A Night in Honolulu: A Musical Play

In “A Night of Honolulu,” Hawaiian Princess Lei-Keia danced the hula while Hawaiian singers and musicians haunted audience members with native songs and melodies.

Howard McKent Barnes’ musical introduced the Hawaiian culture to a U.S. mainland audiences from 1920 to 1922.

In the end of the musical, Kalama proclaimed to Bob (Lester Smith), her lover, “Whatever I may be–even in death I shall love you.”

Her lover replied, “Whatever you may be, my beloved, I’ll save you or burn with you,” and followed her.

Then, Kalama would jump into a smoking, burning volcano. And right when she was about to jump, her lover would take her from the opening of the volcano.

The musical toured in Bemidji, Minnesota; Logan, Utah; and Saugerties, New York. The musical would usually be performed in each area for only one night.

Newspaper articles and ads publicized the play, which usually ran for only one night each city, and the play’s catchy music, native songs and dances, electrical equipment, and special scenery. An ad said, “See the smoking, burning volcano in full action, most realistic scene on the American stage.”Kalama (Uno “Anna” Carpenter), the heroine, was “wooed and sought after by the American youth.”

However, the last time Anna Carpenter portrayed Kalama ended tragically. In The Opera House in Saugerties, New York, filled with audience members that “packed to the doors,” Kalama said her lines, ran to the flaming volcano, and her lover followed her. But instead of a happy ending, the audience heard a “high-pitched, pain-filled, supplicating” scream, the “voice of death.”

It turned out that after Carpenter ran to the dressing room and when she was talking to her cast mate, the actress accidentally got her grass skirt caught into a gas jet, which set her skirt aflame and eventually her body. Despite rescue efforts, Anna Carpenter died at St. Benedict’s Hospital that night.

– Alice Kim

See ads publicizing Hawaiian performers on the Mainland United States.


“Honolulu Troupe Will Show at the Grand Tonight: Entrancing Music and Artistic Dancing Will Feature This Attraction”
Bemidji daily pioneer, April 12, 1920, Image 1

“A Real Stage Tragedy More Shocking Than the Plot of the Play”
Washington times, May 14, 1922, Page 3


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