FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Shari Lynn is Rosie and Jim Tharp is Johnny in "Aloha Rosie's," the third installment in a series of musicals by a husband-and-wife team.
It’s all in the song
Lyrics star again in a series of musicals set in a Texas honky tonk called Rosie’s Place
It's been a long run for Rosie's Place, the fictional west Texas honky tonk that's the setting for three country-lite musicals written and produced by the husband-and-wife team of Norman Boroughs and Joyce Maltby.
Where: Hawaii Pacific University Theatre, 45-045 Kamehameha Highway.
When: 8 p.m. Fridays, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 4. Also at 2 p.m. Nov. 19 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 23
Tickets: $20 ($14 for seniors, military, students, HPU faculty/staff and Hawaii State Theatre Council members; $3 HPU students)
Andee Gibbs starred in the title role when the first show in the series, "Rosie's Place," was presented at Hawaii Pacific University in 1993 and at Diamond Head Theatre in 1994. Star Williams played Rosie when the sequel, "A Night at Rosie's," was staged at HPU in 1997, and Belle Ruff Armstrong took over when Maltby staged it again at HPU in 1998.
Now it's Shari Lynn's turn to go country as Boroughs and Maltby continue the saga. "Aloha Rosie's," the third play in the series, opens this weekend at HPU.
"I guess we thought that maybe someday we'd do a third one, but it wasn't until a party we were having and Shari said, 'If you're ever gonna do another "Rosie's" I'd like to do Rosie,' " so we started working," Maltby said Monday, moments before the cast embarked on its first full-scale dress rehearsal.
Maltby says it took about a year to write. Changes were still being made after rehearsals began.
"It's exciting and it's stressful, but I believe it's gonna be a good show."
The show is a family affair for Maltby, who is the director of HPU's theater program and chairwoman of the theater department. One of her daughters, Becky Maltby Graue, is back as Jenny, the singing waitress who was one of the four major characters in the original show. Her other daughter, Melinda Maltby, is reprising her role as Mattress-Back Millie, one of the zany characters featured in the sequel. Maltby's grandson, Mickey Graue, also has a role in the new show, and his dad, versatile musician Dennis Graue, did some of the musical arrangements.
Several other HPU veterans are in the show. Jim Tharp plays Johnny, the wise old bartender/narrator, for the fifth time. Glenn Cannon and Kalani Brady are back in the roles of the Devil and Reverend Billy Sinfree, respectively.
Maltby says the shows are more about showcasing her husband's "clever lyrics" than about character development, country music or the real-life milieu of Texas honky tonks.
And so, Rosie is a former country singer whose establishment is a cross between "Cheers" and a karaoke bar. The regulars and the employees take turns singing, and the bartender is also the emcee.
In "Rosie's Place," singer-waitress Jenny got a record deal in Nashville, but her boyfriend, Dan, declined to go with her or wait for her in Texas. Instead, Dan hit the road and married the owner of a ranch in Oregon. Several years later he returned alone to visit Rosie on her birthday. Jenny also returned home alone.
Boroughs and Maltby applied the lessons learned in producing "Rosie's Place" when they presented the sequel, "A Night at Rosie's." The new story took place in a single evening in the bar and required no secondary sets. There were 22 new songs. The emphasis was clearly on singing over character development, as the bar was visited by a big-city reporter who preferred covering opera to writing a human-interest piece on a honky tonk.
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
"Aloha Rosie's" takes a lighthearted approach to plot while flexing its muscles musically. Shari Lynn and Jim Tharp, left, showcase the lyrical talent of writer/ producer Norman Boroughs.
Rosie, Johnny and the regulars decided to teach the city snob a lesson by introducing her to a series of improbable characters, such as a cowboy transvestite and a supposedly irresistible playboy named Spermus Maximus.
The "let's fool the city slicker" premise reached an extreme when "the Devil" entered the bar for a bet with the Rev. Billy Sinfree. Could this guy really be ... Satan? The reporter showed no sign of disbelief as the Devil introduced himself, but also no interest in confirming what would have been the tabloid scoop of the century: "The Devil Lives in Texas."
Maltby acknowledges that the dramatic arc of the story was secondary to the music. "That's the only way we could bring in some of these neat songs that Norman wrote."
The same situation could occur with the current production, she says. "(The story) doesn't hold up to microscopic interpretation, I don't think. We're just hoping that people enjoy the show and have fun. The serious stuff is not that much -- but I think it's believable, and the other stuff is just antics."
Not to give too much of the new story away, but Boroughs has written another 23 songs, and Danny had been written back into the story, although played by Ethan Okura instead of Danny Mittermeyer, who played the part in "Rosie's Place."
"In the second story, Jenny has a boyfriend, but no relationship has been good since Dan, and Dan comes back into the story of this one," director Maltby says cryptically, not commenting on the status of Danny's marriage or where Jenny is romantically as the new story begins.
And although Maltby didn't volunteer this information, the wording of the publicity statements on this play suggest that "Aloha Rosie's" may not be the last show she and her husband will write about their favorite honky tonk.