By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
ee Dombroski can’t contain her excitement when talking about the 2013-14 season at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center.
“Come to everything; don’t miss anything,” Dombroski, the center’s manager, said. “It’s all going to be fabulous and we are thrilled that we’re able to do all of it.”
The season opens on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with “Broadway’s Next H!t Musical,” a completely improvised production — basically theater’s version of a high-wire act without a net. Dombroski called it “a hilarious event.”
“It’s five musical theater performers and a piano player, and they take suggestions from the audience for song titles,” she said. “They take a few out and they create songs based on the titles they’re given, and from those songs, they basically create a one-act musical, which they then perform for the audience.
“It’s all improv. It’s all new and different every time they do it. There’s nothing scripted. So the next great American musical is coming to Hilo and we’re all writing it together.”
On Oct. 25 at 7:30 p.m., Nnenna Freelon & Trio will take the stage.
Freelon, described by Dombroski as “an exquisite jazz singer, absolutely phenomenal,” recorded her first album in 1992 at age 38. Despite the relatively late start, she’s now a six-time Grammy nominee who’s appeared with opera superstar Jessye Norman and Jimmy Fallon’s house band, The Roots, in composer Laura Karpman’s adaptation of Langston Hughes’ “Ask Your Mama” at the Hollywood Bowl.
UHH presents “The Spoon River Project,” a stage adaptation of Edgar Lee Masters’ “Spoon River Anthology on Nov. 7, 8 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on Nov. 10.
“This version has music, as well as residents from a small town coming back from the dead to tell us about their lives,” Dombroski said.
In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Hilo Community Players, the production will be co-directed by UHH Professor Jackie Pualani Johnson and Jake McPherson, past-president of the players. Chris Tomich is the music director.
“Season of Light,” a holiday concert featuring the UHH combined choruses directed by Amy Horst plus the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra directed by Madeline Schatz, is on Dec. 15 at 2 p.m.
“The orchestra will play for a portion of the concert, and they’ll accompany the chorus for another portion of the show, as well,” Dombroski said.
The first show of 2014 is “The Intergalactic Nemesis, Book Two: Robot Planet Rising,” on Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. It’s a live-action graphic novel which integrates voice actors, live music and sound effects with original comic-book artwork projected panel by panel onto a two-story-tall video screen. The live radio drama meets comic book approach is the brainchild of Austin, Texas-based writer and director Jason Neulander.
“Book One: Target Earth” played to a sold-out house last season at UHHPAC.
“We had so much response from the audience. People just loved that show, everybody from little kids to tutu. Book Two is going to be just as exciting,” Dombroski said.
Another act that amazed local theatergoers in a prior performance, Rasta Thomas’ Bad Boys of Dance, will defy gravity and the laws of physics with a new show on the UHHPAC stage on Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
“They are so athletic that it’s amazing to watch them,” Dombroski said.
Another dance show one must see to believe is Rhythmic Circus with “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now,” which combines tap dancing, a seven-piece band, vocalists and a human beat-box.
“There’s never a dull moment, and I can’t believe they have that much energy. They go and go for an hour and a half,” Dombroski said.
The circus comes to town on March 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Danu, from Ireland’s County Waterford, performs a mix of ancient Irish music and new repertoire. They’ll play March 21 at 7:30 p.m.
“We haven’t had anything from that part of the world in a while, so that will be fun,” Dombroski said.
UHHPAC’s spring musical is “Miss Saigon,” which Dombroski describes as the season’s “coup de grâce.” It’s directed by Johnson with musical direction by Armando Mendoza, vocal direction by Horst, and choreography by Celeste Station.
“It’s quite a production; we’re holding our breath and launching,” Dombroski said.
An updated version of Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” “Miss Saigon” is the story of star-crossed lovers, an American G.I. and a Vietnamese woman, separated during the fall of Saigon.
Shows are April 10, 11, 12, 17, 18 and 19 at 7:30 p.m. with a Sunday matinee on April 13 at 2 p.m.
Up next is the spring choral concert, on Sunday, April 27 at 2 p.m.
Two mainstays of the UHHPAC calendar, the UH-Hilo Jazz Orchestra and Great Leaps dance concert, are also back, both with different shows for the fall and spring semesters.
Directed by Trever Veilleux, the jazz orchestra plays an eclectic mix of jazz, rock, funk and soul — everything from Miles Davis to Frank Zappa, Duke Ellington and Steely Dan. Shows are Dec. 12 and May 8 at 7:30 p.m.
And Great Leaps is a spectacle featuring ballet, jazz, modern and aerial dance pieces choreographed by instructors Celeste Staton, Annie Bunker and Kea Kapahua, as well as guest choreographers and projects by graduating UHH seniors. Shows are Dec. 12 and May 7, with two shows each date, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Season ticket packages as well as “Fall Quatro” and “Spring Trifecta” packages are available. For tickets or more information, call the box office at 974-7310 or visit the UHHPAC website at http://artscenter.uhh.hawaii.edu.
“You can get our entire season package for under $200,” Dombroski said. “There’s a discount for seniors, faculty and staff; it’s just over $100. And for students, it’s not even $65.”
Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune -herald.com.