‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ rings in 20 years

For 20 years KPAC has offered over 2,000 Kaua‘i’s middle and high school students a unique educational opportunity to learn and be exposed to the art of musical theater, stagecraft, playwriting, directing for the stage and performance. Students from all island schools are invited to participate in the program through their own volition and time, while gaining academic credit at their school. Founder Arnold Meister reflects on the program, “So why the success? The answer is… committed people: students so talented and wanting to perform, parents giving hours of time, talent, love, staff members working way, way beyond the monetary rewards, an audience which has built up over the years to become faithful friends, DOE personnel believing in the program. Most of all, it has to be because the theatre arts are beyond essential; they speak to us all in ways so profound and satisfying that we are all compelled to keep them alive and relevant,” he writes.

Dennis McGraw, director of the program since 2001, is dedicated to bringing theatrical training to students that are generally interested and might also be considering professional study of drama. “Several of our former students are now studying in New York at The American Musical & Dramatic Academy,” McGraw said. “I have loved working with these wonderful, self-directed and talented students. They make so many sacrifices to be here — over the years we have seen so many middle school students continue on to the high school level,” he said.

The gratifying experience of watching students ignited by theater has attracted many professional adults currently working with KPAC. Musical director Alan Van Zee, costumer Poppy Shell, choreographer Carol Culver, set designer/constructor Ismael Cantu and stage manager Julie Haviland from this spring’s production of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” are just a few talented and dedicated adults who have worked with the students over the years.

Based on the 1967 Oscar-nominated film with Julie Andrews, the 2002 six-time Tony winning Broadway musical comedy “Thoroughly Modern Millie” takes audiences back to the height of the “Jazz Age in New York City when ‘moderns’ including a flapper named Millie Dillmount were bobbing their hair, raising their hemlines, entering the workforce and rewriting the rules of love,” states the Broadway show’s press release.

In KPAC’s production, McGraw directs 41 student performers and nine student stage-crafters to recreate “a madcap romp through New York City — it’s a fun and exhilarating show,” said McGraw.

In the fall Semester, McGraw, Amy and Keith Amano focus on the middle school students who perform three smaller productions for the January theater festival. Simultaneously, high school students take classes including playwriting, stagecraft, scene study and directing taught by local professionals such as Ross Martineau — preparing them for spring’s larger production.

Arnold Meister, the founder and “driving force and visionary,” of KPAC said McGraw, occasionally teaches classes in the fall semester. McGraw credits Meister for bringing the “extraordinary educational program” to Kaua‘i. The program has received technical support from Eric Togerson of ET Services, and John McIntyre. Both have provided sound and lights for every production over the past six years.

See KPAC’s ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’

When: Tonight and tomorrow at 7 p.m.; April 27, 28 at 7 p.m.; Sunday and April 29 at 4 p.m.

Where: Kaua‘i War Memorial Convention Center, Lihu‘e

Tickets: advance $6 students, $10 adult; at the door $8 students, $12 adult

Tickets available at North Shore Pharmacy, Small Town Coffee, Kmart, Progressive Expressions and Scotty’s Music. For more information call 651-2417.

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