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Summer Theater: Abba to Lysistrata

noe tanigawa
noe tanigawa
noe tanigawa
Credit noe tanigawa
(l-r) Alexandria Ireijo, Buffy Kahalepuna Wong, Jody Bill Bachler, and Sean Ramsey backstage before a preview performance of Lysistrata Jones at Manoa Valley Theatre through July 24.

  In our quick survey of summer theater this year, two musicals are opening in Honolulu.  Lysistrata Jones at M?noa Valley Theatre updates an ancient battle between the sexes, and Mamma Mia orchestrates wedding complications to an Abba soundtrack.   HPR’s Noe Tanigawa reports.


Aristophances’ comedy, Lysistrata, was first staged in 411 BC, it’s the story of how women banded together to end a war.  Brad Powell is directing this updated version, Lysistrata Jones, and makes clear it was the Peloponnesian War Aristophanes was talking about.

“The men would go out and fight and then they’d come home only to have sex, and then they’d go out and fight some more.  The women got tired of it, and they said, “Uh uh, no more.”

No sexual favors until the war is over was the ultimatum.  Lysistrata Jones is a spunky cheerleader who uses the same tactic to get her team to win a game.  Did I mention it’s a musical?

noe tanigawa
Credit noe tanigawa
Buffy Kahalepuna Wong plays a strong Hetaira in MVT's Lysistrata Jones.

  Lysistrata Jones asks why people only respond to is anger, fear and resentment?   Why can’t people act out of  hope?  It’s an uphill battle.  But Lyssie has the help of a very together madam, played by Buffy Kahalepuna Wong, and spirited fellow cheerleaders who sing and dance up a storm.  Lyssie herself, is played by Jody Bill Bachler,

“I do have to be able to shoot a basket, which actually wasn’t too difficult.  I did play varsity basketball back in the day!”

Enjoy strong support from the live musicians in Lysistrata Jones at M?noa Valley Theater through July 24.   Performance times:  Wednesdays at 7:30pm, Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 4pm.

Contact MVT at (808) 988-6131 or boxoffice@manoavalleytheatre.com.

Across town at Diamond Head Theater, Kimee Balmilero is directing Mamma Mia--- she was in the original Broadway cast when Meryl Streep saw it, and said it lifted her spirits after 9/11.

“Cool to see that she was so connected to the show that she ended up doing the movie version of it.”

Brad Goda PhotographySarah Halford as Sarah Halford plays Sophie Sheridan in Mamma Mia at Diamond Head Theatre, July 15-August 14.
Credit Brad Goda Photography

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If you’ve seen the movie, expect more from the live version.  Balmilero says, it’s the energy in the room.

“You can’t help but feel that, and the audience will see.  They’ll be on their feet, so get your dancing shoes ready because you’ll be up and dancing with all of us by the end.”

Mark Kanemura, local product, is lead dancer with Lady Gaga since 2009, you’ve seen him do pretty amazing things on TV dance shows, too.  Kanemura is choreographing DHT’s Mamma Mia.

“I thought a lot about how I wanted the performers, the actors, the dancers, how I wanted them to feel.   And in turn, I was also thinking a lot about how I wanted the audience to feel.  What I kind of came to was that I really wanted my performers to feel like rock stars, really working on that and bringing out their inner rock star.  In turn what I hope is that people will leave the production feeling like rock stars themselves, and feeling like they want to get up and dance!”

Imagine a wedding, where the bride has invited all three men who could possibly be her dad.  Narrowing to the all-important one, is complicated by a free spirited mater.   

“There’s Dancing Queen, there’s Chicatita, and there’s Mamma Mia, it is a good time, but there are some really lovely moments in there that are about human connection, lost love, found love, finding yourself.”

When 100 people turned up for auditions, Balmilero says casting this production was the hardest part.  She says they saw many good singers and dancers but they were looking for people with individuality, people who were not afraid to let go. 

“We love our cast to death.  We’re so emotional with them, we’ve been crying like crazy, tears of joy, tears of just feeling their storytelling.  It’s been wonderful.”

Mamma Mia is the ne plus ultra for Abba fans.  Just try to forget this.

Brad Goda Photography
Credit Brad Goda Photography
(l-r) Liz Stone as Tanya Cresham-Leigh, Alison Aldcroft as Donna Sheridan, Stacy Pulman as Rose Mulligan in DHT's Mamma Mia

 Mamma Mia runs July 15- August 14 at Diamond Head Theatre.  Call 733-0274 to charge by phone.

Curtain times:

Friday, July 15 - 8:00PM

Saturday, July 16 - 8:00PM

Sunday, July 17 - 8:00PM

Thursday, July 21 - 8:00PM

Friday, July 22 - 8:00PM

Saturday, July 23 - 3:00PM

Saturday, July 23 - 8:00PM

Sunday, July 24- 4:00PM

Thursday, July 28 - 8:00PM

Friday, July 29 - 8:00PM

Saturday, July 30 - 3:00PM

Saturday, July 30 - 8:00PM

Sunday, July 31 - 4:00PM

Thursday, August 4 -7:30PM

Friday, August 5 - 7:30PM

Saturday, August 6 -3:00PM

Saturday, August 6 - 8:00PM

Sunday, August 7- 4:00PM

Thursday, August 11- 7:30PM

Friday, August 12 - 7:30PM

Saturday, August 13 - 3:00PM

Saturday, August 13 - 8:00PM

Sunday, August 14 - 4:00PM


Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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