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Year to remember in Hawaii's entertainment world


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POSTED: Wednesday, December 31, 2008

As we bid farewell to 2008, here's a quick look back at some of the places, faces and events that made it a year to remember:

1. Concerts: The Police two-nighter in Blaisdell Arena in February was 2008's biggest show, but Earth Wind & Fire was perfection in the arena in May. Also great in concert: Kenny Rankin, Melissa Ethridge, Jason Mraz, Chicago, Dropkick Murphys and Unwritten Law, Smash Mouth, Jie Chen with the Honolulu Symphony and Bill Tapia. Jack Johnson's Kokua Festival, with guest artist Dave Matthews, drew a sell-out crowd to the Waikiki Shell.

2. On film: "Tropic Thunder," the largest film production in Kauai's history, enhanced Hawaii's reputation as a Hollywood backlot with solid tax breaks, and earned Golden Globe nominations for supporting actors Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Cruise. The action farce - about a group of narcissistic actors filming a Vietnam action film that turns a little too real - grossed $180 million.

3. Music: It was a "three-peat" for Daniel Ho as he won a third Grammy Award for Hawaiian music album. Also notable in local music: Hoku Zuttermeister won six Na Hoku Hanohano Awards. And although local releases and sales dropped, Raiatea Helm hit big teaming up with Hawaiian Host for a candy-and-CD project.

4. On stage: The internationally renowned Cirque du Soleil played a 16-day engagement at the Blaisdell Arena. The company's signature show, "Saltimbanco," was a breathtaking, stylized mixture of acrobatics, dance, trapeze artistry and humor.

5. On exhibit: The Honolulu Academy of Arts took a big leap toward putting itself on the international map with "The Dragon's Gift: The Sacred Art of Bhutan," providing the first extensive documentation of Bhutanese religious art and ritual dance (academy assistant curator John Johnston traveled throughout Bhutan to gather the more than 100 works exhibited).

6. Television: Reality and game shows flocked to the islands, but no television production was bigger than "Lost." Season 4 ended in May with a bang. The freighter blew up, the island moved, the Oceanic 6 returned to civilization, Hurley went crazy again and Walt grew up. Oh, yes, and Locke appears to be dead. Season 5 launches this month.

7. On stage: Loretta Ables Sayre opened on Broadway as Bloody Mary in the hit revival of "South Pacific." On the local stage, Diamond Head Theatre's "Les Miz" and Paliku Theatre's "Miss Saigon" were the year's blockbusters. Also epitomizing excellence were "The Romance of Magno Rubio" and "Rolling The R's" at Kumu Kahua, "Doubt" and "Frost/Nixon" at MVT, the 2008 Hawaii Shakespeare Festival, "Shadowlands" (TAG), "Rabbit Hole" (HPU), "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "A Christmas Carol" (HTY), "Inventing Van Gogh" (HRT) and "Rent" (St. Louis).

8. Food: Three founders of the Hawaii Regional Cuisine movement - Roy Yamaguchi, Beverly Gannon and Peter Merriman - celebrated the 20th anniversaries of their landmark restaurants. Yamaguchi's $10,000-per-table celebration was especially star-studded. Another HRC founder, George Mavrothalassitis, earned a prestigious AAA five-diamond award for Chef Mavro, the first for any Hawaii restaurant outside a resort complex.

9: Nightlife: After a hugely promoted opening, the "Waikiki Nei" show at the Royal Hawaiian Center fizzled and went dark even as its satellite Level 4 nightclub took off. Elsewhere on the club scene, Greg Azus bought Pipeline Cafe, and Oceans 808 opened on the site of the original Ocean Club.

10. We'll remember you: Hawaii's arts community mourned the deaths of Genoa Keawe, Raymond Kane, Winona Beamer, Peggy Chun, Llewellyn "Buddy" Farden, Jean "Kini" Sullivan and Clyde "Kindy" Sproat.