So you're looking at this picture and thinking to yourself "yeah right, that's theater." Well you're right, sort of, that's showbiz.
One of my favorite writers is an old Hearst columnist named Gene Fowler. He wrote a screenplay about P.T. Barnum and called Barnum "the inventor of American show business."
All right, so maybe old P.T. Barnum would claim you'd see a mermaid and instead you got an ahi tail sewn onto a dead monkey's torso, but you also got Jumbo the elephant, Tom Thumb, a boxing match and the great opera singer, Jenny Lind.
Jessica Dungans is part of the Kit Kat Club Cabaret. She will join other performers for a “Fantasy Island” themed show at the Maui Tropical Plantation on Friday, Aug. 31.
MICHAEL ANDREWS photo
A Fowler contemporary, the real life Roxie Hart might say "that's showbiz, kid." So yes, Jessica Dungans will not be wrestling a live cheetah on stage, but Maui's Barnum, Ellen Peterson, will sure give you a show.
I spoke with Peterson, whose other life is as librarian of UH Maui College, last week and asked how her little hobby, the Kit Kat Club Cabaret, has grown over the years.
"Positive word of mouth about our shows has spurred us on to go bigger and better and work harder on each show," said Peterson. "I spend a lot of time watching other burlesque acts on YouTube and noticed we're different, we've found our style which is rooted in musical theater. Kit Kat shows tell a story, it's not just one number after another, it's more theatrical."
I asked how she finds the time. Peterson and the rest of the troupe produce, choreograph, direct, promote, write and make the props and costumes for their productions. "I'm obsessed with it now, so I couldn't slow down even if I wanted to," she said. "We have a lot of fun as a group creating the numbers and found a nice niche to rehearse about four hours a week every week. We have so much fun it never seems like a burden."
For those that don't know, founding members Peterson and Karen Stavish started out working with a group called Maui Song and Dance where they performed Broadway show tunes at Maui corporate events.
Four years ago they entered a Karaoke contest at Halloween on Front Street choosing their most simplistic and easiest to recreate number, "Mein Herr" from "Cabaret." The emcee asked them what their name was, on the spot Stavish said the Kit Kat Club, which was the name of the night club in "Cabaret."
They won the contest and began to realize it would be much easier to do smaller numbers in Maui clubs combining burlesque with Broadway. Over the past four years Peterson and Stavish have added several members and regularly team up with Oahu's Cherry Blossom Cabaret to create the large scale theatrical show we've come to expect from the Kit Kat Club.
I asked Peterson about future aspirations of the group. "We performed at "Hallowbaloo" in Honolulu last year which is a huge event and we were honored to be asked. It would be fun to do a Hawaiian tour and maybe the Mainland someday. There are so many opportunities at the Tropical Plantation though and we want to be a part of that."
In the past six months the Tropical Plantation has constructed a new stage and just recently added a $25,000 upgrade in lighting. A huge Christmas show is planned for December and at the rate development of live theatrical events is happening at the Plantation, it may be a fully functional state of the art theater by that time.
The upcoming Kit Kat Club production will include a set that ranges from the deck of a yacht to a wild jungle with 20 eclectic musical production numbers from Bobby Darin to James Bond themes to the Brothers Cazimero and featuring go-go beach babes, sultry savages, and wild animals performed by Casey Murphy, Ellen Peterson, Jessica Dungans, Karen Stavish and Katherine Sawiki. Joining them on the bill are Cherry Blossom's Violetta Beretta, Kitty Chow, Lola Love and Miss Catwings. Exotic cocktails and cuisine are also available and following the show you can dance under the stars with music and visuals by Fuzz Box and Event Horizon. Barnum was famous for saying "a sucker is born every minute," but his audiences never asked for a refund.
* Come sail away with the Kit Kat Club to "Fantasy Island a Kit Kat Club Cabaret" on Friday, Aug. 31 at the Maui Tropical Plantation in Waikapu. Island fantasy wear is encouraged. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m.. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. This is a 21 and older event. To purchase advance tickets visit fantasyislandmaui.eventbrite.com. A limited number of VIP tables are also available with premium, reserved seating and cocktail service by pin-up gals. The VIP tables are $75, table for two and $120, table for four. Price of admission included. To reserve VIP seating for a larger group contact via email kitkatclubmaui@gmai,l or call 280-5096.
By popular demand, Augie T's "Summer of LOL" returns to the McCoy Theater at the MACC, Friday. Special guests Jose Dynamite and Brad Starks. Performance at 7:30 p.m., tickets $20 general, $35 premium with a special post show meet and greet included. To purchase tickets visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469, or order online at mauiarts.org.
Luke Francis, actor, comedian, and television personality, will be performing on Sunday at Three's Bar and Grill in Kihei. Francis, born in Scotland, now makes his home in Los Angeles. He has been featured in such films as "The Fighter" with Mark Wahlberg. The popular comic will be filming a half-hour-standup special for Comedy Central later this year. Francis will be joined by Michael C. Hall, Del Sol, Chino LaForge, and Anthony Nigrelli. Performance at 8 p.m., tickets $10 at the door. For more information, visit comedyhawaii.com.
The Iao Theater episode of "Haunted Collector" will air at different times on Wednesday night, depending on your service provider. Please check your provider's listings for accuracy. Times vary from 3, 5, 6, 8 and 9 p.m. HST on the SyFy Channel. The Maui County Film Office and Maui OnStage will debut the much-anticipated "Ghosts of Maui County" season finale, in simulcast at 5 p.m. at the Historic Iao Theater. This gala event will include a traditional Hawaiian blessing and guest speaker Harry Donnenfeld, Maui County Film Commissioner. Doors will open to the general public at 4 p.m. and admission is free but attendance will be restricted to the first 350 arrivals.
ProArts returns in September with "Doubt" by John Patrick Shanley, directed by Kristi Scott. This hit Broadway drama won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Tony Award for Best Play. Set in a Catholic school, an extremely strict and traditional principal is opposed to the more modern views of a young charismatic priest and his affinity with the only African-American student in the school. Sister Aloysius' experience and instinct leave no room for doubt and she vows to evict Father Flynn from the parish. "Doubt" opens Friday, Sept. 21 and runs through Oct. 7 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. For more information visit proartspacific.com or call 463-6550.
The Ku Mai Ka Hula 2012, international hula competition returns to the MACC on Saturday, Sep. 8. The 7th annual competition features nine halau winners from Japan's competition and halau from Hawaii and California in adult solo and group performances. The dancers will compete in kahiko (traditional hula) and 'auana (modern hula) in both male and female categories. Celebrate the longstanding friendship between Hawaii and Japan with this memorable and inspiring day of hula at its finest.
Performances from 1 to 7 p.m. in Castle Theater at the MACC, tickets $25 for adults and $12.50 for keiki 12 and under.
To purchase tickets visit the MACC box office, call 242-7469 or order online at mauiarts.org.