Kamehameha Schools rock opera tells story of pivotal moment in Hawaii history

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Theater kumu Eric Stack

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Choir Director Herb Mahelona

  • The band rehearses Tuesday in the gym at Kamehameha Schools Hawaii campus in Keaau in preparation for this year’s ho‘ike.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Kyra Gomes, 16, as Queen Liliuokalani rehearse for this year’s hoike performance Tuesday in the gym at Kamehameha Schools Hawaii campus in Keaau.

  • Students rehearse a hula to the song, “Ka Have Kalaunu,” on Tuesday in the gym at Kamehameha Schools Hawaii campus in Keaau.

KEAAU — Community members have an opportunity next week to see Kamehameha Schools Hawaii campus’ first-ever Hawaiian “rock opera” as part of its spring ho‘ike.

The all-school “Ku I Ka Mana” production will share the “drama and political intrigue” of the 1874 election between King David Kalakaua and Queen Emma Rooke, according to a campus news release. The production will be presented in English and Hawaiian.


The election took place after King William Charles Lunalilo died and left the Kingdom of Hawaii without an appointed successor to the throne. The election had “lasting repercussions on the Kingdom of Hawaii,” according to the release, and set the stage for events that helped shape the history of the state.

The election is said to bear resemblance to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, which similarly divided the country.

“For this particular ho‘ike, unlike past years, we are trying to tackle themes that were relevant during this time period but are even more relevant now,” said senior Damien Stack, 18. “We’re all trying to tell a story here. At first glimpse, the premise of an opera for an election might seem (strange), but one of the reasons we did this is because of the recent presidential election which is very similar.”

“I didn’t know much about this election (prior), so I definitely feel more educated about it now,” added Kyra Gomes, 16, who portrays Lili‘uokalani and said she read the queen’s book, “Hawaii’s Story,” to prepare for the role. “And just the personality traits of the different kings and queens, I definitely feel more connected now to my culture.”

The campus picked a rock music genre because it “fit the subject matter,” said choir director Herb Mahelona. He said it’s the first time “anyone has ever done a Hawaiian rock opera.” Keeping with the music genre, the production is designed around a steampunk theme.

“It’s about a really contentious time,” Mahelona said. “Hawaii was really divided at the time between two candidates, so we needed some kind of music that would convey the chaos of the time and the rock music just fit perfectly.”

Each year, the campus’ ho‘ike presents a different aspect of Hawaiian history or culture to the public. Each of the roughly 500 high school students are involved in some way as either actors, dancers, musicians or crew. Students started rehearsing in January. Also involved this year are the KSH Elementary School Keiki Choir and the Mamalahoe Chapter of the Kamehameha Alumni Chorus.

Theater kumu Eric Stack said the idea is to “unify the school under the Hawaiian culture and celebrate that Hawaiian culture as a school.”

Funds raised will help students with travel costs for participating in worldwide events, including performances at the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Email Kirsten Johnson at kjohnson@hawaiitribune-herald.com.



If you go

• “Ku I Ka Mana” performances are open to the public at 6 p.m. March 15-16 in Koai‘a Gymnasium on the Kamehameha Schools Hawaii campus in Keaau. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased online at ksbe.edu/kshhoike, at the door before each performance or at the high school office or Student Activities Center from 3-4 p.m. during school days.

  1. diverdave March 9, 2018 9:01 am Reply

    For those who do not know the history, David Kalakaua stole the election from Queen Emma, by bribing the members of the legislature with money and parties before the voting. The Polynesians knew he had and rioted, storming the legislature and beating and throwing those that were known to be Kalakaua supporters out of the windows. 2 men died.They must have had a good idea who Kalakaua was as he was the most corrupt, underhanded, out of control Monarch of all.
    Whether it was his wild drunken orgys at the boathouse with nude hula dancers, round the world trips, spending sprees that brought the government to the brink of bankruptcy, bribes from Chinese opium dealers, attempt at an Imperialist take over of all of Polynesia, or kickback coinage fraud schemes with his European businessman friend Claus Spreckles, there is no doubt that the “Merry Monarch” cared little for his country and
    thought only for his own egocentric self. Perhaps the Polynesian-Hawaiians that
    rioted when he came to the thrown (causing the government to request that the
    British and American Navy come ashore to stop the riot and secure the peace)
    knew something about the corruption and unrighteousness that Kalakaua would, and did, bring to the country.

    David Kalakaua was the start of the end of the Monarchy, and the beginning of a desire of the citizenry to have more input into their form of government.

    1. diverdave March 9, 2018 9:22 am Reply

      “I didn’t know much about this election (prior), so I definitely feel
      more educated about it now,” added Kyra Gomes, 16, who portrays
      Interesting statement from this young lady. She is 16 years old, presumably gone to Polynesian-Hawaiian only schools, and has never learned about this important election that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the Monarchy?
      Makes you wonder what they are teaching behind those “sacred” walls.

    2. Hilo Jack March 9, 2018 1:39 pm Reply

      You summarized the Trump election very well

      Now tell us about the election between King David and Queen Emma!

      1. diverdave March 10, 2018 1:21 am Reply

        Another one suffering from TDS.

        1. Hilo Jack March 10, 2018 6:19 am Reply

          Yeah. Suffering every minute seeing the greatest place in the world being trashed by an orange haired baboon and septic tank administration and one toothed supporters.

          But hey, you have alternative facts!

  2. Michael Stevens March 10, 2018 8:16 am Reply

    Kalakaua was not king yet during the election, and Queen Emma was no longer Emma Rooke, since she was the widow of Alexander Liholiho, Kamehameha IV. At least get that reporting correct, Kirsten… it isn’t very difficult.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your email address will not be published. required fields are marked *

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, send us an email.