>> Musical comedy “Avenue Q” returns to Manoa Valley Theatre
“Avenue Q,” a coming-of-age tale that combines “Sesame Street”-style puppetry with not-very-childlike satire, returns to Manoa Valley Theatre.
The hysterical musical, first staged by MVT in 2011, features the unusual presentation of actors appearing in full view of the audience while performing with hand puppets. Audiences alternatively find themselves watching the humans or thepuppets, often to hilarious effect — as when characters Princeton (Chev-Vaughn Lum) and Kate Monster (Jody Bill, reprising the role) engage in some furious puppet-on-puppet action. More funny moments include a song about searchingthe internet for pornography, a song about everyone being “a little bit racist,” and the tune “Schadenfreude,” about enjoying someone else’s misfortune.
The story concerns Princeton, a recent college graduate wondering what to do with his degree, arriving on a shabby street full of oddball characters, some human, some puppet, nearly all of whom are having a midlife crisis of sorts andcomplaining that “It Sucks to be Me.” As usual, they’re all seeking romance, success, happiness and fulfillment.
Created by Robert Lopez and composer/lyricist Jeff Marx, with book by Jeff Whitty, “Avenue Q” has been a smash hit on Broadway since its debut 15 years ago, winning three Tony Awards. The Broadway production closes in April.
MVT’s 2011 staging of the musical was the theater’s most popular production ever, drawing sellout audiences over an extended run that ended because the puppets needed to be returned. This staging already has sold out several shows.
Presented by Manoa Valley Theatre
>> Where: Manoa Valley Theatre
>> When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; also 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 3
>> Cost: $22 to $40
>> Info: 988-6131, manoavalleytheatre.com
>> Pop/trap singer MiMi makes headliner debut
Hawaii’s newest young recording artist, the West Side resident known professionally as MiMi, is making her hometown debut as a nightclub headliner tomorrow at Da Crawfish and Crabshack restaurant in Kapolei. The 18-year-oldsinger/dancer, born Kiani Mieko Saballa, shares the stage with native New Yorker hip-hip artist Elijah The Boy. Hawaii hip-hop veterans Krystilez and DJ Osna (aka Osnizzle), both founding members of the Angry Locals, add more star power to the event.
The past year has been a spectacular ride for the self-styled pop/trap princess. MiMi took her first steps into the music business with encouragement from Laga Savea and multi-Na Hoku Hanohano Award-winner George “Fiji” Veikoso. She continued fromthere with guidance from one of Veikoso’s friends, record producer Damon Elliott (aka NomaD).
Last April, MiMi debuted as a recording artist with a download-only single. Three more singles and a series of performances at mainland highschools boosted her visibility. She’s now working with song writer/record producer Avyon “AV” Ndlovu on the songs for her first complete full-length CD, scheduled for release this spring.
— John Berger, Star-Advertiser
>> Where: Da Crawfish and Crabshack, 590 Farrington Highway
>> When: 7 p.m. Saturday
>> Cost: $20 to $25
>> Info: 260-1934
>> Guitar/Hawaiian music legend honored
Hawaiian music and Hawaiian musicians had a huge influence on American music and entertainment a century ago, decades before statehood. The ukulele became so popular that manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand. The steel guitar became one of the essential building blocks of 20th century country music and blues.
Hawaiian musicians also inspired innovation. Master luthier and music historian Kilin Reece has documented a direct link from the 1915 Martin Guitar Company’s Kealakai model acoustic guitar, designed for and with Mekia Kealaka‘i (Royal Hawaiian Band master between 1920 and 1932) to the development of the Martin “Dreadnought,” one of the world’s most iconic guitar designs.
Reece celebrates Kealaka‘i’s contributions as a musician, songwriter and bandmaster with “A Night of Sovereign Strings: Celebrating the Musical Legacy of Mekia Kealaka‘i,” on Saturday and Sunday. Joining him are former Royal Hawaiian bandmaster Aaron Mahi, Puka and Adam Asing, Jeff Au Hoy, Raiatea Helm, Keauhou, Ian O’Sullivan, Jeff Peterson, Anna Callner, Duane Padilla, Lance Suzuki, Fumiko Wellington, and Maika‘i Nash with members of the Orvis Opera Studio.
The Royal Hawaiian Band Glee Club gives a special performance 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
— John Berger, Star-Advertiser
“A NIGHT OF SOVEREIGN STRINGS”
Celebrating the musical legacy of Mekia Kealaka’i
>> Where: Doris Duke Theatre, Honolulu Museum
>> When: 7 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday
>> Cost: $55
>> Info: honolulumuseum.org
>> Newly renovated theater presents ‘In the Heights’
“In the Heights,” the musical that brought the remarkable talents of Lin-Manuel Miranda to the fore, opens at the newly renovated Leeward Theatre on Thursday.
The musical set in a gritty New York City neighborhood blends rap with salsa and other Latin musical styles as well as traditional Broadway numbers. With a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes (“Water by the Spoonful”) and music and lyrics from Miranda, it won four Tony Awards.
“In the Heights” portrays the colorful residents of Washington Heights. Usnavi (Sterling Beair, pictured center), owner of a bodega, longs to return to his native Dominican Republican; Nina, (Kimie Fujioka, left), the first in the community to “make it out” of the barrio and go to college, is struggling to stay there; and Sonny (Jay Laeno, second from right) is a jokester with a passion for social justice. Other characters include Vanessa (Melani Carrie) and Benny (Darian Aqino). A winning lottery ticket sold at Usnavi’s bodega, a blackout that leads to looting and romantic tensions add to the drama.
The production, full of spirited dances and clever rap songs, should get a first-rate presentation at the rehabilitated Leeward Theatre, which over the last two years has installed new lighting and a new sound system and added seating. “In the Heights” is the facility’s first production since its renovation.
“IN THE HEIGHTS”
>> Where: Leeward Theatre, Leeward Community College, 96-045 Ala Ike St., Pearl City
>> When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18 and Jan. 19; also 7:30 p.m. Jan. 24 through Jan. 26
>> Cost: $15 to $25
>> Info: 455-0380, lcctheatre.hawaii.edu