A Tale Of Twins Separated

In the study of psychology, there’s a lot of interest in twins — it’s that nature versus nurture discussion. If they’re both the same genetically, how will they turn out when subjected to contrasting environments? In Blood Brothers, a United Kingdom musical being staged by the Performing Arts Department of Chaminade University, Gabriel Giasolli and Chase Bridgman are twins Mickey and Edward. A mother’s destitute lot leads her to give up baby Edward to a wealthy benefactor, but she keeps Mickey. The two boys happen upon each other in the play yard and hit it off instantly, unaware of their biological connection.

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Chase Bridgman as Edward and Gabriel Giasolli as his twin brother Mickey PHOTO COURTESY OF CHAMINADE UNIVERSITY

“One of the themes is how the nurturing of the twins happens in different ways — Edward through privilege, Mickey through pure love,” says director Brother Gary Morris (no relation to the twins, wink-wink). “Mickey’s mother tries her best, but she doesn’t have much to give him. There’s an issue of guilt that goes on here, too, because she gave away her child.”

In a fascinating turn, Bridgman is a real-life twin and his non-identical brother Chance, plus their older brother, Chandler (all Le Jardin students and commonly seen in community theaters on the island), also will perform in the play. Most of the 13 performers, including the two high school student leads, come from outside of Chaminade, and several of the actors play multiple roles. But Chaminade is hands-on behind the scenes, from set design to sound, lighting, crew and costuming.

“It’s a powerful piece of theater,” says Morris. “It deals with social issues and justice issues in English society that are important to be aware of. Class distinctions and the problems that happen with poverty and economic depression are things we experience right here in Hawaii.”

The narrator tells the audience right off that both boys will die on the same day. But don’t expect melodrama, says Morris, expect powerful drama.

“In Act 1, we’re relating with the boys as children, and there’s an innocence and a real delight to the way the script and the music are composed,” he says. “The leads are two older teenagers, but they play 7-year-olds the entire first act. How does a 7-year-old react to a situation of poverty and not having things? They play and enjoy one another’s company with the innocence of children, in spite of the social situation going on around them.

“The privileged boy prefers to go down and play with the poor kids, but his mother won’t let him, so he sneaks away to do it. The other boy wants to go up and play with the ‘posh kids’ in the richer side, but the mother doesn’t want him go up there. That’s the first act.”

Act 2 turns grittier. The boys have grown up and Mickey feels his economic burden. Depression, drug addiction and crime come into play.

“Along the way, there’s a wonderful feeling about the relationships that are developing, particularly between the two boys,” notes Morris. “That good feeling gets kind of shattered in Act 2. We’ve created a production that’s going to move people.”

Given the show’s background and that of Chaminade’s drama program, they just may have something special on their hands. The musical has attained a cult following in the UK, and Chaminade’s drama program itself has received national attention as a participant in the Washington, D.C.-based Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival the past couple of years. Chaminade theater’s promising drama students have been selected to attend the festival’s regional programs, where they compete in all drama forms, from acting and script writing to stage design and more, for awards and scholarships.

“We don’t have a major program in theater,” says Morris, “but we have a really well-developed minor program, and students get a lot out of the Kennedy Center participation.”

This February, Chaminade and UH will co-sponsor one of the center’s regional festivals.

the TICKET stub
When: Through April 26
Where: Mamiya Theatre
Cost: $10-$20
More Info: 735-4827, chaminade.edu

ALSO SHOWING
Budding Opera Singers

Hawaii Opera Theatre shows attract international celebs to perform its lead roles, but we have a lot of talent right here on Oahu. The HOT chorus, including in upcoming Sweeney Todd (April 24, 26, 28; 596-7858, hawaiiopera.org) is culled from HOT’s Mae Z. Orvis Opera Studio, and on occasion from its youth division, Orvis Young Voices Studio. The former is focused on college-age and older singers, while Young Voices trains high school students.

“Studio members work with the opera staff and we also bring in professionals from the opera industry to work with our members,” says HOT director of education Erik Haines. (Son Evan, a high school junior, is HOT’s first third-generation chorister and recently appeared in Flying Dutchman.) A grant from Arthur and Mae Orvis Foundation funds the studio programs, and members give back by appearing in at least one opera chorus a year. While studio members are involved in the several public performances HOT produces each year, they do another 80-100 community performances, including on the Neighbor Islands. These are twoto three-hour operas whittled down to about 40 minutes, performed mostly in elementary schools. The result is that opera has become accessible, perhaps more-so to youngsters than to older generations.

“Most of us older types hear the word ‘opera,’ and it’s giant people with horns screaming loud,” says Haines. “For kids, it’s just people singing a story.”

Quinn Kelsey is Hawaii’s most notable opera great to have been nurtured by the studio, but it has produced a number of successes, from fellow international singers such as tenors Julius Ahn or Jeremy Blossey, to those who become professionals outside of opera in related activities, such as singing other genres or performing.

“We work with people who like singing and sing well, and who we think will benefit through working with us, and will benefit the community and the company,” says Haines.

Those who’d like to test out their talent can try out at adult studio auditions happening live this Saturday (April 25) and Young Voices auditions that conclude online May 15 (596-7372, hawaiiopera.org).