Willy Falk, a Punahou School alum, has a new gig with the “Mouse House,” as the first Disney Broadway Cruise Guest Artist.
“Disney has a newly-created position for a ‘Broadway Guest Artist,’ and that will be me, on the Disney Dream (the third in Disney’s cruise fleet) in March and April,” said Falk, who portrayed Chris and earned a Tony nominee in the original “Miss Saigon.”
“It will be my first time on a big ship,” he said. “I will perform in three shows on a rotating basis: ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ ‘Believe’ and a solo act on occasion. On the ship, it seems I will have all the privileges of a guest with my own stateroom. It’s a brand-new adventure for me and a beautiful ocean liner with a huge state-of-the-art theater.”
The itinerary will include cruises between Port Canaveral in Florida and the Bahamas, with show rehearsals held in Toronto throughout January. “Brrrr,” he lamented, but the assignment comes with perks: “Free admission to Disney World and Disneyland. Don’t hate me! Disney has been wonderful to me so far.”
But there’s a caveat: “I will let you know if I get seasick.”
Falk won’t have to worry about his sea legs, however, in Honolulu; he makes his second appearance at Blue Note Hawaii at 6:30 and 9 p.m. tonight. A romantic at heart, Falk will share tunes from his new CD, “Mostly Love,” an enchanting and exuberant representation of his warm vocal style, “and some of the tunes are old Broadway gems, like ‘Too Late Now’ and ‘The Song Is You,” he said. Down the road, Falk perceives an album of “only songs I have sung on Broadway — sort of a retrospective ‘and then I sang…’ — but it hasn’t felt like the right time yet.”
Falk also had access to record a few Hawaiian and Hawaiian-themed melodies at a local studio, “with plans to release a single or two for download. I would love to record a couple of my old favorites in the place they were written.”
At tonight’s shows, he’ll feature two guest theater personalities with Buffanblu ties; one is at the starting gates (Nick La‘a), the other has a Tony trophy on her mantle (Leilani Jones, honored for her role in “Grind”).
“I helped to mentor Nick in two musicals at Punahou,” said Falk. “He was Marius in ‘Les Miserables’ and The Baker in ‘Into the Woods,’ and he’s a talented singer and musician and already performs at various local venues. I know he plans to attend the Berklee College of Music in the fall; I am excited he agreed to be part of my show at Blue Note. He has a super voice and lots of heart.”
Jones, who joined Falk last year, teaches voice and continues to study acting and performing. “She also has an active career in voice-overs,” said Falk. “We got together in New York (where he lives) recently to see her daughter, Lauren, as the Leading Player in ‘Pippin’ at Barnard College.”
Jones is a 1975 Punahou grad; Falk is from the class of ’76.
Over the decades, his stage credits in various capacities include “Marilyn,” “A Chorus Line,” “Les Miserables,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Pacific Overtures,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Starlight Express,” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” He has done operas and numerous cabaret shows, too.
He recalls the huhu about “Miss Saigon,” when top tickets elevated to $100, when the musical opened in 1991 and gave him the chance to perform duets with Lea Salonga, who portrayed Kim. “It was a new record and considered outrageous. Now, some shows offer tickets in the thousands (think “Hamilton”). It was explained this way: you can’t increase the number of seats on Broadway, so ticket prices need to reflect demand.
“I am of two minds about it: I am glad that people still value LIVE performances. … But, I worry that this makes some shows too expensive for people to see.”
A Broadway insider, he continues to see new shows. “This (past) year, I was impressed by ‘What the Constitution Means to Me,’ ‘The Tina Turner Musical,’ and, of course, ‘The Height of the Storm,’ which starred my dear friend Jonathan Pryce (The Engineer in ‘Saigon’), nominated for an Oscar this year for ‘The Two Popes.’” …
The Academy Awards will be unveiled today, via ABC.
The key category, one for debate, is best picture. Will it be Quentin Tarantino’s true-to-Hollywood epic, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” with plenty of vigor and violence, or Sam Mendes’ World War I flick, “1917,” fresh in the minds of voters, since it arrived over the holidays with blood and bombshells?
This should be one of those years when the film and the director split hairs. The way I see it:
>> Best picture: “Once Upon a Time,” a potent re-creation of L.A. back in the day, even if he takes liberties with how the movie ends.
>> Best director: Mendes, who made it look like “1917” was filmed in one compelling sweep, from the trenches to the battlefield to the finale.
>> Best actor: Joaquin Phoenix, as “The Joker.”
>> Best actress: Renee Zellweger, as “Judy.”
>> Best supporting actor: Brad Pitt, for “Once Upon a Time.”
>> Best supporting actress: Laura Dern, for “Marriage Story.”
Hostless but not hopeless, the Oscars should be commended for acknowledging the astonishing Korean entry, “Parasite,” whose ending is as unexpected and compelling as the one in “Once Upon a Time.”
And that’s “Show Biz.”
Wayne Harada is a veteran entertainment columnist. Reach him at 266-0926 or firstname.lastname@example.org.