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Artists, musicians and dancers will transport guests back in time at party

By Staff | May 12, 2011

Each evening will begin at 5:45 p.m. at the Wo Hing Museum.

LAHAINA — How do you transform an old prison into a site for a gala dinner party?

Just ask Theo Morrison, executive director at Lahaina Restoration Foundation (LRF), and you’ll get a detailed answer.

With paint, murals, lanterns, tables and linens, Morrison and her team are busily readying the Old Lahaina Prison to serve as the site of the main course of LRF’s third annual Progressive Dinner Party on May 13 and 14.

During a progressive dinner party, guests travel (or “progress”) from one site to the next for each course of the meal.

Lahaina Restoration Foundation has added a historical twist to the concept — you travel from one historical site to another by trolley and shuttle with historical narration along the way.

“The evening starts with appetizers at the Wo Hing Museum on Front Street, moves to the Old Lahaina Prison for salad and the main course and ends up at the Pioneer Inn for dessert,” explained Morrison.

“You also enjoy culinary creations by some of Maui’s most noted chefs, including chefs Mark Ellman, Ryan Luckey, Sheldon Simeon and Jay Kulukulalani.”

“You could call this a fusion of a ‘foodie’ and ‘historical’ event,” said Morrison, noting that the chefs will use ingredients such as Snake River Farms Gold Label Kobe Tenderloin, island fresh ahi and Molokai prawns to create tantalizing dishes especially for the occasion.

“The settings are as memorable as any you’ll ever find, and you’ll learn a bit about Lahaina’s rich history throughout the evening,” she commented.

“The Old Lahaina Prison was built in the 1850s by order of the legislature and King Kamehameha III of Hawaii,” Morrison noted. “Stones from the coral block fort on Front Street were used to build the 24-inch-thick walls of this incredible structure.”

The stated purpose of the jail, known as Hale Pa’ahao (which means “stuck in irons”) was, according to the order, “to keep entirely separate from each other the male and female prisoners, and to have a yard enclosed by fences of sufficient height and strength to prevent escapes and also to prevent all access to, or communication by persons outside.”

“While that history will be all around us during our Progressive Dinner Party, the jail will have a very different feel to it for this special occasion,” said Morrison.

“There will be two 24-foot-long, hand-painted murals depicting Lahaina scenes, plus special lighting to set the mood.”

A troupe of local actors, hula dancers and obon dancers are preparing to take the stage during the main entrée course as part of a dinner theater production created by Kristi Scott of Great Scott Productions.

The show is based on an old song, “Saturday Night in Lahaina,” written by homesick sailors aboard a ship stationed offshore in the Lahaina Roadstead during W.W.II.

The show includes hula by Halau Kealakahinano’opuna led by Kumu Joy Salvador, with dancers Logan Hanohano, Taryn Cabingas and Carley Kimokeo. There will also be Obon dancers, including Alyce Yoshino, Jane Agawa, Mary Nakamura, Carol Inaba and leader Arleen Gerbig.

Longtime Lahaina residents will enjoy the portrayal of the late Captain Kenny, a beloved and colorful local resident who transported his artwork in a shopping cart and sold it along Lahaina’s streets. Actor Chuck Dicker will be playing the part.

Other actors in the show include Robenn Robb, Allen Cohen, Ute Finch, Michelle Nakagawa, Derek Nakagawa, Garrett Probst and Bailey Keller.

The evening also includes Asian-themed appetizers prepared by Star Noodle chefs Sheldon Simeon and Jay Kulukulalani served at Wo Hing Museum, a salad of organic greens harvested fresh from weFarm in Kapalua served at the prison, and a grand dessert buffet served under the stars in the open courtyard of the Pioneer Inn. There will also be a selection of locally brewed beer by Maui Brewing Co. and wines by Chambers and Chambers Wine Merchants, as well as Southern Wine and Spirits.

And for those who want to work off at least a few calories from this sumptuous dinner feast, there’s the opportunity for dancing to live music during the dessert course at Pioneer Inn, with music provided by Haiku Hillbillies on Friday night and Rock ‘n’ Rogues on Saturday night.

Attendees can purchase tickets for either Friday or Saturday evening. The seats are limited to just 68 diners (34 couples) per evening and are $135, all inclusive.

“We are also offering special VIP tables for eight for $1,000,” said Morrison. “With this package, you get a private reserved table with a personal server at each site, complimentary parking for four cars at the Baldwin Home parking lot at the corner of Dickenson Street and Front Street, and one copy of the book, ‘Exploring Historic Lahaina,’ for each VIP.”

The dinner party is a benefit for LRF, a nonprofit organization that works to faithfully restore, maintain and interpret the physical, historical and cultural legacy of Lahaina, first capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

A portion of the Progressive Dinner Party ticket price — $60 per individual ticket or $400 for a VIP table — is U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Dinner reservations are available to adults over age 21 only; call LRF at 808-661-3262 or visit www.lahainarestoration.org.