By JOHN BURNETT
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Two of Hilo’s favorite theater performers will be leaving the islands, separately, to try their hand at performing careers in New York.
But before they take a bite of the Big Apple, they’ll do three farewell concerts here this weekend.
Cristina Hussey and Pedro Ka‘awaloa present “Anything You Can Do” tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m. with a 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinee at the East Hawaii Cultural Center. Tickets are $5, available at EHCC and at the door.
“We’re doing this as a way to give back to the community that’s nurtured our talents and our dreams. That’s why the ticket price is only $5,” Ka‘awaloa said on Wednesday.
Hussey and Ka‘awaloa will perform the concert’s title song from “Annie Get Your Gun” and other selections from Broadway to pop to opera. Pianist Quack Moore is the accompanist. Guest performers are Jackie Johnson, Stephen Bond, RaVani Durkin, Erin Gallagher, Byron Karr, Lilinoe Kauahikaua and Corey Yester.
“We’ve chosen people who’ve helped us over the years, talented people and great friends, as well, who’ve put in the time to do this with us,” said Hussey.
The 25-year-old Hussey is currently in rehearsals for Kilauea Drama and Entertainment’s production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Her many local credits include “Nunsense,” “Seussical” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” She earned a performing arts degree from the University of Hawaii at Hilo in 2011, and will be leaving on Sept. 15. She’ll attend the New York Film Academy to study musical theater and film with an eye toward Broadway or film acting.
“I want to start getting my foot into the door, whether it’s commercials or movies or TV, while I prepare and audition for Broadway,” she said. She said her strength is comedy, but she wants to do more drama.
The timetable for the 30-year-old Ka‘awaloa is less definite. He’s been the music director for KDEN for the past several years and starred in the company’s productions of “Cinderella,” “Peter Pan” and “The Fantasticks,” as well as the title role in the Palace Theater production of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” The Harvard alum has left his position as band director at Hilo High School. He said he’ll continue to help his high school alma mater’s Performing Arts Learning Center as well as conduct the Kanilehua Chorale for the time being.
“I’m just trying to get myself mentally prepared and financially and all those other things,” he said. “My goal is to be a Broadway performer and to be paid doing what I really love. I don’t know if you watched Oprah Winfrey’s Harvard commencement speech, but it really resonated with me. She said to do what makes you come alive or to find out what makes you come alive and go do that. It spoke to this soul searching that I’ve been doing as of late.”
Ka‘awaloa said that he’s “become reflective lately.”
“I’ve gotta do what I want to do,” he explained. “Performing as a career, professional performing — I think I’ve always been afraid of pursuing it wholeheartedly because of the fear of failure. I’ve told myself recently that I’m either going to have to try and succeed or fail. Otherwise, I’ll never know. And I don’t know if I could live with not knowing whether or not I could have succeeded at it.”
Both Hussey and Ka‘awaloa are “triple threats” — acting, singing and dancing — a must for Broadway actors. If anyone knows what it takes to have a successful performing career in New York, it’s Moore. Armed with a master’s degree in classical piano performance from Juilliard, the Brownsville, Pa., native played in orchestra pits and rehearsal rooms before landing a gig on a then-new TV show in 1975: “Saturday Night Live.” She played in the SNL band for more than two decades, becoming its music director.
“It all starts with ‘get out of town,’” she said. “Nobody comes here to find out what your talent is about. … There’s no experience like living in Manhattan. I think New York is a lesson unto itself, but you do need to go out and audition and get yourself an agent to set you up in these things. They have as good a shot as anyone else. A long, long time ago, I used to be a person up on the stage playing these auditions for people. I’d find out later that 90 percent of the people who’d auditioned were not from New York. You get to New York and you think you’re meeting New Yorkers — and you’re meeting people from places like Hilo, and they’re all people with a similar dream.”
Email John Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.