Show Biz: Willie K delivers footloose performance
What makes Willie K so mesmerizing? I wondered, after missing his Blue Note Hawaii performances for four months, and it dawned on me at his July 9 show why he’s authentically cool.
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What makes Willie K so mesmerizing? I wondered, after missing his Blue Note Hawaii performances for four months, and it dawned on me at his July 9 show why he’s authentically cool: his shoelessness.
He had rubbah slippahs on, which he shucked, stretching his toes playfully, a characteristic element of his impromptu style.
Being barefoot gave the barefoot boy style and grit. He was chipper and chatty, and he had gusto and radiated artistry on everything he sang. Old Hawaiian faves, from his father’s time; signatures like “Katchi Katchi Music Makawao.” A left fielder, “Appleberry Hill,” which he figured a Toronto woman wanted to hear (instead of “Blueberry Hill,” the Fats Domino oldie which he said he doesn’t do).
The evening’s keeper: “Every Man Has a Strong Woman,” a virtually unknown original he wrote, with a universal statement and sentiment every relationship should uphold.
Maybe he’ll do this last tune again at his next Blue Note visit on Aug. 9. …
Isle actors in Tokyo
Ruthie Ann Miles, the Hawaii-reared actress who won a Tony Award as Lady Thiang in Lincoln Center Theater’s “The King and I,” returned to the cast for the opening weekend (July 11 to 15) of a Tokyo production at the Tokyu Theatre Orb in Shibuya, Tokyo.
“So nice to be reunited with her,” said Greg Zane, an island actor-dancer-choreographer, via email. They both have roots in the original Lincoln Theater revival, so there’s a Hawaii presence backstage, too. “Two 808 peeps doing Hawaii proud in exciting Tokyo,” he said. Or, in island parlance, a super hana hou.
Miles’ fellow original cast leads, Kelli O’Hara (who won a Tony as Anna) and Ken Watanabe (a Tony nominee as the King), are also part of this international tour.
Miles couldn’t do the run through Aug. 4 (it’s virtually sold out already, according to Zane) because she’s already committed to do a CBS legal drama, “All Rise,” which debuts in September. Cezarah Bonner has assumed the Thiang role.
The production is being performed in English with Japanese supertitles since it’s a touring company, not a Japan-mounted show. (I saw “The Lion King” in Tokyo a couple of years ago, and it was performed in Japanese.)
Many locals, me included, had high hopes for the success of Denny Miyasato’s self-produced, self-written and self-composed Hawaiian musical, “A Timeless Princess,” which winds up at Mamiya Theatre with a matinee performance today.
As I noted in a Facebook blog, opening-night attendees saw high ambition and big dreams, rendered by an eager cast of mostly novices and a few enthusiastic islanders with Broadway creds.
The plot involves time-traveling; a present-day Marine James Landsfield (portrayed by Jeremiah Ulufanua) is transported 120 years to the past, where he meets and falls in love with Princess Kaiulani (played by Ciana Pelekai). His mission is to locate and bring back to the present her treasured necklace, which had been lost or stolen, in playwright Miyasato’s fictional but thin script. Experience matters; Jade Stice in a cameo as Queen Lili‘uokalani, Cathy Foy as Kaiulani’s lady-in-waiting Olivia, and Matthew Pedersen as a mysterious Iolani Palace cleaner who triggers the trek to the past, overshadowed the ensemble with their projection and assured delivery of lines.
The show required live music (prerecorded tracks were used), a major setback. While 30 performers had a chance to unite and appear in a world-premiere of a Hawaiian show, directed by Michael Ng, the production lacked precision and felt like a work in progress.
To Miyasato’s credit, the world needs risk-takers with creative minds to share storylines, particularly with an island implication. Perhaps the script can be tweaked and cast downsized with revisions and focus. …
Elvis vs. Colonel film
Baz Luhrmann will direct an untitled Elvis Presley movie starring Austin Butler and veteran Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker. The story will deal with their tumultuous relationship, with filming in Australia.
Luhrmann is best known for his 2001 film “Moulin Rouge,” which now has blossomed into a hit Broadway musical, joining the Millionaire’s Club by grossing $1.3 million in its first five days of previews at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in New York. The show formally opens this Thursday. …
And that’s “Show Biz.”
Wayne Harada is a veteran entertainment columnist. Reach him at 266-0926 or email@example.com.