A Carnival Is Coming!
It’s easy to see why Gregory Shepherd cast Daphne Sanchez and Beorn Chantara in the leading roles in the Kauai Community College production of Carnival opening next week at the Performing Arts Center. Chantara’s tall stature gives him the commanding presence perfect for the role of Paul Berthalet, and Sanchez’s sweet demeanor is ideal for Lili Daurier. Yet, they both admit having nothing in common with their characters.
“I have to play a character who is bitter. Frankly, he’s mean,” says Chantara. “It’s so not me that it’s a big leap.”
He’s used to comedic roles, and this is his first time performing a serious and spiteful character. “It’s forced me to step back and really take control of that side of me and be able to bring it to the table,” he says.
Sanchez shares similar sentiments. Not only is she stepping out of her boundaries by acting, but she also agreed to take on a character who is the opposite of who she is.
“In reality, everybody was Lili once upon a time,” she says regarding her role as a naÃ¯ve country girl. “But you forget that; you forget being that young and innocent, so it took a while to really take in who Lili is and how I should be and sound.”
Theirs are among the many interesting characters in the lively musical that takes place in 1920s France within a circus setting. Daurier is seeking a new place to call home and believes she will find it at the circus, where Berthalet, once a famed dancer injured in World War I, works as a disgruntled puppeteer. The plot, which includes all kinds of fun twists and turns including a love triangle, follows Daurier as she grows into a mature adult.
“The way she gets there is what’s so wonderful about coming to the show and seeing how it happened,” says Shepherd, KCC’s 28-year veteran music professor who is directing the show. “And it’s a hard development because she’s all wide-eyed and starry-eyed. She learns the hard way that life’s not going to be that way. It’s not like her hometown. Life is tough and you have to grow up.”
He’s always been a fan of this particular production that centers around the theme of love.
“I always thought it was neglected and overlooked, maybe even a masterpiece, but certainly a jewel in the Broadway repertoire,” he says. “It’s a really beautiful musical — also, a very lively show; there’s a lot of sparks and chemistry in this show.”
Some of those sparks include authentic circus acts by Cocoon Aerial Dance troupe and orchestral music by members of KCC Music Ensembles. “This is one of the most congenial casts I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with,” declares Shepherd during rehearsal.
He’s known Sanchez and Chantara for at least a decade, and always has enjoyed working with them. He has a role in Kauai Beach Resort’s ongoing production of South Pacific with Sanchez, and Chantara’s family was once part of his former choral group, Garden Island Singers. Even before their paths converged, however, all three were steeped in the performing arts.
Sanchez, a soon-to-be KCC graduate in business marketing, says her “first love” was singing at age 12, at which point she started taking lessons to fine-tune her natural skills. “At first, I didn’t want to go. I didn’t really see it as something I could really pursue. I kind of just liked fooling around with it,” admits the 2009 Kapaa High School grad. But the work paid off and she has thrived at her craft ever since, including regularly performing in Japan.
Chantara got his start singing when he was barely out of diapers and caught the acting bug shortly thereafter. He was 7 when he played Tiny Tim in a Women in Theatre production of A Christmas Carol. The KCC student, who is studying musical theatre and music education, has been in some 30 shows since then.
“I love the many different aspects theatre brings to the table,” says Chantara, a 2014 homeschool graduate. “Each production brings a message, and being able to convey it to the audience is just amazing; it can sink into your emotions and it can bring change to the world.”
Carnival is onstage May 20, 21, 27 and 28 at 7 p.m., and May 22 and May 29 at 4 p.m. at KCC’s Performing Arts Center.