Paliku Turns 10 In Grand Style

Don’t you love audition scenes, where you get to see a medley of talent – the variety, the procession of unique personalities each giving it their best? For Paliku Theatre’s 10th anniversary, the audience will be treated to Broadway @ Paliku: 10 Years of Bright Lights, a full-feature roundup of the island’s best talent covering numbers the theater has previously performed or is hoping to perform.

Classic songs – more than 30 of them – from shows such as Fiddler on the Roof, Miss Saigon, Hairspray and Les Miserables (and lots more) will get star treatment from Mary Gutzi, Jade Stice, Kristian Lei, Cathy Foy Mahi, Michael Bright, Kimee Balmilero and 35 others.


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Paliku Theatre manager Tom Holowach. Photos from Tom Holowach

In light of Paliku’s successful first decade, theater manager Tom Holowach sat down with A&S:

Have you been with the theater since its inception?

I wasn’t present for the initial interviews with the architects, but I came along at a time when the project was stalled by the contractors, and I cracked the whip to get it finished. I came up with the name “Paliku,” designed the logo and opened the doors for business.

Windward Community College drama professor Ben Moffatt oversaw the transition from doing shows in the old “Little Theatre” in a classroom since the 1970s. Jack Hufstetler was our first technical director. We were able to use his personal shop tools to build our first shows, because the system had taken away funding for furniture and equipment. We didn’t have desks, chairs, computers, hammer, nails. We started with nothing – no operating funds, no equipment except seats, lights and microphones – and have been operating the same way for 10 years, without a support net of any kind.

How would you describe Paliku’s role in the Island theater scene?

Paliku is a place for community groups from all over Oahu to be able to afford to rent a professional-calibre theatre for their final performances, plus a production company that produces high-quality and affordable Broadway-type experiences and children’s theatre at reasonable prices.

Our season starts with our 10th anniversary show. This spring we are remounting a children’s musical, Honu by the Sea, which played all summer at The Royal Hawaiian hotel.

What’s your vision for Paliku for the next 10 years?

We have a new theatre professor, Nick Logue, who writes original scripts which his students perform. We are actively creating a performing alliance with the Department of Theatre and Dance at UH Manoa to get more “cross-pollination” between their students and ours, and productions in our theatre and Kennedy Theatre.

We have hit our limit as to how much the theatre can be used on weekends, with audiences of more than 40,000 per year driving onto our campus and walking in our doors for shows spread across 46 weekends out of the 52 in any given year. My vision is that the University of Hawaii will actively recognize and reward the value of Paliku and be able to convince legislators to appropriate financial support for what we do, rather than us having to depend on outside rentals to maintain and grow the venue.

Any special folks behind the scenes?

We depend on four crucial people. I can always be confident our technical director Andrew Doan and his assistant Abel Coelho will do more than needs to be done in building our shows, working with clients and maintaining, even improving the physical plant of Paliku Theatre.

For 10 years, Dr. Jacqueline Maly – former science teacher and dean at WCC, starting back in 1972 when WCC first opened (now retired) – is the one who has been “me” during client events so that I have had the freedom to act in shows at other theaters. Since there was never funding for an assistant manager, Jacquie, as a volunteer, has helped me keep my sanity and express my creativity as an actor.

How does Paliku, tucked away on the Windward side, manage to attract top actors and put on big shows like last year’s “Phantom,” which just won 12 Po’okela Awards?

The key to the quality of our shows has always been the No. 4 person on the behind-the-scenes list, the presence of Ron Bright as our guest director for all our major shows. He insists on the highest quality productions, and he attracts and brings out the best in younger talent who might not get the same chances to play solid supporting roles at other venues. Gradually strong leading players from all around the island have gravitated toward Paliku as word has gotten out through the tightly knit theater community that Paliku is the best-equipped venue in the state, which has attracted a true ohana of performers who love each other and love working here. It just keeps getting better and better.



When: Friday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 4 p.m. through Oct. 7

Where: Paliku Theatre at Windward Community College

Cost: $26, $24 for seniors/military, $20 for students and youths age 25 and under

More Info: 235-7310, or visit