Show and Tell Hawai'i

'A Cazimero Christmas:' joyful and triumphant

December 10th, 2011

Let it be said that the holiday season majestically opened Friday night with the launch of “A Cazimero Christmas” at the Hawaii Theatre.
Anchored by Robert and Roland Cazimero and featuring the traditional blend of hula, Hawaiian, holiday pop faves and some carols, the evening was blessed with the guest appearance by jazz vocalist Jimmy Borges, who shares Kalihi roots with Robert and Boze, and the prevailing Miss Keiki Hula and Master Keiki Hula, both hailing from Maui.
It was a joyful and triumphant delight, on both ends of the age spectrum.
Borges provided one spectrum of classic artistry — that of the smooth jazz warbler, with decorum and pristine precision — on the senior side of the age group. He appeared initially with The Caz on “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.” with The Caz.
He brought along a red jacket and another in black, worn over black tuxedo trousers, and a suave persuasion dominating his trademark aura of jazz. It’s somewhere between Sinatra and Buble, but invariably Borgean, with a slight strut, a twinkle in the eye, and a voice that could roast chestnut. A medley of “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” — was just the tonic for the chilly, drizzly night, with Robert at keyboards punctuating the master crooner’s gentle manner with counterpoint vocal delivered with just the right restraint.
The youth dancers — Shayla Ballesteros and Rahstan Kahokuk’ieki’eokalani Benavides (Kahoku for short) — are this year’s prevailing keiki hula luminaries; at age 12, they were particularly cunning and winning on their respective solos. Hers: a sweetly syncopated and polished “Ainahau,” with Robert vocalizing. His: a frisky and bouncy “Boy From Laupahoehoe,” with expressive eyes communicating as much as his full-body workout including those eloquent hands.
What is amazing about these yuletide songfests is the chemistry between onstage talent and off-stage direction by Hawaii Theatre’s maestro of magic, Burton White, whose idea it was to tap the keiki dancers a few years ago, creating an instant tradition. White co-directs with Robert, a visionary of Christmases past and present.
For the brothers, Christmas surpasses the Lei Day tradition at the Waikiki Shell in that it’s a season of earnest giving that still allows Hawaiian songs to flourish, with the glimmer and twinkle of holiday finery and lights.
A slender and massive faux tree is the centerpiece decoration this year (those white coconut trees, originally from the Jim Nabors spectacles that ruled for a solid decade, are taking a break), because The Caz insist on the holiday frou-frou; the concert would still be a wonderment on a blank palate, since the cast fills in the color and the pageanty.
There were inventive highlights, one from each act: “They’re Talking About Mary,” which closes the first half, is a jewel that begins with a Jamaican tone and — thanks to the gents of Robert’s Halau Na Kamalei and the Ladies of the Royal Hawaiian Dance Company — evolves into a clever theatrical piece with the dancers (doubling as singers) clad in modern dress, staging a piece de resistance with contemporary overtones (jackets and street wear, instead of Hawaiian costumes, complete with the guys toting cell phones), trashing on a Virgin Mary character pregnant with the baby Jesus reflecting these tabloid times though rooted in the past.

The other stunning gem, in Act II, integrates Christmas carols (an Angel medley, leading into “Little Drummer Boy” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”) with Hawaiian pahu of various sizes and tones, with the Kamalei crew thumping away in unison. It's a hybrid endeavor that is old and fresh —a cultural theatrical marriage made in Cazimero heaven.
For more pageantry, there’s a refined, extravagant exploration of the legends of Poli’ahu, the four Snow Goddesses, assembling the wahine dancers in stunning oli performances, with the goddesses decked out in different white gowns. It’s a vision that has been dormant in Robert’s mind for years, finally fleshed out fully in this cherished Christmas production.
There are duets aplenty, but Robert sings most lead vocals; Roland does have a beaut in the rare Kui Lee Christmas ditty, “Song of Christmas.”
With a problematic knee, Roland sits on a high stool instead of his usual white box.
And Leinaala Kalama Heine is reduced to one big hula solo, “White Christmas,” getting a lot of smileage in the process.
“Mele Kalikimaka,” the thing to sing for a Hawaiian Christmas, closes the production. If you’re suffering from the holiday blues, or are stressed out with shopping and crowded parking lots, plan to take in one of the two remaining performances, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. It doesn’t get any better, and you’ll get more kick out of this one than, say, a serving of egg nog.

‘A CAZIMERO CHRISTMAS’
Where: Hawaii Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $33, $43, $53, $78
Reservations: 528-0506, www.hawaiitheatre.com

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