It is a rare event when a hit television show grows in popularity and credibility simultaneously. With last weeks’ Grammy nod to Best New Artist going to “American Idol’s” 2005 winner, Carrie Underwood, it seems the cross-over to serious professional recording is possible. Not a moment too soon for Kaua‘i‘s community when the first round of voting on Tuesday will include a former island resident and aspiring musician.
When “American Idol” began its broadcast a few weeks ago, the back story of Sanjaya and Shyamali Malakar, auditioning in Seattle, caught the eye of Hawai‘i Children’s Theatre costumer Poppy Shell. She called supporters of HCT to let them know that both former students had made it through the first audition and onto the Hollywood sessions. Debra Blachowiack, director of HCT, said “Families around the island began tuning in every week and last Wednesday, we shared in the thrill of Sanjaya moving ahead to the top 24. Shyamali, Sanjaya’s sister made it into the top 60, but unfortunately did not move into the top 24.”
The Malakar siblings trained at Hawai‘i Children’s Theatre during the late 90’s when their family lived on the island. Sanjaya attended Island School and also participated in many of Hawai‘i Children’s Theatre’s programs. He and his sister were extensively active in theatrical productions at HCT. They shared the stage in productions of “The Lion,” “The Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Oliver,” “The King and I,” “New Clothes for the Empress,” “Lord of the Flies,” “Bugsy Malone and Scrooge — A Musical Christmas Carol.” Shyamali also participated in HCT’s performance at the Lisbon World’s Fair in 1998. Their mother, Jill Recchi, was also involved in HCT as a boardmember. In 2000, the family moved back to the Mainland and the young performers continued their participation in the performing arts — a passion for both of them which began on Kaua‘i.
Blachowiack said, “Tune into ‘American Idol’ this coming Tuesday and vote for Sanjaya.” There is a complex mixture of talent, presence, charisma, and craft that make certain competitors seem more suited for the world of showbusiness. Out of nearly 200,000 individuals auditioning for the prized final spots, Sanjaya has already accomplished a great deal. Proudly, Hawai‘i Children’s Theatre can feel they prepared the Malakar siblings well. “All that theater has paid off,” said Blachowiack. Tuesday, he will perform.
Ask any accomplished artist and they will insist that training can begin at any age and the benefits go far beyond fame and fortune; but for now, the spotlight would do just fine for this HCT alumnae.