Triumphant Sorrow

Watching the musical Next to Normal at Manoa Valley Theatre feels so personal, like all your inner traumas, the things that make you shed tears in private, are expressing themselves on stage in a safe, hypnotic way. The production has attained an extraordinary feat, taking such wrenching subjects as death and mental illness and presenting them so tastefully. Beauty rises from the depths of tragedy, thanks to razor-smart lyrics, soul-stirring music, perfectionistic direction by Brett Harwood, an electric cast and creatively engineered staging.


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David Bachler as Dr. Fine, juggling his feel-good magic

Alison Aldcroft as Diana is a mom plummeting toward the darker edge of kooky. Her husband (M. Wesley Watson as Dan) is doing his best to hold the shredding family together. Meanwhile, their talented daughter (Kanani Rogers as Natalie), a casualty of her parents’ self-absorption, takes up with well-meaning stoner Henry (James Mares). Kyle Malis plays the family’s son hauntingly, the linchpin tying together all the threads of family dysfunction. David Bachler and Kalani Hicks round out this perfect cast as psychiatrists with an alluring, bottomless supply of emotion-anesthetizers. Next to Normal grabs you at the gut, but instead of tearing you apart, it sort of hugs you from the inside.

the TICKET stub

When: Wed-Sun, through March 24
Where: Manoa Valley Theatre
Cost: $20-$35
More Info: 988-6131,

Get Your Costume On

When you see comic book characters strolling along Atkinson Drive, it’s not Halloween and you’re not going crazy. It’s the spectacle known as Kawaii Kon (kawaii, meaning “cute” in Japanese, plus kon “convention”). See the passionate immersion in all things anime March 15-17 at Hawaii Convention Center (, with panel discussions, workshops, video screenings, video games, fantasy games, an artist alley, art auction, new product exhibit, formal ball, dance party, music concerts, karaoke and costume contests, prizes and tons more. More than 6,000 flocked to the costume-oriented convention last year.

“Dressing up – or cos-play for ‘costume play’ – is a huge element at these conventions,” says devoted attendee and art vendor James Charisma. “I’ve seen costumes ranging from cardboard held together by tape, to elaborate outfits sewn, glued or purchased. Putting together some of the more-complex costumes can add up to a few thousand dollars.

“It costs money to enter any of the convention rooms, but the main concourse on the second floor is open to the public. If you’ve never experienced Kawaii Kon before, come take a look, take photos with the characters from films and television, get a feel for the environment. If you like what you see, get a ticket. There’s nothing else like it in Hawaii; it’s an incredible thing to be a part of!”