"If you're not careful, you might learn something before it's done." Bill Cosby used to say that on the old "Fat Albert Show." As a kid of the '70s, I was a loyal viewer. I think Mr. Cosby knew about kids, and perhaps that is why we all loved him, which is also why I was a bit nervous interviewing him last week.
There have been many past projects I could have asked Mr. Cosby about, but I wanted to know if there was something that he considers an all time favorite project.
"Yes, right now. I'm writing a new television series with David Brack. The title for now is 'Basic Sanity.' It's a one-hour dramatic series. It will have guest stars and a different story with different individuals every week presented in a mystery form. It will be about people that are lost behaviorally. Flawed human beings are not all evil."
I interrupted, "Like a CSI show?"
"No, no, none of that stuff. This will be about getting human beings to see something different. It's not a lecture. We'll see things as in the humanities, other cultures, and the reality of how they might be saved from committing a crime. We'll see things that guide flawed individuals, how they are influenced. It won't judge one view over the other."
He added, "I'm very, very excited about it - it could be ground breaking. We've become dependant on network heads and capitalism, which is good, but they'll say that because X show is at a certain time, we need to have this product, or change something about a show. The capitalism forces a compromise, and then the excuse is to blame the public for compromises in art. Assuming they wont support it or appreciate it."
So how does Cosby, at 75, still maintain his audience appeal in a world of R rated comedians?
"With my crowd, it's the enjoyment of the emotions of a story. You get involved in a character, know what they're going to do next or not," he explains. "I think profanity, forget the comic, becomes easy listening. You don't have to focus on the story. The profanity will come get you. Like a band that you know all their songs, you don't necessarily need to pay attention. But then you have a singer like Barbara Streisand, and that is entirely different. It's a unique performance. It requires your attention."
We talked about the longtime debate between clean comedy advocates, like Steve Allen, and I asked him to compare the difference in relation to a comic like Buddy Hackett.
"Buddy was very funny. That's different. He would go on Jack Parr and Carson, and he could be funny without cursing, but in the clubs he could do whatever he wanted," said Cosby. "You need to have great timing and be funny first. The 25 or so of these modern comics that have nothing going for them but cursing and surprising subject matter would be no match for Buddy. I defy that idea. You're going to hear from me a long performance and audiences are loving the show and following the stories. This will be a show that Steve Allen would be proud of, but Buddy Hackett would admire too."
* Don't miss the chance to see living legend Bill Cosby on Friday, March 29. Tickets are $45, $55, $75, $85, $115 (plus applicable fees), performance at 7:30 p.m. in Castle Theater at the MACC.
It's going to be a busy theater month on Maui, with five productions opening in April. First up is the Baldwin High Spring Musical "Little Shop of Horrors." In the early 1980s, a new Broadway trend emerged. This doesn't happen very frequently, and when it does, said trends usually last several decades. The concept was to turn a movie into a Broadway musical, a reverse of the norm. The first one was "Little Shop of Horrors," which went on to become 10 times more successful than the Roger Corman film with Jack Nicholson.
Since that time we've had "Sunset Boulevard," "Ragtime," "The Producers," "Hairspray," "Spamalot," "Legally Blonde," "9 to 5" and the upcoming "Coal Miner's Daughter" starring Zooey Deschanel.
"Little Shop" eventually returned to the screen in its new musical form, completing the circle of adaptations. We all know the tale well. Seymour Krelborn (TJ Indemoto) is a sweet but nerdy Skid Row floral shop worker who is in love with his beautiful co-worker, Audrey (Lorena Abreu). He purchases a "strange and unusual" plant (naming it Audrey II), but soon finds out that in order to keep Audrey II alive, he must feed her blood. The talking and singing plant promises Seymour fame and fortune in exchange for the feeding of more and more blood.
I spoke with director Linda Carnevale, who shared her thoughts on the production and how she came to choose this show.
"It was a fun, small cast. I really like the upbeat music," she said. "I thought our audiences would enjoy it. We are doing the show in the Loudon Mini-Theatre this time, because I wanted a more intimate setting for this show. I want the audience to feel they are right in the action, and since the theatre only holds 125, we are doing three weekends."
Joining Carnevale is one of the hardest working theatricals on Maui, Andre Morissette.
"Andre choreographed only a couple of numbers this time around because he was busy with Seabury's 'Hello, Dolly.' It worked out because 'Little Shop' really isn't a dancy show."
Joining Morissette and Carnevale are musical directors Tana Larson and Gary Shin-Levitt. In addition, the production will feature a small band of seven, comprised of students and adults lead by bass player Stephen Rodrigues, who will also conduct.
"The hardest part of 'Little Shop' is the music," said Carnevale. "The main three 'Supremes' type girls have tight harmonies. We also added in a small chorus of six to add some weight to the songs. The chorus members will also be playing the smaller parts that the dentist character (Gabriel Baldonado) usually performs. This gives more parts for the students to do."
I asked her to talk about the gigantic Audrey II. "The plant is being built from scratch by Daniel Vickers. He is so talented and creative," she said. "There are a total of four Audrey II's. One is 6 feet tall and the other over 8 feet. There will be students in the plant the whole time, with the largest plant needing more students to run it. We're working on a surprise singer to be the voice."
* The Baldwin High School Performing Arts Learning Center and Baldwin Theatre Guild will present "Little Shop of Horrors." The production opens on April 5 at the Loudon Mini-Theatre in back of the Baldwin High School campus and runs weekends through April 21. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday matinees at 2 and 5 p.m. on April 13 and 20. There will be no 7:30 p.m. performance on April 20. Tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for seniors and $7 students (17 and younger), available at the door one hour prior to showtime. There are no reservations and seating is limited.
Also this weekend
Enjoy an evening of art and support the students of Art with Heart in achieving their goals to make a positive difference in the world. Seabury Hall's student-run philanthropic arts club presents its fourth annual benefit showcase featuring student-produced fine and performing arts on Saturday at the school's A'ali'ikuhonua Creative Arts Center. The evening begins with a fine art silent auction starting at 5:30 p.m., plus dining, refreshments and live music. Music, acting, dance and poetry readings will follow at 7 p.m. All proceeds from the benefit will support Art with Heart's goals to promote the arts and education here on Maui and abroad. The club has currently raised $4,928.32, and is hoping to double the amount to reach their goal of $10,000 by the end of the year. To reserve tickets, call 573-1257.