|Matthew Pederson's Jamarama Productions is putting on a production of Andrew
Lloyd Webber's musical, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," at the Hawaii Theatre on April 18 - 21. We caught up with Director/Actor/Choreographer Andrew Sakaguchi at a rehearsal for an exclusive Hawaii411
Andrew is a 27 year veteran of the theatre who performed in New York, Japan, and Europe, and yes, in Hawaii.
Hawaii411: When did you get started in the theatre?
Andrew Sakaguchi: I got started when I was 4, doing "The King and I" on
Maui at Baldwin High School. I got bitten by the bug early. I started dancing when I was 14, and continued to do theatre in high school. After high school, I moved to New York and started working professionally.
Hawaii411: Were you on Broadway, off Broadway...
Andrew Sakaguchi: Actually I was doing a lot of touring - throughout Europe and Japan and about the United States in Broadway productions.
Hawaii411: Anything you'd like to mention in particular?
Andrew Sakaguchi: One of the notable things I've worked on
was the original workshop for
"Fossi". It won the Tony award for best musical in 1999. I didn't see it through to production, but that's kind of my big thing. I did the national tour of "The King and I" with Haley Mills
Hawaii411: and Haley Mills...
Andrew Sakaguchi: Yep (Gratuitous laugh). I did the European tour of "West Side Story." Most of
the people of note who I've worked on are famous in the theatre scene and not the national scene. I did work with Jennifer Lopez before she became famous - she was a back-up dancer in my show in Japan.
Hawaii411: When you started at age 4, did your parents start you off or did you go to them and say "I gotta do this,"
Andrew Sakaguchi: Absolutely. I just said, "I gotta be on stage." We knew some family friends who were in the play, and I just kept tagging along.
Hawaii411: Did you know that's what you wanted to do for a living?
Andrew Sakaguchi: When you're 4 years old, you don't really think about making a living, you just think about what you love to do more than anything. Actually, I always resisted making a career out of this, but it just happened. When I went to Punahou, I was supposed to go to
College, then I deferred for a year. I was supposed to go to Boston University after that, but then I moved to New York instead. This career
thing kind of happened by accident.
Hawaii411: What brought you back home?
Andrew Sakaguchi: Homesickness mostly.
Hawaii411: Did you think of other venues like film or TV?
Andrew Sakaguchi: Theatre has always been my main love. In film and television, you have to do so many takes, and it's so tedious. I've worked on some commercials and TV shows, but every time it's so tedious. I really like the freshness of theatre.
Hawaii411: With theatre you get an instant response...
Andrew Sakaguchi: I definitely find it gratifying. I much prefer that then watching myself on video, which I really hate, or listening to myself on tape. Still in theatre, it can be really hard to bring the same energy to your performance night after night.
Hawaii411: The current play you are directing, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," - this will be your third time in it.
Andrew Sakaguchi: Actually my fourth time.
Hawaii411: What draws you to do it?
Andrew Sakaguchi: People keep asking me to do it (Laughs). Actually, I really love the show. I love the music, it's kind of tongue in cheek, and there's a wide variety of styles and genre of music that I get to work with. It's fun to try and reinvent it every time.
Hawaii411: What kind of personal touch do you bring to this version of "Joseph?"
Andrew Sakaguchi: I think what I'm doing is focusing on the characters as individuals and human beings than as broad
caricatures as I've seen in more lavish productions. I think it's a little more intimate. I'm trying to get to the heart of the story. I spend a lot of time wondering what is the moral value of this biblical story. I'm trying to approach it that way.
Hawaii411: Is "Joseph" a biblical show, or does it go beyond that?
Andrew Sakaguchi: Well, it is very popular with church groups, and you can't escape that it is based on a story out of the bible, but it is Andrew Lloyd Webber (written) and it's become so popular with the Donny Osmond version out on video. I think that's the main gimmick that grabs people, with the popularity that it's garnered, other than that it's got a lot of color and splash.
Hawaii411: Are you going to let Mathew Pederson (head of JAMARAMA Productions and starring as Joseph in this production) take the Technicolor Dreamcoat out on the town like Kramer did in "Seinfeld" (Kramer was mistaken for a pimp and arrested).
Andrew Sakaguchi: Matthew paid for the coat, so he can do whatever he want with it.
Hawaii411: You've been an actor, a dancer, a choreographer, and a director - what hat do you like to wear best?
Andrew Sakaguchi: It's one of those situations where the grass is always greener. When I'm directing, I'd rather be acting, and when I'm acting I'd rather be directing. I love doing it all, but I do have to admit that sometimes the directing part gets overwhelming and sometimes I'd like to be told what to do instead of being the place where the buck stops. At the same time it's great to have an opportunity to be creative. I would like to take on an acting role after this and not have to be in charge.
Hawaii411: You're Hapa right?
Andrew Sakaguchi: Yes.
Hawaii411: As far as Asian roles, are you limited?
Andrew Sakaguchi: I was really lucky, because "The King and I" is the only Asian themed show that I did in my professional work. I was offered "Miss Saigon" but I turned it down because I was in "La Cage Aux Folles." I was the swing in that, where I covered a range of ethnicities. I covered a German, and African-American, and a Chinese part. In my career I've been really lucky not to get pigeon holed into the Asian stereotype.
Hawaii411: Do you think the Asian community needs to follow the African-American community and create new roles for Asians?
Andrew Sakaguchi: I don't think that would hurt at all. I think anytime we want to find our own voice and exercise our creativity it's a good thing. I don't think were going to get very far just waiting for all the Caucasian Americans to create everything for us. I'm inspired by
Asian-American people like Margaret Cho, who is just amazing, Lucy Liu, Lou Diamond Phillips and Jason Scott Lee. I think they've done a great job of opening doors and playing roles that weren't limited to Asians, although they have played Asians as well.
Hawaii411: They did "Rocky - The Musical," maybe we can have Michelle Kwan - the Musical too.
Andrew Sakaguchi: Hey, why not. I can't skate though...
Hawaii411: That's all right, Stallone can't act.
Hawaii411: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" is being done as a benefit for the JAMARAMA School (a theatre school for children and young adults) - what do you say to encourage children into theatre?
Andrew Sakaguchi: "Joseph" is the perfect show for kids because it has music that is perfectly suited for their voices and a lot of great dance numbers that they can participate in and also some beautiful lyrical melodies. They get a really broad introduction to all aspects of singing and performing and dancing. What's neat is that Matthew (Pederson) and I worked on Diamond Head Theatres Production of "Joseph" six years a ago and there were 80 kids in it. A lot of the children in that production have gone on to study in colleges, or some of them have gone on to "Miss Saigon" and some to win in Brown Bags to Stardom. I've watched these kids grow up and it's really exciting because they've all got bitten by the acting bug, and so many of them are actively entrenched in it.
Hawaii411: How about a Tony Award for Andrew Sakaguchi in the future?
Andrew Sakaguchi: I don't think it's in the cards. I'm home and I'm happy to be home and live here. I don't aspire to live in New York any more. That's why I'm going to school now. I see my future as an educator in music education.
Hawaii411: Can you make a living in Hawaii theatre?
Andrew Sakaguchi: As a professional actor? It's a little bit difficult, in fact it's very difficult. I work whenever I can. I work a lot, but it's not going to do it for me. I have a much better chance making a living as a teacher, and actually I'd be very happy with that. I teach dance at Punahou School right now.
Hawaii411: Maybe we'll just stick to the Po`okela awards for you.
Andrew Sakaguchi: I'm happy with the Po`okelas.
Hawaii411: One last question - THEAT-RE or THEAT-ER?
Andrew Sakaguchi: THEAT-RE, definitely R-E.
Hawaii411: (Damn, I've been spelling it wrong all this time).
Hawaii411 Conclusion: Andrew is a
legend in the Hawaii Theatre world, and it's no wonder why. Highly
respected and immensely talented, he's just a local boy who followed what
he loved to do to a stellar theatre career and the Po`okela awards.
He wants to get into teaching in the future, but rest assured he'll be
helping to entertain us for years to come. This stage-o-holic can do
it all and will showcase his skills in Jamarama's newest production.
We're going to be there to see "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor
Dreamcoat", which I have been wanting to catch ever since that
Seinfeld Episode. Come with us... You'll see Hawaii's finest putting
on what I am sure will be a great show.