LEO & LILI’S LUAU

Virtual Arts presents Leo & Lili’s Luau, a Virtual Live Theatre production. This production was presented live on Zoom on December 11, 2021. Cultures collide in this Zoom meeting of two families – one from Hawaii and the other from Indiana. Leo and Lili are having a baby and their unborn child fuels the questioning of traditions, spirituality and family relationships. Hula meets Hoosier in this cast of 15, actors, singers, songwriters, hula dancers and comedians.

Virtual Arts Production’s new original play, Leo & Lili’s Luau (starring Jackie “Aunty Pua” Johnson) premiers via Zoom on Saturday December 11 at 4:30 pm HST, 6:30 pm PST and 9:30 pm EST.

Virtual Arts Productions, a live & streaming diversity focused theatre company, joins forces with Hawaii’s Zonta Club of Hilo as the final event and fundraiser for their 16 Days of Activism. All Zonta clubs and districts are encouraged to take part in the Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women campaign and to take local, national, and international actions to influence the creation and implementation of laws, as well as change gender-based attitudes and behaviors to end violence against women.

Tickets to Leo & Lili’s Luau are complimentary with the opportunity to support Hawaii’s Zonta Club by way of donation on the evening of the performance.

Virtual Arts Productions is an online live and streaming diversity focused theatre company that has provided support and entertainment for other Hilo based organizations in the fight to say “no to violence against women”. Most recently, this company did a Zoom performance of the long running play Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding for the Hilo YWCA.

Virtual Arts Productions newest play, Leo & Lili’s Luau is a Zoom production with 15 actors, musicians and dancers from four time zones in the United States. Leo & Lili’s Luau looks at the comingling of cultures on the Big Island of Hawaii in the beautiful town of Hilo. Leo and Lili are having a baby, in the local community of Panaewa, and this is the day that Leo’s mainland family from Indiana meets Lili’s Hawaiian local family via Zoom. Chaos ensues as culture faces culture and understanding grinds to a halt. And then, like a miracle, the baby comes and we learn the tradition of how to name a Hawaiian born child and that family is stronger than anything.  

The play was created and directed by long time Big Island resident, Larry Pellegrini. Mr. Pellegrini is the original director and creator of the long running hit, Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding and many plays produced Off Broadway and regionally. Currently he is producer (with Jeff Gitlin) of the luau and Polynesian show, Huaka’i, Journey Through Polynesia, performing weekly at the Seascape Restaurant at The Maui Ocean Center. His work has been seen on ships, trains, nightclubs, casinos and the internet. His love for Hawaii and its culture was the reason he created this play.

The cast includes Hilo favorite, Jackie “Aunty Pua” Johnson. Jackie Pualani Johnson was born and raised in Hilo, Hawai’i and earned B.A. and M.A. degrees in Theatre from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She retired from the Performing Arts Department at the University of Hawai`i at Hilo in 2017, after 38 years as a drama professor. She was the co-founder of the Hilo Community Players’ Shakespeare in the Park, celebrating 42 years of presentations in Kalākaua Park in 2018. Her recent directing and performance projects have focused on living history of Hawaiian aliʻi during the monarchy period and the work of local writers.

Kaniala Masoe, Kaniala Masoe was born and raised in Hilo on Hawai’i island. Having musician parents and grandparents, he was raised around music and hula. At the early age of 3, Kaniala joined his parents on stage and has been gracing stages around the world since then.

As a graduate of Nawahiokalani’opu’u, Kaniala speaks fluent Hawaiian and is immersed in the Hawaiian culture. The values and cultural practices he learned while in school has helped to mold Kaniala into a humble and loving Hawaiian musician and dancer.

In 1992, at just 8 years old, Kaniala recorded his first album alongside his parents as the group Aukahi Pride. In 2003, he won the Kindy Sproat Falsetto competition on Hawai’i island. In 2018, Kaniala won the title of Island Idol on KITV’s Good Morning Hawaii competition. His most recent CD, Pa’au Mau, was nominated for a 2020 Hoku Hanohano Award in the Hawaiian Language Performance Award catergory.

Melody Masoe, Melody Canto Masoe was born and raised on the island of Maui. She started dancing hula at the age of 10 under the direction of Napua Greig with Halau Na Lei Kaumaka O Uka. In 1999, Melody got accepted to board at Kamehameha Schools Kapalama Campus where she began to dance for Kaleo Trinidad and Snowbird Bento in the performance arts department. In 2003, Melody graduated from Kamehameha and moved to Hawai’i island to attend the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Her first job out of High School was as a hula dancer at the only restaurant in Hilo town that had nightly hula and music. On the first night she danced in Hilo, she was blown away by Kaniala and his musical talents. Since then, they have been inseparable. That was the beginning of so many wonderful things including marriage and six children.

Nellie Norris, Nellie is an extremely versatile and accomplished Singer/Dancer/Cyndi Lauper tribute artist who was born in Rochester, NY. Currently you can find Nellie on Fremont Street, Downtown Las Vegas in the VJ Invasion 80 s This well rounded entertainer’s credits includes performing for the Department of Defense s “MWR” tour in Korea and Harrah’s and Bally’s Casinos in Las Vegas. She won the award for Newcomer of the Year in Branson, Missouri. Her credits include Legends In Concert, Face Productions, Greg Thompson Productions and Tony Sacca. Nellie is also thrilled to have performed her tributes to Cher, Reba McIntire, Loretta Lynn, Minnie Pearl and CYNDI LAUPER (her favorite) for various productions in Vegas and on the road.

Johnny Tammaro, In 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tammaro could be seen in The Honeyzoomers, a YouTube series filmed during the pandemic about the pandemic. It is about Anthony & Debbie Bizzaro from NYC. Filmed in the style of The HoneymoonersThe Odd Couple and All In The Family. Available to see on YouTube. Johnny was a long time cast member of the Off Broadway show, Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding in NYC and will star in a musical based on the life and music of rock & roll pioneer Dion, in the plays world premiere pre-Broadway run next Spring at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. 

Anthony Augello, Anthony is a New York City actor and director, known for the award winning short series,  Covid Ditty, (2020), New York Lately (2009) and Of Cabbages and Kings (2015). He performed Off Broadway in Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding and Fantasy Party.

Other cast and crew members include Gret Menzies Gonzalez, Louise Howard, Christy Patti, Landon Ballesteros (Hilo), Melissa Ford, Stuart Featheran (Oahu), Vincent Zamora (Pahoa, Hawaii), Tyra Canto-Masoe and the Masoe Family (Maui).

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