Gayle Guppy (Noelle Poole, center) and the Pondettes perform a "Moonlight Dance" in the first act of "On Dragonfly Wings."

Returning on
the wings of love

There will be some new critters to meet and new faces to see when "On Dragonfly Wings" takes flight for a second time, starting tonight at the Hawaii Theatre.

Life lessons

'Ohi'a Productions presents the restaging of "On Dragonfly Wings"

Where: Hawaii Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. tonight and tomorrow, and 4 p.m. Sunday; additional performances 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, through Aug. 3

Tickets: $15 to $40

Call: 528-0506

Some alumni of the original 2001 Leeward Community College production will be playing different characters, and other longtime members of playwright Lisa Matsumoto's theatrical ohana who didn't participate in the original production will be present for this one.

"We have a new and improved show. It's the same story, but we've tightened the story line," Matsumoto said. Original costume designer Hugh Hanson has designed 22 new outfits, Michael Furuya has created new puppets and Roslyn Catraccia has contributed some new songs.

"After not having done it for two years, it was nice to take a fresh look at it and revamp it. We're really excited about all the changes that we've made and seeing all the elements come together," Matsumoto said.

One notable change is that Janel Parrish, who gave a fine leading role performance as Wendy Waterbug in the original production, is now working in Hollywood. (Chrissy Naruo, who was Daisy Damselfly and Parrish's understudy, will now play Wendy.) Broadway veteran Mary Gutzi joins the 'Ohi'a ohana as Dora Dragonfly, Mary Chesnut Hicks is Paula Wog and Michael Pae'kukui replaces Joe Abraham as Mayor Clovis Crayfish.

The always popular Eddy Gudoy, who played Sydney Snail in 2001, debuts tonight as Paul E. Wog, and Gary Masuoka and Yvonne Yanagihara Goss play ballet dancers Vladimir and Pollina Tadpolsky.

And Matsumoto will make a newly-written cameo appearance as the Queen Bee. She'll get vocal support from Zan De Peralta, Mara Bacon and Fran Gendrano as the Honey Bee singers in a scene that also includes numerous children as "the royal ba-bees" and a new song titled "Bee All That You Can Bee."

SHE DESCRIBES the removal and addition of old and new characters and songs as an inherent part of her work as a playwright and director.

"I consider everything sort of a work in progress. It's difficult to get everything right the first time around, and also (working with) different people and energy and chemistry, we always like to be able to highlight their specific talents. With a new cast, it sometimes creates a new show, or some scenes are revised to better suit the new actors that are in those roles...," Matsumoto said.

Helga Tadpole (Angela Angel, left) and Gunter Tadpole (Kelsey Chock) are part of the colorful characters in the musical.

"It's nice to constantly be able to allow the script to grow and to improve. It's more work, but it's always exciting because it's very much more of a collaborative effort, and we can really showcase the different talent here. It's what everyone brings and the talent that they all share that creates the magic."

The story of Wendy Waterbug is based on the children's book, "Wailana the Waterbug," which has become part of the legacy of Alana Dung, who died of leukemia at age 3 but generated an outpouring of support from the local community. Someone at the little girl's funeral shared a fanciful story that somehow equated a child's death with the transformation of an aquatic waterbug into a free-flying dragonfly. Alana's mother and some friends drafted a version of the story that they hoped would make it easier to talk about death with young children. Furuya was enlisted to do the artwork and Matsumoto was asked to help edit the text.

Although the metamorphosis of a waterbug into a dragonfly is actually the equivalent of a child passing from puberty to adulthood, Matsumoto says that the story of a waterbug going to "a higher place" has brought comfort to many people as a book and as a musical.

"Immediately, when I was working on (the book), I could just see it as a musical about this waterbug, and I could already imagine the songs that Roslyn (Catraccia) would write ... It's been amazing to hear a lot of people who say that it's helped them and, for us, it really was our very first attempt at something non-Pidgin and with a slightly more serious theme."

And this new production of "On Dragonfly Wings" may not be done with its own metamorphosis after its run is done.

"After this production, I can re-evaluate and see which things from before worked better and just keep fine-tuning it ... it's a little more work for us ...but it's also exciting, because the show itself can continue to grow and improve."

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