My favorite column of the year to write is choosing the top 10 Maui stage moments. I look at it as the one time in the theatrical season when the bottom line does not dictate success, but instead honors quality and substance. In fact, several of my favorite moments were performed in front of sparse crowds and are from productions that may have closed in the red. Of course, it's all just my opinion, but these are a few of the singular moments that warrant a look back and nod of job well done as we say goodbye to 2012.
1 Although it's been 11 months, Ben Vereen's performance at the MACC was hands down the most important and finest live on stage moment of 2012. In fact, it may have been the finest show in MACC history. There were several memorable songs, but the one sensational moment was Vereen's rendition of "My Way." When armed with Vereen's life story (the white Broadway world he entered into, the ups and downs and the personal tragedy) his "My Way" evoked cheers, tears and a standing ovation smack dab in the middle of his show. This may have happened in the past on Maui, but it was the first time I ever witnessed it. Before the evening had concluded, there were two more standing ovations and if Vereen chooses to return in the future there will be more standing O's to come.
2 Carla Pew and Kisha Melling's parent meeting in ProArts' "Doubt." I have not been on Maui seeing every show for the past 25 years, but this one little scene was the finest moment of dramatic excellence I have witnessed from a Maui produced play. "Doubt," in my opinion, was the best show of 2012, and everyone involved in the production should be incredibly proud of that work. Pew and Melling's scene was the very first time I truly forgot I was watching a play in a strip mall and became completely lost in their captivating performances.
1 Ben Vereen
photo courtesy the MACC
3 Annie Wilder and Ute Finch's long-needed heart-to-heart talk in Maui OnStage's "On Golden Pond." Not to leave out Norman (Bill Love), but the finest moment of this fantastic production came when Wilder's Ethel stopped being sweet, happy mom and gave her 40-something daughter, Chelsea, a figurative and literal slap on the face. The "grow up" and get over it moment was real, true and may have even made some audience members uncomfortable. That is what great theater is supposed to do.
4 Francis Tau'a delivered a superb performance in ProArts' "The Mousetrap," but my favorite moment came in MAPA's "Lesser Ahi," performed and co-written with Derek Nakagawa. Tau'a as Uncle Monty, a British, first time visitor to Maui, tries li hing mui. The spit that followed and the utter disgust on Tau'a's face was the best LOL stage moment of the year.
5 Perhaps 2012 should be dubbed the year of the Tau'a. A slightly frightening thought, but not a crazy one. How could I leave Hitler off the list? Okay, so I was in this one, but Tau'a and the ensemble of MOS's "The Producers" offered the most electrifying musical moment of 2012 with "Springtime For Hitler." For the handful of us that were not in that number, we would frantically gather each night to witness the absurdity of dancing beer steins, the sausage head, high-kicking storm troopers and the human swastika formation. Much of the credit goes to choreographer Camille Romero for making it all work and making me laugh uncontrollably from the wings every night.
6 Lia Krieg's "There Are Worse Things I Could Do," from MOS's "Grease." Regular readers of this column know I have a love hate relationship with frivolous musicals, but that does not apply to Krieg. Whatever bit of indifference I may have had in regards to the silliness of "Grease" melted away with Krieg's solo moment. Consider yourself lucky Maui, because Krieg loves the island. Had she chosen to give Mainland musicals a shot, I have no doubt there would have been many successes, as well as a possible professional stage career.
7 The witches of Maui Academy of Performing Arts "Macbeth." Kristi Scott, Hoku Pavao Jones, Jett Battoon and Sharleen Lagattuta made this production. There were several terrifying moments, but none more so than the "toil, toil, boil and bubble" scene. I'm not sure whose idea it was to add a hip-hop rhythm to the chant, but that little addition made the moment more accessible and haunting.
8 Some may be shocked by this inclusion, but believe it or not, "Steve-O's" performance at Ocean's Bar and Grill was one of the funniest comedy shows of the year. I laughed harder at his relatively tame observational comedy than I did at other high-profile comics who performed in front of 1,000 people at the MACC. The most memorable moment? When an audience member volunteered to spit lamp oil across Steve-O's flaming head, producing a ball of fire the size of a big screen TV.
9 Casey Murphy and her rendition of "The Cutest Little Dingy in the Navy." Aside from Murphy's phenomenal singing voice, this "cheeky" number was my favorite moment from Charlie Dungans' exceptional 1940s style burlesque revue, "One Hot Winter's Night." Murphy's Shirley Temple-like performance, with help from Mark Bolden, sans pants, dancing with his green dingy in a sailor's hat, was absolutely hysterical.
10 I never considered that a teen performance would be one of the best, but that was before I saw Sidney Roberts as the White Witch in MAPA's "Narnia." Roberts absolutely commanded the stage in "Turkish Delight." Although she was just barely out of high school at the time, her appearance was as if a seasoned adult actress was making a cameo in a youth production.