Director Jim Hutchison and Musical Director Emmett G. Yoshioka have tinkered with the show ever since cobbling together the original adaptation in 1990. They've improved it tremendously over the years, with Frank DeLima consistently entertaining in the title role. DeLima is back in fine form for Year Seven. He presides with his usual charm and penchant for improvisation in giving another engaging performance.
The foremost ingredient this season is the comic chemistry between DeLima and Dion Donahue. Donahue's portrayal of Ghost No. 1 (Scrooge's deceased Italian father) is jarring at first but successful in replacing Jim Seibel's popular portrayal of Scrooge's deceased Portuguese mother in years past. And, Donahue is absolutely hilarious as Ghost No. 2 - imagine a kekepa-clad kumu hula with the body of Fabio, the personality of Richard Simmons, and the hairdo of one-time Lt . Gov. Jean Sadako King! Donahue's interplay with DeLima quickly establishes his ability to handle an open-ended comic role.
Replacing the Glenn Miyashiro family with the Kawainui family also works. The ethnicity of the family never had any bearing on the story anyway; any of the other characters in DeLima's repertoire could have been written in just as easily.
What's more, the Kawainui kids are a charming bunch: Kimi Noelani Kashimoto (Honeylani), Nicole Mele Libarios (Lokelani), Meilan Akana (Messalani), Tatiana Echevarria (Pukalani), Camille Carter (Titalani) and Nataysha Echevarria (Zsazsalani) were an appealing and tight-knit ensemble on opening night.
Brandon and Bryan Zada are good for a quick laugh as the towering twins Tiny and Tim Kawainui, but a scene in which the Zada twins dance with the diminutive Echevarria girls is touching as well as comical.
Billy Makaokalani Shackley distinguishes himself once again as Scrooge's nephew - what a talent! James Chang is another audience favorite as the deceased C.Y. Mar Lee. Theresa Bondad (Filipino Lady) and Kyla Martina Mei Ming Hsia (Manuel DaSylva's Assistant) sparkle in smaller roles. Isaac Calpito steps out of the ensemble into a potentially meaty role as Oliver Twist.
The one disappointment is the reduction in the amount of hula and Hawaiian music, replaced with far too much of incongruous street dancing and generic rapping. The dance/rap numbers feel like something grafted on by adults trying to make the show more "now," but they don't. The stuff might be passable if the story were taking place in the present, but it isn't. It's no reflection on the dance ensemble but the dance/rap segments don't belong in the show.
The straight musical numbers aren't memorable, but several songs provide showcases for DeLima and Gordon Ing. The lame-brain parody "Deck The Halls With Guava Jelly" should have been cut years ago. It falls far below the parodies DeLima's done for years in Waikiki.
Though Ing's character Glenn Miyashiro is gone, the writers found a way to keep him in the cast. Other notable returnees include Friston S. Ho'okano, Dennis Ihara and Carole Koizumi Wong (formerly Mrs. Miyashiro, she's now Mrs. Kawainui). Donahue also reprises his role as the Portuguese bean soup vendor.
The Jim Luther Jr./Gordon P. Svec set is again a wonder, and nicely embellished with small details such as the Kawainuis' stockpile of Spam. Karen G. Wolfe has dug deep into the bins for the costumes; Billy Shackley's garish green suit is a particularly striking find.
When: 6:30 p.m, Tuesday through Friday plus Sunday, through Dec. 22
Where: Diamond Head Theatre