Music makes 'Rent' magical

March 12th, 2014

It’s been a while since I’ve seen producer/DJ/Grammy Award-winning recording engineer Christian Mochizuki, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy.

Grammy Award-winning DJ/producer Christian Mochizuki. (Courtesy photo)

Grammy Award-winning DJ/producer Christian Mochizuki. (Courtesy photo)

His remix of Zedd’s “Find You” with San Francisco’s DJ Panic City ripped its way through Internet music blogs, bringing the usually low-key artist back in to the limelight. Watch for an EP later this year; this preview already has more than 75,000 plays on Soundcloud and reached No. 6 on The wildfire is only just beginning.

Hawaii-based artists Kowai Kowai and DJ Compose are also seeing similar success with a track they worked on with VH1’s “Master of the Mix” winner, Los Angeles producer/DJ JayCeeOh. A trap remix of the classic Black Sheep anthem, “The Choice is Yours,” the track is a classic club banger, with more than 100,000 Soundcloud plays and pretty much every DJ in town dropping it in theirs set to tremendous reactions from crowds. These are great national successes for Hawaii producers and positive motivation for others to continue working hard.

The cast of RENT: perfect in their roles (Image by Melia Leineau)


Presented by Manoa Valley Theatre

» Where: 2833 East Manoa Road Honolulu, HI 96822

» When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays; also 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays from April 9-20 (March 13-30 performances sold out)

» Cost: $41 general admission; $36 for seniors and military with valid ID; $25 for those 25 and younger

» Info: (808) 988-6131,

ON THE other end of the spectrum, I was reintroduced to the world of music academia when I took some time to catch a preview of Manoa Valley Theatre's undertaking of “Rent” on Sunday.

I originally caught this musical in London and was thrown for a loop. The swearing, drug use, public displays of affection and generally risqué subject matter sucked me into the story, and by the second act I was in uncontrollable tears.

Knowing what to expect didn’t make it any different at MVT, as the actors did an amazing job getting into character and taking us along for the ride.

Shawna Lynn Masuda's performance as Mimi character was phenomenal. I was also blown away by Maureen, played by the incredibly self-confident and sexy Leiney Rigg, who came very close to stealing the whole show when she took the stage to perform “Over the Moon.” While these two were the standouts for me, the entire cast did a great job.

ALSO WORTH mentioning is guest music director James Mares and his talented ensemble hidden behind a “brick” wall on stage.

Seated out of sight and dressed all in black, these musicians are still an intricate part of the production. If they are not in sync with each other and the cast, the show will not go on.

Speaking with the musicians after the preview performance, I found they were very reserved at first. It wasn't until we started to talk about why they do what they do that they began to open up and share their “love of the theater and the music.”

Chase Kaminaka, Benoit Weber, Chris Luke and Josh Cullen perform for Music Director James Mears in Manoa Valley Theater's RENT (Image by Malia Leinau)

From left, Chase Kaminaka, Benoit Weber, Chris Luke and Josh Cullen perform for Music Director James Mears in Manoa Valley Theater's “Rent.” (Courtesy Malia Leinau)

They take their work very seriously and practice for hours each week. They read sheet music and most play more than one instrument. Between the seven of them, they have more than 87 years of stage experience. While they aren't in the spotlight, they still work countless hours and are the unsung heroes of the production. And they are all more than okay with the situation.

Mares, a Music Composition major at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, developed the score, programming sounds and putting the musical production together for the last four months. Since December he's listened to the music, thought about the music, practiced it then went home to think about it even more while taking notes for the next rehearsal. When he's not working on the musical, he teaches private piano, voice and guitar lessons.

“The big picture is its one voice.” said drummer Chris Luke. “There are many parts but it’s one voice. The band and the cast, at the end of the day, we all produce once sound. We always strive to get closer and closer to that.”

MVT's initial run of “Rent” from March 13 through 30 is old out, but additional performances were announced from April 9-12 and April 16-20. General admission seating only; doors open 30 minutes prior to showtime and there is no late seating.


Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.

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