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Susan Kang Sunderland

Bringing The Ocean Alive For Keiki

Johnson Enos of Kaneohe grew up surfing and swimming, and now turns his love of the sea into a children’s musical, Honu By The Sea

Johnson Enos is on the crest of a wave that is taking him places. The Waikiki beach boy-turned-composer/songwriter is making a splash in the music world.

Proud of his Hawaii roots, the Castle High School graduate works with show biz honchos in Los Angeles and New York but retains an island flavor to his music.

Two major projects – a children’s musical called Honu By The Sea and a new CD release titled Lehua - are his latest achievements.

We catch up with Enos in Waikiki at one of the rare times when he’s not surfing or paddling in the ocean. As we chat at Sans Souci, he reflects on his childhood splashing around the Waikiki Nata-torium.

“This is where I swam and spent many hours surfing at the beach,” he says. “The ocean is our front yard. It connects Hawaii with the rest of the world.”

It’s no surprise that his first major musical tells the story of ocean creatures and the importance of marine conservation. Honu By The Sea, a workshop play, had a summer run at The Royal Hawaiian’s Monarch Room last year. A touring company makes a promotional trip to Seattle Jan. 18-20 in connection with the Oahu Visitors Bureau, Waikiki Aquarium and Seattle Aquarium.

Cast members, in sea creature costumes, perform numbers composed by Enos.

The family-friendly show features denizens from the sea encountered by a Waikiki beach boy, who learns the value of friendship and the virtues of saving the ocean environment.

Audiences meet Hoopy the monk seal, A’ama Crab, and Hula Hoop, the coolest octopus in the sand. O, Pi and Hi – you guessed it – are delightful little crustaceans.

The original cast of 15 were trained and directed by Enos’ high school theatre coach Ronald Bright.

“This is a homegrown show by, for and about Hawaii,” Enos says. “I noticed there was no children’s show in Waikiki, and the concept for Honu By The Sea came to me as I sat on the beach watching surfers at sunset.”

Locals can catch a 20-minute version of Honu By The Sea at Waikiki Aquarium Saturday, Feb. 2, at noon.

Costumed cast will be available for photos. The show is included in general admission to the aquarium; kamaaina rates are available.

As the concept for Honu evolves, the 49-year-old Kaneohe resident hopes to add more characters and new songs. Honu

eventually will take on an international flavor featuring sea creatures from South America, Asia and Europe.

Reminiscent of Disney-Pixar’s film Finding Nemo, one wonders with Enos’ established show biz connections how far Honu can go. He cites interest by DreamWorks in possibly turning Honu By The Sea into an animated short film.

Enos’ connections with Disney date back to 1986, when he auditioned and was hired as a singer at Disneyland-Anaheim.

“My boss was a mouse,” he says with a smile, referring to Mickey.

Doing five shows a day on Main Street, he’d often spot Hollywood celebrities such as Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise with their families in the audience.

Collaborating with Disney’s Imagineering division, Enos got firsthand experience in planning and producing major shows.

His songwriting and composing talents soon were noticed by music artists and their representatives.

He has done arranging and vocals for Bette Midler and Kristin Chenoweth, among others.

His credits also include work on Disney Aulani Resort’s national commercial and the movie Lilo & Stitch 2.

Enos’ recording and film connections benefit his Hawaii-based projects as he opens the doors of opportunity to island talent.

He layers his musical pursuits with ocean conservation awareness as a give-back to the community.

After all, Enos admits, he’s just a Waikiki beach boy at heart.

That might be so but it doesn’t keep Enos from dreaming big and catching waves in the complex, competitive world of music.

Will he become the Jacques Cousteau of music?

Running three companies from offices in Honolulu and Los Angeles, Enos hasn’t forgotten the joy of being a performer himself.

His third and latest recording, out this month, is Lehua, with a mix of island classics (Blue Hawaii, Pearly Shells, I’ll Remember You) and original compositions (K Bay and Kua Pua’ala). K Bay celebrates the languorous attributes of Kaneohe Bay. Kua Pua’ala (My Fragrant Flower) is inspired by his mom Aileen Enos.

Each is nicely arranged, including a grand intro – complete with ocean sounds – to Blue Hawaii.

The sleeper selection, however, could be Enos’ simple and melodic rendition of the Sinatra hit My Way. It seems prophetic of his music career as he approaches projects with Disneyesque creativity and a touch of island magic. His way.

Enos’ latest CD “Lehua” is available at mele.com and cdbaby.com.

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