Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, aloha Kahilu Theatre
Last spring, the Waimea Community Chorus (WCC) had plans to perform an Elton John tribute concert at the Kahilu Theatre, but the pandemic put the show on pause. “That’s when the movie Rocketman and his autobiography Me came out, and I was looking for something to entice new choral members,” reflected Musical Director Barbara Kopra in a pre-show interview.
Kopra kept hope alive even after venue closures were announced. “I thought, ‘What if we cut 20 minutes, and just do a little taste?’” When Kahilu TV came along last December, Kopra resumed rehearsals with the chorus in February, and the Elton John tribute was back on for a show in May. “We did our normal Tuesday night in-person rehearsals and no Zoom meetings,” noted Kopra.
With safety and health protocols to follow, Kopra reduced the size of her ensemble from 60 down to 23, spread them out on stage, and had them wear plastic face shields that covered their nose and mouth but allowed their voices to carry. Local pianist George Webb accompanied WCC, and the Theatre’s Ryan Hooley narrated, providing historical context and backstories between songs. The concert was livestreamed on Kahilu TV, and about 30 friends of the cast members were allowed to attend the show.
All the songs in the setlist were arranged in chronological order – starting with 1970’s “Your Song” and concluding with “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from the 2019 biopic Rocketman. Kudos to George Webb for wearing shiny rhinestone glasses and a lime green boa which added some playfulness to the production.
Highlights in the show included soloist Clem Lam playing acoustic guitar on “Daniel.” Lam is no stranger to Kahilu Theatre’s stage, and you might remember him in their 2018 production of South Pacific or as the quick-witted donkey in Shrek The Musical.
Waimea’s soprano singer Amy Mills gave an outstanding solo on “The Lion King.” Mills got her start as a Honokaa High School student singing under the guidance of Gary Washburn. She gave vocal performances on the East Coast and earned her musical arts degree from Bridgewater State University. Mills has performed as a soloist for the Kona Choral Society and is also a member of North Hawaii Players.
The husband-and-wife duo Abi Hobbs and Sam Valenti performed on “Written in the Stars” from the musical Aida. In 2017, Hobbs directed and Valenti produced the Waimea Community Theatre’s production of the musical Pippin, and Hobbs appeared in the comedy The Drowsy Chaperone at the Honokaa People’s Theatre.
Tenor John Stover did a wonderful rendition of “Electricity” from the musical Billy Elliot. In previous years, Stover has appeared in the Waimea Community Theatre’s production of The Little Mermaid and more recently in WCC’s Rocks The ‘70s.
With COVID restrictions starting to ease, Kopra is looking forward to December to revive WCC’s annual holiday show at the Kahilu. “Our current plan is to do Patty Bigelow’s original musical called Christmas Makes Me Crazy,” Kopra said. “It’ll be a staged concert version of the musical, but not with all the blocking and set design. And next spring, we’re looking forward to having another show, sort of a takeoff on songs saluting Broadway’s return to public performances. I’m hoping to take some of the numbers from the current musicals, and then, of course, the old standards.”
Missed the show? Don’t despair. You still can catch WCC’s Elton John tribute concert on Kahilu.TV.
Notes & Links
Your Song | Daniel | Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me | Candle in the Wind | I’m Still Standing | The Lion King | Written in the Stars (from Aida) | Electricity (from Billy Elliot) | (I’m Gonna) Love Me Again |
Concert date: 23/MAY/2021
To catch a show and stay up to date with the Kahilu Theatre’s new online platform Kahilu TV and connect with the Waimea Community Chorus, click on the links below.
Waimea Community Chorus
About the author: Steve Roby is a music journalist, best-selling author, and editor of Big Island Music Magazine.
Photos: Steve Roby