Author: Lisa Chu-Thielbar

Hair is a Hit G rooooovy, man. Psychedelic. As the audience trickled into Waimea’s Kahilu Theatre last Saturday night, the stage was slowly filling to the brim with bell-bottomed, tie-dyed, head-banded hippies, meditating or writhing sensuously. Smoke wafted lazily across the scene. It was 1968 again. The scrim at the back of the stage featured a ’60s vintage Peter Max style design that then left the scrim and panned across the “tribe,” lying prostrate on the stage floor. Then the light show left the stage and panned across the audience pulling us right into the action. We hear percussion sounds…

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Hawaii Performing Arts Festival (HPAF) provides high quality entertainment to Big Island audiences. ‘But it is also “a training and performance program,” as Justin John Moniz, Executive Director, reminds us. Many HPAF grads have gone on to Broadway, and various successful careers, utilizing the skills they acquired at HPAF. The Young Singer Showcase, directed by Paulina Villarreal at the Gates Performing Arts Center in Waimea, demonstrated admirably just how that’s accomplished. Chan Mi Jean is the music director and accompanist, and Zoë Lillis is the acting coach. Each of these educators plays an important role in developing these young singers.…

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HPAF Turns Hell into Heaven Hawaii Performing Arts Festival (HPAF) fans are thrilled that fully staged opera is once more part of paradise. At the Kahilu, temperatures are taken, and masks are worn, but the bar is open, seats are filled, and generous patrons (for this opera, Michael Thompson and Marilyn and Carl Bernhardt) have again stepped up to give the Big Island community what it so craves: sets, singers, an orchestra in the pit and a full show to come. HPAF’s orchestra, conducted by Paul Floyd, is a delight to the ear. These musicians are all seasoned professionals. Orpheus…

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Walking into Hilo’s beloved and iconic Palace Theater is once more a possibility and a joy. The scene for “Joey Contreras and Friends” was the theater lobby, beautifully restored. The intimate space proved the perfect setting for this glimpse into the future of musical theater. In the words of Hawaii Performing Arts Festival (HPAF) Executive Director Justin John Moniz, “Joey’s contributions to the musical theater canon have been immense. He will continue to be a staple of contemporary musical theater and a voice of the future of the art form.” The evening’s concert featured many of Contreras’ better-known works, beginning…

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After two years of virtual festivals, it is clear that both audiences and performers are thrilled to have the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival back in the Kahilu Theatre, live and on stage. Temperatures were taken at the door; masks were required and everyone was abuzz. The house was populated just right, with the center section mostly filled with only a bit of social distancing evident and the side sections filled with a scattering of eager listeners. The evening was a delight filled with performances by some of HPAF’s finest professional musicians and singers. The opening number was Handel’s “Total Eclipse”…

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