surprisingly well. "We can be more immediate and respond to things that have worked well, to things that are current, and to what we think audiences look for," she said. "We’re starting to feel like we’re growing into something more complete."

Where: Blaisdell Concert Hall

When: 7:30 p.m Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $34-$92

Info: ticketmaster.com or 866-448-7849

COURTESY FANDANGO

SUNDAY 

Quartet brings exotic baroque blend to isle  

Fandango, a Chicago quartet, brings its exotic blend of Latin, Spanish, Sephardic, Balkan and baroque music to Hawaii Theatre to open its 2015-2016 season.

Eugenia Moliner, flute, Desiree Ruhstrat, violin, Denis Azabagic, guitar, and David Cunliffe, cello, make up the ensemble. They’ve played in various combinations and permutations around the world, but their Hawaii appearance will be their first as Fandango (also the term for a vibrant Spanish dance).

Moliner and Azabagic are a husband-and-wife team who specialized in Sephardic music as the Cavatina Duo. They joined forces with Ruhstrat and Cunliffe, another married couple, who as part of the acclaimed Lincoln Trio earned a Grammy nomination for "Annelies," a work based on the "Diary of Anne Frank." The trio was known for its refined presentations of the standard chamber music repertoire as well as promoting new music.

The program includes selections from the classic works of Vivaldi, Telemann and and de Falla, as well as modern compositions by American composers Alan Thomas and Carlos Rivera that were commissioned by Azabagic and Moliner and based on Sephardic melodies. 

For those unfamiliar with this type of music, the group’s casual presentation may help. They like to speak to the audience as well as each other during concerts. 

Where: Hawaii Theatre 

When: 4 p.m. Sunday 

Cost: $40-$45 

Info: hawaiitheatre.com or 528-0506 

COURTESY DIAMOND HEAD THEATRE

FRIDAY OCT. 18

Alison Maldonado leads in Diamond Head Theatre’s season opener

Its been a long time coming for her, but when Diamond Head Theatre’s season-opener production of "Sister Act" starts Friday, Hawaii theater veteran Alison Maldonado will finally make her debut in a lead role. The show is Broadway’s version of the 1992 comedy about an aspiring singer named Deloris Van Cartier, who ends up hiding out in a convent under the alias "Sister Mary Clarence" after she sees her gangster boyfriend and some of his "crew" shoot someone they suspect of "squealing" to the cops. 

Comedienne Whoopi Goldberg starred as Van Cartier in the film. Maldonado is Van Cartier at DHT. 

"I remember watching this movie in theaters back in the ’90s, and how much I enjoyed singing along to all of the Motown music," Maldonado said via email during the final week of rehearsals. "But when Whoopi came on screen, I remember thinking, ‘Wow, she doesn’t look like any of the other Hollywood starlets making movies,’ and that thought made me really happy. It was so cool to see this lovely brown girl be the star of this movie. She was one of my favorite actresses, and I was just mesmerized by her performance." 

The production is also an opportunity for Maldonado to work with visiting director Andrew Sakaguchi. ("I just love working with him," she said.) They last worked together when DHT did "Hairspray" in 2011. 

"Hairspray" is another entry in the long list of shows Maldonado has appeared in since she made her island debut in "Call Me Madame" at Army Community Theatre in 1988. She’s steadily advanced since then and has had ever-more prominent roles at Diamond Head Theatre, Manoa Valley Theatre and Paliku Theatre. 

Maldonado points to "Showboat," the first Broadway musical to address the topic of racism in a modern and realistic way, as a significant performance for her. 

"Getting to play Queenie in ‘Showboat’ at DHT in 2014 was at the top of my bucket list of roles I wanted to play," she said. "The musical has great songs, and the story line, which deals with racism, is definitely relevant and poignant today. 

"Now getting to play Sister Mary Clarence (aka Deloris Van Cartier) might just knock it off the top! I identify so much with this character and her desire to perform," Maldonado said. "I like the challenge of peeling back the layers and learning how to play this particular role."

Where: Diamond Head Theatre, 520 Makapuu Avenue 

When: 8 p.m. Friday; continues 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 11. Also at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Oct. 17 and 4 p.m. Oct. 18. 

Cost: $15-50 

Info: 733-0274 or diamondheadtheatre.com 

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