Features | Hawaii News Diamond Head Theatre nears completion ahead of its January debut By John Berger email@example.com Dec. 21, 2022 Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@ STARADVERTISER.COM Diamond Head Theatre Artistic Director John Rampage stands in the new theater’s auditorium, which was designed to evoke the look and feel of the old theater.CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@ STARADVERTISER.COM The exterior as seen from Makapuu Avenue.CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@ STARADVERTISER.COM At left is the old Diamond Head Theatre. At right is the side of the new theatre. When Rampage opens DHT’s long-anticipated production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “Cinderella” in the new theater on Jan. 20, it will be the first show at DHT that he’s been able to do with a fly loft. Read more Mahalo for reading the Honolulu Star-Advertiser! You're reading a premium story. Read the full story with our Print & Digital Subscription. Subscribe Now Read this story for free: Watch an ad or complete a survey Log In Already a subscriber? Log in now to continue reading this story. Activate Digital Account Print subscriber but without online access? Activate your Digital Account now. When Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote their 1949 Broadway musical “South Pacific,” about the experiences of American military personnel serving far from home during World War II, they voiced the feelings of countless men with a song titled “There Is Nothing Like a Dame.” If Rodgers and Hammerstein were writing these days for Diamond Head Theatre Artistic Director John Rampage, they’d write a song titled “There Is Nothing Like a Fly Loft.” A fly loft is that space above a theater stage that allows a stage crew to “fly” scenery straight up and out of sight in seconds — and drop down the components of the next scene with equal speed. In a theater without a fly loft, everything has to be pushed off into the wings, and the wings can get crowded. When Rampage opens DHT’s long-anticipated production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical “Cinderella” in the new theater on Jan. 20, it will be the first show at DHT that he’s been able to do with a fly loft. “The fly loft was really the reason for the new theater versus renovating the old theater,” Rampage said Monday. “We would not have been able to have the fly loft no matter what (we did) in the old theater. And it was just decided that if we didn’t get a fly loft, it wasn’t worth going through all of this (renovation).” The old Ruger Theatre was built as a movie theater in the 1930s when the area was Fort Ruger, an Army base. In 1952 it became the permanent residence of the group then known as Honolulu Community Theatre. For the next 70 years — Honolulu Community Theatre became Diamond Head Theatre in 1990 — directors and choreographers made due without a fly loft. “With this first production of ‘Cinderella,’ we’re still in the learning stages,” explained Rampage, who directs and choreographs the show. Christine Kluvo stars as Cinderella, with Nick Amador as the Prince, Laurence Paxton as the King, Anna Young as the Queen and Paula Fuga as the Fairy Godmother. “As we’re working on the set, we’re trying to figure out where we actually can use the fly loft because we’ve never had that at our disposal. Now it’s a whole new way of thinking that we never had before.” Another new tool for Rampage and musical director Lindsay Rabe is the orchestra pit; the old building didn’t have one. “The orchestra pit and the fly loft were the two things that everybody agreed we had to have going forward,” Rampage said. “We can fill that space when we do a straight play, where there’s no orchestra, which would bring (the actors) closer to the audience, or maybe in the future at some point when we want the orchestra on stage. There’s so many possibilities now.” The auditorium was designed to evoke the look and feel of the old theater. A welcome addition are the handrails along some of the aisles. There are also bigger restrooms, an upgraded concession area and a row of extra seats behind the back row so that DHT’s volunteer ushers can enjoy the show in comfort. Outside the building, an elevator has been added to accommodate people who use the parking lot behind the theater. The improvements backstage are equally impressive. “Everything is much closer, more convenient,” Rampage said. “There’s two restrooms, and one of them actually can also connect to the star dressing room, so if you’re playing one of those roles that hardly ever leaves the stage, it’s much more convenient. And then there is another dressing room … one right off the stage, which will either be another star dressing room or reserved specifically for quick changes, which we’ve never had before. People had to just change right there in the wings if there wasn’t time (to go to a dressing room). So that’s a real luxury.” In dollars-and-cents terms, the new theater cost $23 million, and there is still about $750,000 left to raise. A fundraising dinner and show event, “Raise the Curtain,” on Jan. 7 will be the official grand opening and an opportunity to reduce that remaining sum. For more information, visit diamondheadtheatre.com/grand-gala. — AT A GLANCE >> Cost: $23 million >> Size: 17,000 square feet >> Capacity: 478 ticketed seats New features: Inside >> Fly loft for quick scenery changes >> Orchestra pit >> High-quality sound and lighting >> Additional restrooms for audience >> Larger and more conveniently located dressing rooms Outside >> Expanded box office access >> New personal elevator bypasses steps from parking lot >> Expanded green space adjacent to theater Previous Story Gov. Josh Green releases nearly $50M in Hawaii state funding Next Story Kokua Line: Will city collect trash Dec. 26?