Show and Tell Hawai'i
May 15th, 2016

 

 

 

 

Scenes from the show; Dancers Joh and Karen Kotake, a  pair of "Lion King" moments with a cheetah puppet and zebra character, Anne Hedani as "Annie," Sheila Black as a Pink Lady, the rooster in the "Chicken Dance" number, and Yvonne Toma in a hula moment.

Cover of "Lulllaby of Broadway" program

Cover of "Lulllaby of Broadway" program

kotakes lionking zebra annie pinksheila chiciken yvonne

 

Jack Cione’s “Lullaby of Broadway” edition of his “Follies” show, playing three weekends through May 29 at the Arcadia Retirement Residence, is easily the best in the series. This 11th annual extravaganza, largely featuring the retirement troupers of the Arcadia, is a pastiche of some of the memorable songs from the Great White Way, with songs and dances from familiar shows along with snippets from the Great American Songbook.
The highlight truly is a “Lion King” adaptation, with the 34-member cast parading in eye-popping costumes rendered by Bill Doherty, parading to the refrains of “Circle of Life.” There are several iPhone moments: a voodoo priestess, a large king of the jungle, a cheetah puppet with moving legs, two giant rams with curly-cue horns, a zebra with spot-on stripes. So what if there are no giraffes (wouldn’t fit in the Arcadia theater, or that iconic elephant that wouldn’t be able to roam through the aisles). A few unexpected guests, like a snake and a gorilla, clearly are add-ons to the Disney original.

Running through the show: passionate expression and professional pride among the mostly amateur cast, notably clad in superb costumes with Cione trademarks galore. Feathers. Sequins. Exotic dancers. Minsky show queens with bejeweled gowns and glitz. Beloved Hollywood and Broadway luminaries bewigged and bejeweled. Punches of vivid colors throughout the ranks.

“It would take a $50,000 budget to get these costumes for a show,” said Cione of the eye candy. Doherty and his aides, including Becki Cuellar-Han and Derek Daniels, fashioned the costumes with volunteers from the cast helping to stitch, assemble and glue-gun fabric and frou-frou to create that swanky finished look. Some garb were rented, but most were expressly created for this venture.

Doherty designed the difficult and whimsical costumes for “Lion King.” And United Laundry Services donated a 50 white linen sheets which were transformed into eight chicken costumes for a barnyard hoedown to the “Chicken Dance.” Willard the Rooster and Henny Penny also appear in yellow, and the fowls even have spunky beaks. Savers, the resale garb store, also donated odds and ends to accentuate and adorn the varied costumes, and ingenuity and recycling paid off, too — the stage curtain backdrop originally were Arcadia drapes discarded for a renovation.

If you’ve been to a previous “Follies,” you know the drill: cast members lip-synch to a variety of familiar music, in lavish dress not commonly seen on a local stage, and desire is part of the design and delivery. It's director Cione's antidote to prevent senior stagnation: if you're active and productive, you'll doubtlessly feel young and relevant; the concept works.

This is a crew accustomed with little, but makes it go a long way. Cione scopes music and mines his imagination a year ahead, to mount a musical with 15 scenes.

The opener focuses on “Something Rotten,” last season’s Broadway biggie, with emphasis on “God, I Hate Shakespeare,” a lament by competing playwrights who figure the only way to outdo The Bard and his prose is to present a musical with lyrics that are sung, not spoken.

This gets faucet flowing with parodies galore, with signage-posters from Broadway shows like “Les Miserables” and “Phantom of the Opera” adding credence to the theme.

Midway, there are additional pokes to the Great White Way, via “Forbidden Broadway,” a New York brand that satirizes classic stage stars and iconic tunes. So Sheila Black and Betty O’Rourke make like a pair of Carol Channings, with a track of “Hello Dolly” in raspy voice; Patty Dela Cruz enacts “I Could Have Danced All Night,” in Julie Andrews mode, Anne Hedani in red wig and red dress renders “Tomorrow” in the guise of “Annie,” and Chuck Lewis, with a black cape and a half-face mask, enacts “Phantom of the Opera.”

Applause, applause.

There are prancing nunsence nuns, pink-cladded ladies in a “Think Pink (50 Shades of Pink)” parade that includes a quick refrain from John Rowles’ “Cheryl Moana Marie” (a departure from the Broadway theme) and beads and baubles in a tableau of dance and ritiuals of India, with Allyson Doherty, a future senior in the “Follies” company, in a splendid exotic dance of charm.

A round of burlesque is skittish and uneven, though the classic take-off from “Gypsy,” embracing “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” showcases abundant show- and glow-manship from Geovanna Lewis, Bonnie Parsons and Marci-Taylor-Kaneshige, re-inventing the three gimmick routines from the original show.

A brief scene dubbed “Walk Through Paradise” features Elaine Stroka mouthing Melveen Leed, with Yvonne Toma rendering a hula — another instance of an “extra,” as opposed to a legit Broadway moment. But so what?

As usual, prime dance soloists such as John and Karen Kotake take on several leads, demonstrating their long ties with the Hawaii Ballroom Dance Assn., whose members solidify the dance element of the show. “Lullaby of Broadway” will evolve into an expanded show, “Mardi Gras Follies,” when a cast of 60 dancers and performers from Arcadia unite with HBDA dancers in a concert at 7 p.m. June 25 at Kaimuki High School Auditorium. The Kotakes are the most prolific HBDA soloist who have a featured mambo number in the “Les Girls” segment and they have numerous ensemble moments, too.

“Follies” is primarily intended to be an in-house show for Arcadia residents and the folks from the sister residence 15 Craigside. You need to know someone at either facility to score a ticket and gain entrance; otherwise, you’re out of luck. There is no admission free, but donations are gladly accepted following the performances, during a meet-and-greet session with the cast. Sellouts are common.

If you’re planning ahead, log these details: “Follies” 2017, the 12th annual show, is set for an April 27 to May 7 run next year. Its theme: “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries.”

 

 

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“LULLABY OF BROADWAY”

What: A musical spectacle, featuring a cast of 34, to raise funds for the Arcadia

When: Remaining shows at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 pm. Sundays, through May 29

Where: Arcadia Theatre

Information: 983-1808

Cost: Free, but staged expressly for Arcadia residents; you need to know an Arcadian to secure admission

 

“MARDI GRAS FOLLIES”
What: An expanded version of the Arcadia show, featuring 60 performers, bolstered with dancers from the Hawaii Ballroom Dance Assn.; also featuring guest singer Joy Abbott, comic Bo Irvine and Frank Sinatra stylist Randy Smith

When: 7 p.m. June 25

Where: Kaimuki High School Auditorium

Tickets: $35 general admission, (open seating), $50 quick step premium, including reserved parking, priority entry and front row seating

Reservations: Hawaii Ballroom Dance Assn. at 753-8673 or Shirley Ota at 456-2129, www.hbdahawaii.org


May 10th, 2016

 

 

 

Robert Cazimero: Terrific and textured in his Blue Note debut.

Robert Cazimero: Terrific and textured in his Blue Note debut.

robt2

 

Robert Cazimero demonstrated trusty new layers of artistry in his terrific and textured Blue Note Hawaii debut last Friday (May 6).

Sing-alongs! Nostalgia! Crib notes!

He seemed a tad queasy initially, about working what truly is a nightclub/showroom venue, at the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel. You know the space — the shoe-box site formerly known as the Main Showroom.

Cazimero pranced through 90 minutes of pure fun, occasionally becoming a piano bar trouper (he played keyboards, instead of his stand-up bass) but also an upfront soloist to test his pipes.

He was a genuine chameleon. With two young sidemen — Halehaku Seabury on guitar and Nicholas Lum on bass — he essentially appeared as singer fronting a trio.

From his keyboards, he occasionally led piano-bar type sing-alongs. Folks didn’t need much prompting to join the serenades

He hauled up two of his trusty hula halau dudes, Keola Makaiau and Alaka‘i Lastimado, to bring motion and mobility during a medley Hawaiian swing tunes, including “Hawaiian War Chant” as traditionally rendered. After all, it wouldn’t have been a Cazimero fest and feast if there wasn’t hula!

He talked story frequently with a charming tidbit involving beloved actress Betty White, who apparently frequents his Whittier College (California) shows where she sends requests/notes “to play ‘Misty’ for me,” referring to the ol’ Johnny Mathis classic that ripples through all kinds of musical genres, including jazz, which is a perfect fit for the club.

For “Misty,” however, dancer Sky Perkins was tapped from the audience to render a sit-down hula, the way White adores his“Misty.”

It was a revelation. And a realization of how precise and expert Cazimero can be when it matters.

With somewhat of a planned script, duly noted on slips of paper he consulted periodically (an iPad could work, too!) Cazimero played it loose with impromptu plan switches along the way. The uncertainty worked, as viewer anticipation mounted.

An award-winning singer, composer, musician, kumu hula and legend in the annals of Hawaiian music, Cazimero also is a huge fan of Broadway music and American standards. And this expedition included these resources that punctuated his artistry.

This Blue Moon outing was a new experience for him — and his fans.

It began with a zip, or should I say “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” behind the keyboards, which was a sprightly starting point. Cazimero then glided into a verse or two of “On a Wonderful Day Like Today,” formulating and expressing his joy of the moment. “Our Love Is Here to Stay” was also uncorked, and then a reprise of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” (from Disney’s “Song of the South” film) with that memorable line, “Wonderful feeling, wonderful day.” More wonderfulness followed with “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” as if he were shaping his own review, with bountiful wonderful feeling and loverly thoughts.

He relied on his notes — well, a rundown list of songs — as well as lyrics to some rarely-performed tunes. Thus, he hopscotched a skosh,  rustling through papers and sighed: “My ass is on the line.” Laughter abounded.

It was a lament he wouldn’t commonly utter, but reflected the tension; knew the importance of making good, not making A.

He turned the somewhat show space into his personal living room, as if he were the focus of a casual jam in his apartment.

“I hated playing piano,” he said about his grade school era, when he took lessons. In retrospect, he said, it paid off because of some his later-in-life-mentors, like Mahi Beamer and Loyal Garner, both pianists.

Cazimero certainly is an ace communicating with an audience, which he said he learned from Jimmy Borges, who embraces lyrics to forward a story. “Jimmy could read the telephone book and it would be amazing,” he said in homage to the jazz great.

Then he cruised into “Tenderly,” with a nod to one of his fave singers, Rosemary Clooney.

In retrospect, the show alternately had the intimacy of a cozy piano bar, the pulse of a main showroom, and the informality of a free-wheeling karaoke bar.

“When I was growing up, I thought Chubby Checker was the bomb,” he exclaimed. I expected a morsel of “The Twist,” but this was Cazimero goin’ round and round with chime-alongs, inviting his audience to channel Paul Anka’s “Diana” and Lenny Welch’s “Since I Feel for You” hits from the ‘50s and ‘60s. The preacher had the churchgoers wailing!

The spotlight momentarily focused on bassist Lum on “On the Street Where You Live” (he had a charming presence and an equally appealing manner and voice), prefaced with a footnote from the kumu that Lum didn’t know (because of his youth) the ditty from “My Fair Lady.” Lum also sang lead on “The Nearness of You,” with Cazimero in the harmony slot. Lots to learn, if you're young and working with a vet.

Before exiting the stage, Cazimero further referred to his notes for the not-commonly-rendered introduction to “Over the Rainbow.” Then he followed with that timeless classic, his sweet voice working its magic, radiating imaginary hues from "The Wizard of Oz."

Since his first gig, The Blue Note has offered Cazimero playdates at least once a month, through December, but he has yet to finalize his calendar. So there’s hope the club will get this blues bird chirping again.


May 1st, 2016

Willie K is Mr. Everythig at the Blue Note

Willie K is Mr. Everythig at the Blue Note

 

Willie K does just about everything — a little jazz, a bit of blues, a serving of Hawaiian, a dash of country, and even drops names — at the Blue Note Hawaii, Outrigger Waikiki Hotel.

He is the lone island headliner, who made his first appearance April 19, who has been signed once a month through the end of this year (see schedule).

Yet Uncle Willie laments, “I hate Waikiki.” The comment comes off as a gag, but he prefers his comfy and modest, Mulligan’s on the Blue, at Wailea Blue Course on Maui, even though he fits into the hip-and-now ambiance of what used to be the Main Showroom of the Outrigger, the decades-long base of the Society of Seven.

The Hawaiian showman is a society of one, backed by two haole musicians — Jerry Buyers on bass and Chris Thomas on drums — and he packs a solid sound and delivers a sizzling show, despite the disliking tone.

He takes on an introductory role, just in case. “First time you see a real Hawaiian,” he chortles, armed with his trusty ukulele. “You thought only a young slim Asian guy would be playing the uke?” he says, alluding of course to Jake Shimabukuro.

His conversational patter is raw, spontaneous, very local, but he works at warming up the house, mentioning that his musician dad “played ukulele on the Ed Sullivan Show.”

Initially, he’s deliberately the Hawaiian Willie, jazzercising a slow-tempoed “Beyond the Reef,” with ukulele riffs signaling the proper logistics of time and place. It's probably a smart choice — a composition by a Canadian, Jack Pitman, which doesn't ever mention Hawaii but has become one of the signatures of the hapa-haole genre — because the tune is a classic among locals and visitors alike I digress, but Napua Stevens was the first to record the tune in 1949, with Bing Crosby covering it in 1950, spreading the aloha internationally for his generation of fans. In 1966, Elvis Presley recorded it, too — proof of its cross-generational appeal.

Then the  Traditional Willie dusts off “Red Sails in the Sunset,” evoking a warm summertime afterglow, making it an unexpected medley with a refrain from “Over the Rainbow.” Then, a quip: “Not all of us sing ‘Over the Rainbow,’” which, of course, is a reference to the global sensation of the late Israel Kamakawiwoole the past two decades, with its repetitive oooh-ooohing. This is a mashup of Hawaiian Willie and Traditional Willie, like enjoying fish with poi.

How about the Spanish Willie? There’s a framework of the fiery and flirtatious … along with what might be dubbed his “flamenco uke.”

More morsels follow. A Yiddish Willie stance, a la Tevye from “Fiddler on the Roof,”  with body language. Then a non-musical Korean Willie, with a bit of raspy, throaty sounds that Mainlanders might not understand.

The Italian Willie pumps up “O Solo Mio,” with all the histrionics and flavors that demonstrate how well-oiled his pipes are.

And then a turn-around, for the Maui (and Wowie) Willie, with a frisky and fun “For You and I,” begging for a bit of hula (but there’s none) and then a salute to Bill Dana (“My name Jose Jiminez”), who used to be a Maui resident, with that inevitable and durable (but sometimes forgotten) novelty, “I’m Going to Maui Tomorrow, to Marry Tamara Malone.”

There’s a brief hana hou of sorts, with another stab at “Over the Rainbow,” the Judy Garland version, complete with a whistling bird and a mention of Aunt Em.

By now, it’s time for the Jazz Willie, with a measure of funky blues for good measure, via “Too Bad,” a signature from Willie whenever he  assembles his Blues Band. The phraseology, the arrangement, the soul-shaking  measures suit that husky Willie voice.

Old Willie, aka Hawaiian-Style Willie, takes centerstage via signatures  like “You Kuuipo” and “Katchi Katchi Makawao” and “My Molokai Woman,”  from the initial time frame of Willie's shining and ascending and shimmering his bright light  in the Hawaiian constellation. Oh, yes, there’s also chatter about Harley Davidsons.

The standing ovation and elation from the audience are indicative of his power and prowess, of his passion and performance, and his venerability and his versatility.

So herewith is the Compleat Willie, the One-and-Only-Willie, and he’s often called Uncle Willie, who ultimately is Mr. Everything. Support and rally around him  at an upcoming Tuesday at the Blue Note and be among the first to applaud this Waikiki treasure. Even if he doesn’t particularly like Waikiki.

 

WILLIE K

When: 6:30 and 9 p.m. May 3, repeating June 21, July 5, Aug. 2, Sept. 6, Oct. 4, Nov. 8, Dec. 13

Where: Blue Note Hawaii, Outrigger Waikiki Hotel

Reservations: 518-6240

 

 

 

 

 

 


April 28th, 2016

Shari Lynn hits all the right notes at the Blue Note.

Shari Lynn hits all the right notes at the Blue Note.

 

Shari Lynn is an entertainment hyphenate —a singer, an actress, an educator, a writer of theatrical tributes to iconic composers, and a producer.

Her first Blue Note Hawaii performance this month surely won’t be her last. She tapped her multi-pronged roots — scoping the All American songbook, her background as a club singer and a theater performer— to produce a well-rounded package of everything she is.

Oldies, movie tunes, stage tidbits, personal favorites — her vision and versatility are bountiful and broad. And Shari hits all the right notes, figuratively and literally; with her insights derived from her meticulous research, she mines songs that tell a story or hit a personal emotion. And she had all throttles rolling, with rich and robust rewards.

With pianist Jim Howard, bassist Bruce Hamada and drummer Darryl Pelligrini,  Shari becomes an instrument of communication, opening her heart and her songbook, with a jazz thrust to suit the Blue Note environs.

It all works. She does, too.

She opened her set with “It’s Today,” from “Mame,” and quickly put her imprint on it. And when she delivered this line, “I know that this very minute has history in it, we’re here,” it’s seemed that her hidden secret of gigging at the Blue Note was an unforgettable personal milestone.

Thus, the rollout of such familiar titles — “The Best Is Yet to come,” “Control Yourself,” “I’ve Got Rhythm”— seemed to be a personal shout-out of her imminent future, her style, and her soul.

When she was not chirping, she was declaring her posture as an active figure in music and stage: “My mission is to keep them (the old standards) alive.

She routinely mentioned names like Johnny Mercer and George and Ira Gershwin, crediting the sources of “Something’s Gotta Give” and “An American Paris,” delivering fresh renderings of these classics. And when she shared “Little Jazz Bird,” a George Gershwin novelty, she did a bit of scat singing to create the sounds of a chirping bird.

Shari had fun with snippets from “The Wizard of Oz,” singing a segment of “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead,” which included a warm and earnest surprise: bassist Hamada vocalized on “If I Only Had a Brain,” earning roaring applause from the audience.

One of her sensuous signatures, Stephen Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music,” enabled her to subtly and delicately showcase her vocal control and delivery, with stellar keyboard support from Howard. But she preceded the vocal by honestly recalling a little bright memory; early on, she innocently mispronounced the composer’s surname. Score points here for her transparency.

Clearly, Shari’s show was somewhat of a textbook primer — entertaining, educational, enlightening, endearing. As a daytime classroom teacher, she doesn’t preach; in her role as a club singer, she engages and takes her listeners along on her musical journey.

There was an instance of sentiment and tears, when she dedicated her performance to her very-often singing partner, Jimmy Borges; she said “the universe had other plans” for him at the moment (he’s battling lung cancer), with a footnote that he should rightfully been tapped to launch the Blue Note.

Teary-eyed, she sang one of his favorite tunes, Artie Butler and Phyllis Molinary's “Here’s to Life,” which spoke volumes with these take-away words:

“Here's to life, here's to love, here's to you.
“May all your storms be weathered
“And all that's good get better
“Here's to life, here's to love, here's to you.” 

That said it all.

 

 

 

 


April 27th, 2016

Robert Cazimero: Three showcase gigs in Waikiki

Robert Cazimero: Three showcase gigs in Waikiki

Robert Cazimero is on a roll, with three showcase appearances coming up in Waikiki this week and next.

Cazimero, award-winning kumu hula of Halau Na Kamalei O Lillilehua and a member of The Brothers Cazimero, will serenade guests and fans in two venues a stone’s throw apart along Kalakaua Avenue. He’s also part of an awardsfest.

Here’s when and where:

>> Mele at the Moana, performing two 45-minute sets, between 7 and 9 p.m. Friday (April 29), at the open-air stage of the Westin Moana Surfrider Hotel. Preferred seating may be reserved by calling Mason Waugh at 923-2811 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or by email at Mason.Waugh@westin.com. Diners at the hotel’s Beachhouse or patrons of the wine bar Vintage 1901 may take in the performance from nearby tables.

>> Blue Note Hawaii, at 6:30 and 9 p.m. May 6, at the Outrigger Waikiki Hotel. Doors open at 5 and 8:30 p.m. He will front a trio also featuring Halehaku Seabury on guitar and Nich Lum on bass. Reservations: 518-6240.

>> Na Hoku Hanohano Awards Lifetime Achievement luncheon, from 10 a.m. Saturday (April 30), at the Ala Moana Hotel’s Hibiscus Ballroom. Cazimero will serenade, along with Hawaiian music and dance by Kimo Alama Keaulana and Lei Hulu; vocalists Aaron J. Sala and Les Ceballos; ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro, with new talent Nick Acosta, vocalist Elaine Ako Spencer, and steel guitar master Hiram Olsen. Tickets: $75. Visit www.nahokuhanohano.org.

 

 

 

 

 

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