Review: Gridiron 2013 at Diamond Head Theatre
REVIEW BY CHRISTIE WILSON / firstname.lastname@example.org
It was LOL funny throughout most of Gridiron 2013, “#sequester this,” Thursday night, Aug. 22, at Diamond Head Theatre.
The much-anticipated show — tickets for the three performances tonight, Aug. 23, and Saturday, Aug. 24, sold out in 45 minutes — is now produced only in odd-numbered years by the Hawaii chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.
The Gridiron gives journalists, helped along by public relations flacks and other supporters, an overdue catharsis to skewer Hawaii newsmakers — something journalistic propriety prevents them from doing in their real jobs.
And there’s never a shortage of material.
The roster of standout performers this year was led by Civil Beat’s Chad Blair, who nailed it as Gov. Neil Abercrombie in several bits and musical numbers. Joined by a neon-clad ensemble, Blair strutted “Governor Style,” recalling Psy’s blockbuster hit “Gangnam Style.”
Hawaii News Now’s Keoki Kerr, in fine voice as always, serenaded as Lanai’s new landlord Larry Ellison in “Buy A Lot,” set to the tune of “Camelot”: “The details of the sale have been kept secret / I’ll say it cost a bit more than my yacht / The number I forgot, for me it’s not a lot / Heck, I picked up two airlines here / Cuz hey! I buy a lot.”
Man-about-town PR pro Lance Rae elicited belly laughs with his return as cuckoo billionaire Genshiro Kawamoto.
And it’s not a Gridiron show without Honolulu Star-Advertiser city hall reporter Gordon Y.K. Pang in drag, and he was back with a vengeance, lampooning University of Hawaii President MRC Greenwood in “Hey State Senate” and “What I Did for Me.” (Sample verse: “Kiss U-H goodbye / You know I’m feeling threatened / Donna Kim is hating me / But I can’t regret / What I did for me, ’cause I am MRC.”)
Pang also was featured in “Wonder Blunder Medley,” with Kristopher De La Cruz grabbing the spotlight with his blindingly funny impression of R&B superstar Stevie Wonder.
De La Cruz proved one of the night’s most talented singers, and was featured in the Manti Te’o sendup in Act II (you didn’t really think the Gridiron was going to let that one slide by, did you?). Singing in a funky falsetto to Prince’s “Kiss,” De La Cruz trilled: “You don’t have to be act-ual to turn me on / I just need your Facebook page from dusk to dawn.”
Other notable performances were turned in by Hawaii News Now’s Ben Guiterrez and KHON’s Kerry Yoshida, Chance Gusukuma of HMSA and the Star-Advertiser, the newspaper’s Jason Kasamoto, HMSA’s Moani Wright-Van Alst, and former TV weather lady Malika Dudley’s incredibly long, toned legs, which kicked off Act II with “It’s Rainbow Men,” a disco-themed nod to the whole Rainbow Warrior name game.
The Gridiron was not afraid to play the race card, first with seasoned stage pro Cathy Foy’s sneering portrayal of state lawmaker and art critic Faye Hanohano, who belted out “Everything’s coming up haoles.” Who knew a bastardized Broadway tune with a litany of racial slurs could be so entertaining?
Hawaii’s “melting pot” race relations were further examined in the “Ohana Road Rage” game show that pitted pidgin-to-the-max couple Pang and Wright-Van Alst against clueless malihini Shannon Winpenny and Robbie Dingeman.
And Kerr called out the Halekulani in “Little Brown Guy” — set, of course, to the hapa-haole chestnut “Little Brown Shack” — for an incident in which the well-known Hawaiian musician/singer Weldon Kekauoha and his family were questioned by security after other guests complained they didn’t belong there. Auwe!
Surrounded by hula maidens, Kerr crooned sweetly: “It isn’t nice or fair, when a talented guy / Is questioned why he’s there, when a guard saunters by / If he’s a local brown guy, in a haolefied pool / In a ritzy hotel in Hawaii.”
Other highlights included an always welcome “Hawaii Five-0” parody in which Scott Caan (Blair again) took his lumps from a human-sized Spam musubi and bowl of saimin for dissing local food.
And the audience laughed while it cried through the bittersweet “Where is Sears?” (based on “Where is Love” from “Oliver!”) The tender lament by distraught Ala Moana shoppers Kyle Funasaki and Vicki Viotti — “Where is Sears? / Where I shopped for all these years” — was interrupted by a tuxedoed Bill Sage cheerily singing, “Hooray for Bloomingdales! / High muckamucka, suckah Bloomingdales!”
Guiterrez, on stilts as Mufi Hannemann, delivered the best line of the night in a sketch about Abercrombie’s paranormal experience with the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who visits from the afterlife to chide the gov for ignoring his dying wish to install Rep. Colleen Hanabusa as his successor.
Other politicians taking their licks were “Manic Mayor” Kirk Caldwell; Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui of Maui, who writes “A Letter From Camp” to his boss a la the Alan Sherman classic; a preening Tulsi Gabbard who touts her instant celebrity in “Call Me Tulsi,” from the Carly Rae Jepsen hit; former Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz, who is “Suddenly Senator” (borrowing from “Little Shop of Horrors”); and charisma-free Sen. Mazie Hirono, who gets roasted by the boy band Wrong Direction in “We Don’t Care You’re Really Dull.” Ouch.
And just when the audience was beginning to worry that Donalyn Dela Cruz wouldn’t be channeling the bad-ass Hanabusa as she has in past Gridirons, out popped Bill Sage with the opening “what, what”’s to Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop.”
Dela Cruz was hella kickin’ it as the hip-hopping congresswoman, rapping: “I’m in D.C. like, wassup, no can stop / My poll numbers, they going up to the top / Neil’s still the gov, he’s our top donkey / Eh, he’s one cold-blooded honky.”
It might not be fair to criticize an amateur production, but what the hell. If you’re going to dish it out, you should be able to take it.
Thursday’s nearly three-hour dress rehearsal suffered from serious pacing problems in Act II, which featured several sketches that put the brakes on the hilarity and had audience members scratching their heads. While no fault of the performers, segments about Martha Stewart buying Kailua (did I miss that one in the news?), biotech babes, and a fantasy election league were either too obscure, too drawn out, or too dated (or just not funny enough) to hit the audience’s funny bone.
And the show would be much tighter without the cheesy and overlong set-ups by a parade of media celebs who spend a good chunk of their time at the microphone shilling for the production’s generous sponsors, without whom the Gridiron would not be possible. It’s a little unseemly witnessing journalists sucking up to major corporations, even if they are just reading from a script. The best place to do that is in the printed program, which rivals the action on stage for laughs.
New to the Gridiron this year were slick video segments the producers would be wise to adopt as a Gridiron staple. KHON’s Olena Heu rocked the house as she mimicked Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” in “No Butts on the Beach.” Weatherman Justin Cruz hammed it up alongside her as a cigarette-smoking dude and rolled around on the beach as a giant turd as Heu vamped: “You know it smells / Just like poop in the sand / Could you get your butt off the beach? / You know it’s hauna / Just like spoiled kim chee.”
In a second video, former Gov. Lingle Lingle (Hawaii News Now’s Dan Cooke) reported in from snowy Wasilla, Alaska, where she was visiting fellow has-been governor Sarah Palin, heard off-screen gunning down a moose.
More, please. (In fact, a gag video acknowledging the sponsors could be the answer to that particular problem.)
If you think I’ve given away most of the show, don’t fret. There’s still plenty of surprises and rollicking numbers left for audiences to discover.
All hail once again to Gridiron artistic directors Keoki Kerr and Robbie Dingeman, and special kudos to director/choreographer Ahnya Chang, choreographer Anna Gomes and musical director Roslyn Catracchia. The band was top-notch this year.
And if you, like me, have a hard time deciphering the words to some of the songs, for $10 you can pick up a book of lyrics that includes tunes cut from the show.
I just wish the Gridiron had managed to squeeze in “Block Their Way,” poking fun at Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler: “Old fart rocker thought his fame was a shocker / When the cameras were pointed his way/He said I feel like kickin’ at the guys who are clickin’ / Telephotos at my proper-tay / When I’m bare as nature? / Think the legislature/Oughta pass me a special bill / ’cause my name’s Steven Tyler and you’ll make me a smiler / When I bend Clayton Hee to may will — big thrill!”
Christie Wilson is the Features Editor at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Follow her on Twitter.