Gridiron 2017’s biggest challenge is perhaps trying to top the daily stream of folly, farce and downright ridiculousness that has overtaken the “real news.”
With ample comedy fodder generated at home and in Washington in the two years since its last staging, audience expectations were understandably high during a dress rehearsal performance of “Real Fake News” at Diamond Head Theatre on Aug. 30.
And while there were fewer thigh-slappers and cut-to-the-bone parodies than in years past, there was plenty to chuckle at, including Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui (Jason Kasamoto) bemoaning his lonely man status in the Ige administration and tap-dancing cockroaches at a favorite drive-in.
It should be noted that the Gridiron show, a fundraiser for Society of Professional Journalists-Hawaii Chapter’s internship program, is largely put on by amateur theater performers. The cast includes some of Hawaii’s top journalists, government flacks and communications professionals, as well as a few ringers.
The sluggish first act didn’t get rolling until eight bits in, with a large production number on Honolulu’s rail troubles, “Nobody Wants to Run Hart,” sung to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and featuring Jocelyn Cua-Racoma, Chad Blair, Ben Gutierrez, Keoki Kerr and the ensemble singing:
Turn around, choo choo.
Watch the bills for funding fall apart.
Turn around, choo choo
Did we put the horse before the cart?
Leading into intermission, a near-comatose Gov. David Ige (Chance Gusukuma) crooned “I am Ige, I’m a bore; all my speeches make you snore … ,” set to Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman.”
The guv then found himself surrounded by bouncy cheerleaders, led by Malika Dudley, who tried to energize him with a takeoff on the Toni Basil hit “Mickey”:
Oh Ige, you so shy,
You so shy, you low-key guy, hey Ige! Hey Ige!
Oh Ige, you da kine,
You da kine, jus’ like one mime, hey Ige! Hey Ige!
Other newsmakers and topics taking a hit during the show were embattled former police chief Louis Kealoha, “The Republican Five” of the state Legislature, commercial sponsorship of public parks, the homeless, luxury development in Kakaako, locals being priced out of Ala Moana Center by high-end boutiques (“Can’t do the sales at Bloomingdales, and what the hell is Miu Miu?”), and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un (a maniacal Lance Rae).
Once again slick music videos elicited the biggest howls of the night. The first featured preening Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (Mahealani Richardson) singing to the tune of “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana”:
I’ve been traveling often over water
So much that I can’t remember just how many times or why.
I’m Mike Gabbard’s most famous daughter
A high-profile Congress member
What you expect I’ll defy.
Every trip I take, every time I fly
Off to Syria or to block pipelines
Everywhere I go, I cannot say no,
Everywhere I’ll be …
See the camera and the lights and the mic, they call me
They all know, that I’ll go.
CNN, MSNBC, Fox, they all call me
And I’ll go.
But the fine print says I’m not at your town hall.
The second music video brought the return of Donalyn Dela Cruz as a clog-wearing, cocky-as-hell Colleen Hanabusa taunting Ige about his re-election efforts in “Might be Hanabusa Time,” set to Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time.”
Also back was the Hawaii Five-0 squad, guns drawn to investigate a musubi robbery at the Mililani Foodland.
Seasoned stage performer Cathy Foy, always a show stopper, bitterly lamented the Biki bike-share racks, singing “Can’t Park Around Here Any More,” and in an Act 2 skit found hidden depths to the term “futless” in reference to Mayor Kirk Caldwell (Kerr).
Other notable performances were turned in by Jodi Leong as a feisty Mazie Hirono, Christine Strobel as the middle-finger-flipping Hawaii delegate to the Democratic Convention, and Moani Wright-Van Alst, Gordon Pang and Kerry Yoshida in multiple roles.
In between all the good humor were pointed reminders of the importance of serious journalism and an unfettered press. For what would the Gridiron be without the stories uncovered by Hawaii’s press corps? Bravo!
The four performances of Gridiron 2017 “Real Fake News” at 8 p.m. tonight and Sept. 1, and 3 and 8 p.m. Sept. 2 are sold out. A small number of seats may become available on the day of the show and will be sold at the door on a cash-only basis for $55 and $75. The ticket desk outside Diamond Head Theatre will open 90 minutes before each performance.