Show restores religious holiday spirit


POSTED: Thursday, December 17, 2009

Honolulu Theatre for Youth's beautifully staged production of “;Amahl and the Night Visitors”; is more than charming seasonal entertainment. In referencing the religious origins of Christmas, it marks a milestone for HTY as well.

For most of the last decade, HTY's institutional take on Christmas was that Jesus had no part in it. HTY's annual “;Christmas Talk Story”; anthology series included stories about Thanksgiving and celebrating New Year's Eve, and one year there was even a story about playing with rubber slippers in the summer. Hanukkah was mentioned on occasion, and so was Kwanzaa, but the possibility that some of Hawaii's children might celebrate the birth of Jesus during the holiday season was beyond the pale.





        » Place: Tenney Theatre, St. Andrew's Cathedral

» When: 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Saturday


» Cost: $16 adults; $8 for children, college students with ID, and people 60 and older. Active-duty military receive one free child admission with each regularly priced adult ticket.


» Call: 839-9885, 956-7655 or visit www.htyweb.org


HTY artistic director Eric Johnson's choice of “;Amahl”; restores the balance between secular and sectarian themes in beautiful style. Produced in partnership with Hawaii Opera Theatre, with Eric Schank providing piano accompaniment, the show is a perfect introduction to opera as well.

The story is simple and to the point: Amahl, a crippled boy who must use a crutch to walk, lives in poverty with his mother. One cold winter night, they are awakened by three kings who are seeking a baby whose location is marked by an unusual star. When Amahl's mother is caught stealing some of the kings' gold, they tell her she may keep it — the child they seek has no need of gold. Amahl's mother repents her act, and Amahl offers his crutch as a gift for the unnamed child. At that moment he is miraculously healed, and with his mother's permission he joins the three kings in their journey.

It goes without saying that the baby is Jesus, but the baby's name is never mentioned. “;Amahl”; is the story of a mischievous and likable boy, a mother's love for her child, and three kings whose wisdom and generosity of spirit is as great as their wealth.

LESLIE “;BUZ”; Tennent (King Melchior), Gerald Altwies (King Balthazar) and Chad Williams (King Kaspar) combine strong voices and acting as the three kings.

Local stage veteran Megan Mount is a commanding presence as Amahl's loving mother, and Chandler Bridgman is well cast as Amahl. The elementary school kids in the audience enjoyed the natural and often comic interplay between Amahl and his mother, as well as the equally natural give-and-take between the boy and the three colorfully dressed kings. Williams' performance as fussy, hard-of-hearing Kaspar was especially well received.

The kids also seemed to have no problems adjusting to sung, rather than spoken, dialogue.

Cast member Jordan Savusa (Page) was an audience favorite at a recent weekday performance. He does double duty as the emcee who leads the audience through the selection process by which several are chosen for supporting roles.

Set designer Jomahl (also known as Joseph Dodd) gives the actors a beautiful performance area and many interesting props; the set integrates the earth-toned hut and the deep-blue heavens dominated by an enormous star.

Costumer Sandra Payne dresses the kings in rich and wondrous attire. Tennent's costume includes a crown with two triangular points and red shoes with long pointed tips. Altwies is equally striking in black and purple. Williams' ensemble includes an oversize turban and colors of white, green and pink.