A Hawaiian artist’s journey from ‘West Side Story’ to ‘Lilo & Stitch’

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — Johnson Enos was in high school when he realized he wanted to make music for a living.

As a theater student, he enjoyed listening to musicals like “West Side Story” and influential composers like Stephen Sondheim.

But he credits Teddy Randazzo, a famous songwriter in Hawaii, for really pushing him in the right direction to get into the business. Randazzo became Enos’ musical director for a show he did at Disneyland shortly after high school.


“Teddy said, ‘Hey, if you’re going to be in music, learn to publish, learn about copyright, learn about the masters, learn the business side, not just having fun writing songs. And in that moment he, you know, he helped me, pointed me in the right direction and gave me the right tools,” Enos said.

Years later, Enos has become a Grammy-nominated music producer, songwriter, and playwright. Among his many credits: the soundtrack of “Lilo & Stitch II”, the Tokyo fashion show “Lilo & Stitch” and work for Aulani, a Disney Resort and Spa.

He is also the creative genius behind a musical called “Honu By the Sea”, a family musical that follows a Waikiki Beach Boy who meets Malia, the honu, and his friends from the ocean.

Enos said he came up with the concept one day while on Waikiki Beach near the Royal Hawaiian Hotel.

“I looked at the waves, I looked at the water, I looked at the sand, and the first thing I saw was the honu right next to the Sheraton,” Enos said. “I said, well, there’s a character, Honu by the Sea. And then of course, the Waikiki Beach Boy.

The show debuted in 2012 and turned into a musical at the Hawaii Theater Center in 2015. The team has performed all over the world, from Australia to Seattle.

Her dream, however, was to take the show to Japan.

“You know, I love Japan,” Enos said. “I’ve loved the language for a long time. And I thought it would be fun to do a show in English and Japanese.

Her dream came true and they were finally able to perform in Japan – alongside Hello Kitty.

Enos has also been hard at work on his Honu Mele series, his collection of ocean and conservation-focused songs. One of the songs – “Just Misunderstood”, about a tiger shark named Nalu – features Hawaiian music icon John Cruz.

Hear more from Billy V’s interview with Enos on the latest episode of Island Beat, wherever you get your podcasts.

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