Soundtrack Release on Spotify, Reminder of Groundbreaking Musical

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Soundtrack Release on Spotify, Reminder of Groundbreaking Musical

Danean Wurlitzer, Reporter

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     On Aug. 28, the official soundtrack for the musical “Peace On Your Wings” was released on Spotify. “Peace On Your Wings” (POYW), an original musical written by directors Jennifer Taira and Laurie Rubin, created the opportunity for Hawai’i kids to perform in a play that had never been done before. For Junior Kara Eto, who played the character Setsuko, it was an experience she will never forget. 

     “Performing in an original musical was definitely fun and exciting but at the same time, it was a little scary. We (the cast) got to create and personify the characters the way we wanted to, but at the same time, we had to figure out ways to portray these new characters,” said Eto.

     POYW was inspired by the life of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl who died of leukemia from radiation following the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The musical shares a touching message: all life is met by fate and chance. “POYW’s message is ‘Ichigo Ichie’ which means: ‘one chance, one meeting,’ or that a moment will never be repeated. The message of the show is that you can’t take anything for granted because you never know when you’re going to get an opportunity like that again,” said Eto.

     Musicals like POYW are a big aspect of the careers of Hawai’i youth actors, as they provide a chance to build a character that is unique to themselves with no influence from previous portrayals. For Eto, who has been performing since she was six years old, she had to develop her character Setsuko with no model or inspiration. “(In all) the other shows I’ve done, there’s already an actor that played that character and I’ll typically watch their performances as character study.  But with (POYW), there’s no actor who’s played this character before. We really had to take what was given to us and start from scratch,” said Eto.

     One of the major parts of the musical was the unique music. The original soundtrack is not like anything heard before. “Since the show takes place in 1950s Japan, it’s heavily rock influenced because that was like the pop music of that time period. But next to these rock numbers, you have some ballad songs, taiko drums and traditional Japanese Obon melodies. It’s a really cool array of songs and for anyone who listens to it, my personal favorite is ‘Someday.’” 

     It is not typical for a youth theatre group to get their own soundtrack, especially one from Hawai’i. Most of the students, including Eto, were not used to the professional recording process. “The recording process was really cool because (the) majority, if not all of us, had ever recorded in a professional studio before. It’s a very stop-and-go process where we’d sing the song, then the directors would listen to it in the booth and tell us precisely what to fix. We’d spend hours on end just recording harmonies and perfecting certain parts of the song,” said Eto.

     The musical not only provided an opportunity for the students to pursue their acting careers, but it also allowed them to create friends, make memories and enjoy their time doing what they love. For Eto, theatre allows her to become closer to her peers and make connections with people she may not have met anywhere else. “Through theatre, I’ve gotten some of my closest friends and I feel like a lot of fellow actors can relate to this as well.  I have friends from POYW that I’ve kept in touch with all these years even if I haven’t done a show with them since and we go to different schools,” said Eto. 

     In addition, theatre allows actors to relieve life’s pressures and take on a new persona outside of their own. For Eto, involvement in her character is something that she enjoys and looks forward to in performing. “You get to turn off anything bothering you or stressing you out and lose yourself in a character and their world,” said Eto. 

     POYW became a great success after it premiered in August of 2015. The show traveled around the state of Hawai’i and then to California, where it was also a success. Throughout this time, the crew worked on the soundtrack, making adjustments until its official release. “The POYW we have now is very different from the POYW we originally debuted with.  Multiple songs were cut, added and edited and it just took a while for everything to finally fall into place,” said Eto.

     POYW is preparing to travel to Japan in the summer of 2020 to share their take on the story with the place it originated from. The auditions begin in December of this year. In regards to local theatre, the Central Theatre Arts Academy will be putting on a production of “Once On This Island” in January at the Pearl City Cultural Center and plans to travel to Hilo the following month. For more information, visit their website at ohanaarts.org.