Star-Bulletin Features

Shari Lynn has the spotlight as leading lady in Diamond Head Theatre's "Mame."

A familiar voice takes
a powerhouse role

By Burl Burlingame

"There are only four big roles -- powerhouse dream roles -- for women in American musical theater," explains Shari Lynn, the singer-actress-dancer who's chalking up another one next week at Diamond Head Theatre with the title role in "Mame."

"There's 'Gypsy,' 'Hello Dolly,' 'Mame' and 'Funny Girl.' And I've been fortunate enough to do most of them."

The DHT production of "Mame" begins with a gala benefit for the theater on Wednesday and settles into its run next Friday.

As for Lynn, even though she's been performing in Hawaii for 27 years (more than 40 if you count her childhood performances in Pasadena), the production is a homecoming of sorts: "Funny Girl" was her first big-book musical and breakout performance, and it was at Diamond Head Theatre in the '80s.

"It was so wonderful. On the last night, I was crying and crying in my dressing room. What if I never did another show? But Jim Hutchison patted me on the shoulder and said, 'You got to do this one, and most people never get the chance. Life goes on.'"

Shari Lynn is Mame and Kanoa Goo plays Patrick.

A child performer who, in another age, would have been groomed on MGM's stages, Lynn majored in music and traveled the United States with a show band before winning $20,000 on "Name That Tune" in 1975. She and her then-husband decided to pack up and move to Hawaii.

"Oh, it seemed like so much money, but it was gone in six months," Lynn recalled. "We had to buckle down and get to work. I began casual-singing with Nate Kanai's and Charlie Lum's bands -- Charlie taught me local songs so we could do weddings -- and then Mel Cabang put together a new show at Hickory Steak House, where I sang with Danny Couch and a band called Fantasy. Then Kit Sampson called when Connie Kissinger left Sound Advice, and I sang there for a while, while taking a day job where I learned about computers, and then Jack DeMello formed us into Fascinatin' Rhythm for the Hanohano Room, and then I won the Hawaii Music Festival and represented the United States at the Tokyo Music Festival, and then I sang with the Brothers Cazimero, and on the side formed the Jive Sisters -- we knew three songs, but since we were only getting paid, like, $37 a week, that was enough for six months! And we played the big cruise ships, and I was working in the Diamond Head Theatre box office during the day, and then they made me director of education, where I hired John Rampage as an instructor ..."

Enough, enough!

"John Rampage is the most artistic and sensitive and knowledgeable musical director in town. He's amazing. He's directing 'Mame.' When he was a kid, he traveled by train every weekend to catch all the matinees he could."

Lynn, as you may have figured out by now, has been a cornerstone of Hawaii entertainment for the last quarter-century. Let's also mention her jazz alliances with Jimmy Borges, or the extremely popular cabaret performances of Fascinatin' Rhythm at the Hale Koa hotel (going on more than a decade now), or her television acting or television-hosting experiences, or her Hoku-nominated recording projects. Whew.


Where: Diamond Head Theatre
When: Opens March 22, running 8 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, and 4 p.m. Sundays through April 7
Tickets: $10 to $40
Call: 733-0274

Notes: Opening gala benefit beginning 6 p.m. Wednesday will feature a "bathtub gin" party hosted by Sam Choy's Let's Eat Hawaii, entertainment by Bob Marvit's no-name jazz band, a martini bar, silent auction, and a preview performance. Tickets are $75, $100 and $150, the latter featuring table service during dinner. Call 733-0277 for reservations.

The most fulfilling, though, she says, is her current gig as a music and voice instructor at La Pietra, passing on that encyclopedic 'Name That Tune' knowledge to a new generation, as well as the bel canto singing techniques of voice mentor and friend Neva Rego.

"It's like the song says, 'What I Did for Love' -- that's why I work. It's so contagious to give people a good time. And I've been very, very lucky. You can be talented and you can work very hard, but there is certainly luck involved.

"If I had not moved to Hawaii on a whim, would I have had the chance to work in so many fields? Sing with a symphony? Appear on 'Jake and the Fatman'? Help create tributes to Cole Porter and Irving Berlin? Record an album of Johnny Mercer tunes?

"I don't think so. Hawaii has been wonderful to me. I'm just a gal who can't say no!"

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