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Gourmet food, theatrical performances to highlight Progressive Dinner Party

By Staff | May 27, 2010

From left, Tyler and Jessica Vernoy and Sophia Fredy try out costumes they will wear at the Progressive Dinner.

LAHAINA — Feasting on everything from Asian delicacies and a luscious salad course to gourmet entrees from top chefs, diners at Lahaina’s second annual Progressive Dinner Party on May 28 and 29 will also be treated to theatrical performances by a cast of 20 skillful actors.

Besides dining at four historic venues, guests will enjoy a narrated tour on a short trolley ride and interact with improvisational performers dressed as missionaries, whalers and even a famous revolutionary who brought democracy to China.

Partygoers will first enjoy appetizers from Chef Sheldon Simeon of Star Noodle as they meet Sun Yat-sen at the Wo Hing Museum on Front Street. The Hawaii-educated hero who ended China’s Manchu Dynasty will be played by Joe Tolbe.  

Steeped in the history of the revolution so he can answer guests’ questions, Tolbe previously appeared at Iao Theatre in Wailuku as the Prime Minister in “The King and I” and the lead stripper in “The Full Monty.”

An open-air trolley provided by Mahalo Tours and Transportation will take guests from the Wo Hing Museum to the Hale Aloha meeting house. Docent Jackie Hala will narrate a historical tour of the area during the short trip.  

Arriving at Hale Aloha, guests will enjoy a special salad from the Maui Culinary Academy and be serenaded by a Tongan Choir. They also will meet Rev. Lorrin Andrews, first principal of Lahainaluna Mission School, where the children of Hawaiian royalty studied. Mark Colmer, who plays Andrews, brings well-honed talent to the cast through his training in theater at the California Institute of the Arts and the University of Maryland. He is a production manager for Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) and a veteran of such plays as “Annie,” “The Grapes of Wrath” and “Othello” on Maui.

Colmer will be joined by Christie Ellison, who plays a missionary woman. Ellison’s Maui credits include “The Spirit of Iao” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”

At the Baldwin Home, visitors will be greeted by the Rev. Dwight and Charlotte Baldwin’s missionary family, including six of their children. Bunt Burkhalter, who for years was on the other side of performances building sets, will play the reverend. A former pilot for Northwest Airlines, Burkhalter has performed in the “The Pirates of Penzance,” “The Music Man,” “The Sound of Music,” “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and “Under Milk Wood.”  

“I don’t think people in Maui know how excellent theater is here,” he said, after living in New York and seeing virtually “everything” on stage there.

Docent Chi Guyer, well-schooled on the history of missionaries, will play Mrs. Baldwin. Her children will be played by Sophia Fredy, Jessica and Tyler Vernoy, Dane Micheelson and Kirsten Gilchrist. Jessica, who will play Harriet Baldwin, has advanced to the finals of the Shakespeare Competition two years in a row. The Baldwin’s dear housekeeper, Kealoa, will be played by Julie Patao.  

While guests are visiting the Baldwins, they will be served a main course Friday night from Chef David Paul Johnson of David Paul’s Island Grill and Saturday from Chef Alex Stanislaw of the Plantation House.

Fine wines will be served from the Better Brands Grand Crew with pairings selected by Charles Fredy, and beer will be provided from Maui Brewing Company.

After the main course, guests will stroll across the street to Pioneer Inn, where they will savor MauiGrown coffees and a buffet of desserts in the tree-lined courtyard from chefs at nine restaurants.

At the inn, party goers will not only meet George Freeland, who developed and ran Pioneer Inn, but they will also experience the raucousness of the Whaling Days in Lahaina.

William Makozak, whose credits include the last season on TV’s “Lost” and the Adam Sandler film “Just Go With It” recently shot on Maui, will portray Freeland.  

Allen Cohen will play a whaling ship captain, Kevin Murphey will play a sailor, and Ute Finch and Patty Kelly will play the female interests of the captain and sailors at the Inn.

All of the actors will be in period costume researched and carefully created under the care of ShaRon Fredy, a board member of Theatre Theatre Maui and a visual merchandising expert who has directed fashion shows at Ala Moana Shopping Center. Fredy has been assisted by seamstresses Marilyn Ueno and Ivy Huerter, who Sharon said “won’t even let a zipper get by, since there were no zippers in Missionary and Whaling Days in Lahaina.”

Kristi Scott is directing the theatrical aspects of the dinner party, and Vicki Sparkman, Nina Micheelsen and Beth Garrow are stage managing the events. Scott teaches theater, directs productions on Maui and is currently playing the Fairy God Mother in “Cinderella” for Pro Arts of the Pacific in Kihei.    

Sparkman has worked in theater for 20 years and was general manager of the Civic Light Opera in Ukiah, California, before moving to Maui, where she delivers mail in Hana’s mail.

Lynette Chun will help guide partygoers as they progress on the dining adventure.

Proceeds from the event will be used for the restoration and preservation of Lahaina’s historic sites. Tickets for 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. seatings on May 28 and 29 are $135 all-inclusive, with $60 of the ticket price tax-deductible. Attendance is limited to those age 21 and up.  

Reservations can be made online at www.lahainarestoration.org or by calling Lahaina Restoration Foundation at 661-3262. Each seating accommodates 40 persons only; early reservations are advised.