Santa Claus made his appearance in style — highlighting the Kauai Christmas Parade, greeting his fans, and finally settling in at Santa’s House, also known as Photos With Santa, at Kukui Grove Center close to the Keiki Korner play area.
“This feels like Santa’s House,” said Mrs. Claus who accompanied the jolly icon of the holidays through the frenzied whirl of keiki and their parents and friends. “There is the Elves’ Workshop, the Library, Santa’s Living Room, Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen, and of course, the Window Scene. I like it to look like the real thing. Photos with Santa is more than plopping the kid on a block — it is a memory the kids will have — I visited Santa’s House! — long after the photo is taken.”
Mrs. Claus, rooted to Brenda Biehler Turville of Showtime Characters, admits that Christmas is always a special time of the year, and her connection to Santa’s House stems from a ceramic Christmas House collection she created when she was 20 years old. The original Christmas House takes a spot in the Santa’s House creation at the Kukui Grove Center.
“I always wanted a Christmas House. It is hard to put into words all that I have done without writing a book,” Turville said. “I am very excited for this Christmas because during the last Christmas, it was so much fun seeing the keiki as Mrs. Claus. “I do teach A-Plus at the King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School (since 2012), teaching performing arts where the students all call me ‘Miss Butterfly.’”
Showtime Characters, with a wide range of animated bigger-than-life characters, also integrates into the Kukui Grove Center’s year-round offering, including Toddler Tuesdays that makes its appearance at 11:30 a.m. on the center stage on the first and third Tuesdays of each month.
During the weeks leading to Christmas, the characters will evolve into the more traditional holiday look and feeling.
“I have been performing at Christmas time for most all of my life,” Turville said. “I started as a young child, dancing at various Christmas parties and events — I wasn’t here, then. It was on the mainland — with the dance studio that I grew up in.”
Turville started her own dance studio, Brendance Studio, in 1966 and continued the Christmas tradition.
“I had my own students sharing their talents throughout the holiday season with others, whether it be for private parties, events, or large parades,” Mrs. Claus said. “Here on Kauai, we were part of the Lights on Rice holiday parade. We were asked to be part of the Lights on Rice excitement this year, but Santa’s House needs to be open, so I don’t know.”
At one of Showtime Characters’ early appearances at the Lights on Rice parade, Turville said she thought it was the end.
“We had a Santa Stuck in the Chimney theme,” Turville said. “And you know who had to operate Santa’s legs that were sticking out of the chimney? I was breathing all that ‘smoke,’ and as the parade made its way up Rice Street, a thought popped into my head — what about the power lines? Is Santa’s legs going to clear it? I’m going to die!”
Turville was also involved with working with nursing homes and the mentally challenged prior to moving to Kauai.
“I spent 12 years working in nursing homes with the the elderly and mentally challenged people,” she said. “Giving the gift of music and dance to our kupuna always brings the true meaning of Christmas into my heart. I love glitz and bling, glitter, and especially Christmas lights! I love seeing people being pulled together to celebrate the season and seeing the happiness in the eyes of the keiki, and hearing Christmas music which are beloved songs to me. I love seeing an elderly person who may not remember what they ate for lunch, or where they are. But they sure know the words and the tune to ‘Silent Night.’ I love hearing the words — ‘Merry Christmas!’ And, I especially love hearing these songs that we all love so much being sung by the next generations as I feel that our songs are being lost now that schools do not teach them, anymore. I fear a future when these songs are no more, as so few these days seem to be passing them on.”
Turville and her Brendance Studio were called on to train the Hughes Brothers around 1980s.
“For many years now, The Hughes Brothers have the No. 1 Christmas Show in Branson, Minnesota,” the Mrs. Claus alias said. “We did so many Christmas show events like the Festival of the Trees — I’d like to start something like that here on Kauai — entertained at numerous shopping malls, school assemblies, and private parties.”
Turville moved to Kauai in 1987 and gave birth to the Showtime Menehune, a keiki performing arts group in 1988.
“The Christmas performances continued to be a huge part of my life,” Turville said. “I still have cast members from the original Showtime Menehune coming up to me — remember when we did that show? Music warms the hearts of people and moves upon their souls like nothing else, and bringing music to so many lives has always made the holidays so special to me.”
Mrs. Claus said her “show biz” roots brought her to Kauai.
“My ‘show biz’ life began actually at the tender age of just one-and-a-half years,” Turville said. “My mother danced in a hula halau in California where I was living at that time. I would dance along her side, and her kumu hula decided to have me dance onstage — my first hula ‘Little Brown Gal,’ and I never cut my hair. I want it long for hula. I did continue dancing with halau until I moved to Kauai in 1987. This definitely was in part what led me to eventually move to Kauai.”
“As a young child, my mother also enrolled me into ballet, tap, and jazz. I would also go folk and square dancing with my grandparents, but I only dance hula. I have also taught many forms of dance throughout my career.”
“In 1972, I started performing and choreographing musical productions, performing in, choreographing, and even directing a number of Broadway musicals on the mainland as well as on Kauai.”
“I became known on Kauai for directing and choreographing the 13-year run of Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific Dinner Show that was offered by the Kauai Beach Resort. Additionally, I was the playwright/director for the production that was onstage throughout the 1990s known as “He ‘Olelo Ho‘ohiki I Malama ‘Ia — A Promise Kept,” a production that many of our local people of all ages participated in. It was a story told about the early migrations to Kauai through song and dance.”
“Salute!” is a powerful heartfelt tribute to our veterans, and that show followed for two years.”
“During all this time, I have coached numerous title holders, both locally, statewide, and nationally for beauty pageants and talent shows. I have also been very fortunate to have directed some of Kauai’s talented people like Starla Marie, Christie Parongao, Natalie Capino, Daphne Sanchez, Sydney and Siena Agudong, Jeremiah Garcia, and Amanda and Savannah Hubbard to name a few.”
Recently, Turville became involved with the Hawaii Children’s Theater production of “Matilda” that closes Dec. 1 at the Kauai War Memorial Convention Hall.
“We made fake food for ‘Matilda,’ she said. “We spent so much time on the set, it was our home away from home, making adjustments to the sets, and the fake food — the potato chips look very real, you want to eat them — will become part of Santa’s House. How can we improve this? Or, we can adjust this…we could always do better. One night a parent came following the show and said how the sets added to the realism of the production. Yes, the effort was worth it.”
Showtime Characters’ seasonal calendar is not limited to the Kukui Grove Center as the show goes on the road for the Waimea Christmas Tree Lighting presented by the West Kauai Tech Center ahead of the Kauai Christmas Parade.
“The Showtime Characters will be part of the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital Family Christmas Evening, Monday when the thousands of Christmas lights will be turned on for the residents, their families, and the community,” Turville said. “The characters will also join Santa at the Breakfast with Santa at Kilohana on Dec. 14 from 9 a.m. We’ll also have the characters out during several of the Kukui Grove Holiday Light Spectacular. You can check the Kukui Grove website, or follow us on Facebook at Showtime Characters where we try to post most of our events that are open to the public.”
“Showtime Characters has been performing and making magical memories on Kauai since 2008 when I wanted to do something special for my granddaughter’s first birthday,” Turville said. “Since that time, several talented Kauai people have been a part of our cast and crew. We have many fun characters in our company who love to come to life and help make many dreams come true for the little ones and adults alike. Showtime Characters are also involved in providing other party needs such as balloon twisting and airbrush tattoos. We can do balloon decor and centerpieces making us a one-stop place for many party or event needs.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.