Archive for January, 2012

How Lani Misalucha could change the Waikiki showscape

January 31st, 2012
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The Lani Misalucha show, ensconced in the Magic of Polynesia Showroom at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, is a work in progress. It aspires to be one of Waikiki’s new mainstream attractions in a diminishing and dissolving Waikiki species: the showroom spectacle.
With Las Vegas-style wattage, Misalucha moves and grooves with a pastiche of tunes and a parade of costume changes befitting a showroom queen. As a former Best Female Singer in the gambling capital, she does it all here — pop, opera, rock, impersonations — and is the focus of a high-energy, high-octane, high-stakes effort.
Not everything works. Yet.
I’ve seen the show twice; once in December, once in January. She and the show are on the right track, with family-friendly, visitor-targeted elements. At a recent Saturday night performance, the packed house included perhaps 75 per cent locals — so Misalucha could evolve as the queen of Waikiki amid a landscape more inclined to feature male headliners or Polynesian-luau extravaganza.
It’s not an easy journey, however.
With two careers on the line — show headliner Misalucha’s and producer Roy Tokujo’s — the show is one to watch. It has immense potential, but for now lacks the wow factor that might place Misalucha in the winner’s circle and Tokujo back at the reins of a crowd-pleasing blockbuster. It boils down to material: as Misalucha settles into her year-long run, she ought to tweak her songs and re-examine her songbook.
The Filipina singer, who previously co-starred with the classic Society of Seven here and in Las Vegas, is a superstar diva in her native Philippines. Tokujo is a veteran show producers, whose credits in the Islands include the original “Magic of Polynesia” show in Waikiki as well as the “Ulalena” success in Lahaina. Despite Tokujo’s short-lived “Waikiki Nei” extravaganza at the Level 4 showroom at the Royal Hawaiian Center across the street, Misalucha’s production could be his rebound vehicle and her star-turning endeavor.
Of course, it takes time, determination, artistic zeal ... and tour groups. For the visitor population, Misaluna has the foundation support of Roberts Hawaii, the tour company, which also is producer of John Hirokawa’s “Magic of Polynesia” show that precedes Misalucha’s newbie in the same 700-seat showroom.
Hers, however, is not a dinner event, so the producers are in the midst of organizing a Hawaiian luau-type show on a deck outside the Jimmy Buffett restaurant on the hotel’s second floor, one below the showroom, which logically could feed perhaps 200 spectators prior to Misalucha’s show. It’s all coming sometime this spring, part of a piggybacking process to create traffic for larger headcounts in the showroom.
With two back up singers and a four-member band which sounds much larger, Misalucha is a tireless workhorse who has shelved her general shyness offstage and is blossoming into a luminous bulb in the Waikiki nightlife spectrum.
A true chameleon, Misalucha soars from operatic “Con Te Partico” to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with nary a bat of the eyelash; she magnifies lessons learned, during her Las Vegas tenure with Tony Ruivivar and the SOS, traipsing through vividly funny impersonations of Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Tina Turner and Diana Ross; with her two backup singers, Star Kalahiki and Christine Souza, she bounces through a medley of ABBA tunes that is more “Mamma Mia” than the Swedish originals; and she puts an indelible personal imprint of Whitney Houston’s biggie, “I Will Always Love You.”
Of course, the staging is showroom-smart, with draped curtains and sound-and-light modifications that make her costume changes chic and appropriate for a mainstage diva. And her four-member band — leader Robert Shinoda on guitar, Mark Tanouye on bass, Garin Poliahu on drums and Michael Grande on keyboards — is integral in her transformation from rocker to impressionist to balladeer.
Yes, there are ballads, including the Dusty Springfield dust-off “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” but there are more rock-pop entities, like a hana-hou medley of disco and Donna Summer that leave you breathless.
I wish that Misalucha would update and rethink her repertoire; why not a prevailing pop fave like Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”? Or a simple and shrewd “quiet moment” number, sung with a simple spotlight perhaps from a stool, to demonstrate the prowess and power that lurk in her soul? And, because she is performing for a mixed local and visitor crowd in Hawaii, some suitable Island song in the lineup to accentuate and punctuate her intention of being One of Us?
Budget restrictions aside, it also would be great if she had a male co-star or guest, because then there would be opportunity for interplay with duets, expanding her appeal and providing a more valid reason for her to change clothes.
During one of Misalucha’s exits to change gowns, Kalahiki and Souza leave the stage vacant (OK, the band is there) to kibitz with the audience and sing in the aisles — a plus for rapport, but a negative for production logic. A stage should never be bare in the course of a show.

LANI MISALUCHA

When: 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays
Where: Magic of Polynesia Showroom, Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel
Cost: $55, $65, $99 (includes Jimmy Buffett dinner before show; a luau component is the works); child and kamaaina rates available
Information/reservations: 954-8652, 971-4321, www.laniinwaikiki.com, www.robertshawaii.com

TV director John Wray will retire on Jan. 27

January 25th, 2012
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After four decades of behind-the-scenes direction and action, TV director John Wray is retiring on Jan. 27.
That’s bad and good news.
Bad, because Wray has been a dedicated mover-and-shaker of so many television staples on two stations. Earlier at KGMB, currently at KITV.
Good, because he and I have talked about retirement over the years and stepping down will mean a lifestyle with less stress and a new destination. Wray will turn in his city workaday regimen for a countrified lifestyle as he relocates to Waimea on the Big Island in March, to settle in the family home of his wife, Margo Burlingame Wray.
Betcha Wray will soon bring his ray of sunshine to the active performing arts community and climate there. He hopes to get back into action “in any way I can, " so you folks in Kohala and Kamuela should reach out and solicit his support.
“It’s been a great 40-year ride for me, 16 years at KGMB directing Phil Arnone’s shows,” said Wray. Aside from a five-year gap spent working in Oregon, Wray also put in 20 years at KITV.
You may not have known his name or recognized his face (unless you worked with him on a television project), but you’ll certainly remember with glee and joyh the parade of his varied TV projects.
At KGMB, the CBS affiliate, Wray’s credits include such benchmark shows as “Checkers & Pogo,” “Homegrown” music specials with Ron Jacobs, comedian Andy Bumatai’s “High School Daze,” the youth-oriented “Hawaii’s Superkids” and more. He directed KGMB’s news programs in the era of Bob Jones, Tim Tindall, Ken Kashiwahara, Linda Coble and Leslie Wilcox, plus Joe Moore when he was a sportscaster. There were “Rainbow Basketball” home and road games, plus the popular wrestling matches with Ed Francis and Lord “Tally Ho” Blears, and the first University of Hawaii-Hilo Vulcan basketball series, when “Russ Francis flew tapes of the games back to Honolulu because there was no satellite TV availability,” said Wray. Plus the Na Hoku Hanohano Awards in the era of Krash Kealoha.
At KITV, the ABC affiliate, his legacy includes 18 years of directing “Merrie Monarch” coverage from Hilo, numerous Miss Hawaii pageants, and Keiki Hula competitions. Plus hundreds of local TV commercials, involving “folks who’d never been in front of a TV camera before.”
That’s quite a credit roll.
Share your thoughts of him or his shows here...

'Five-0' delivers a package ... of old tricks, themes

January 17th, 2012
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“Hawaii Five-0” edged “Castle” to win its Monday slot (Jan. 16) and helped CBS log a victory for the coveted adult 18 to 49 demographics, according to preliminary overnight Nielsen TV ratings.
The CBS procedural drew 10.50 million viewers and a 2.8 demo, compared to its chief ABC competitor’s
9.40 million and 2.3 demo, with NBC’s “Rock Center With Brian Williams” pulling in 5.56 million and 1.3 demo at 9 p.m. (10 p.m. on the Mainland).
Still, the “Five-0” demo was down 3 per cent, compared to its 2.9 figures two weeks ago, when a new episode aired.
“Pu’olo (The Package)” was a bag of old tricks of character revivals, repeating themes. Some thrills, some ills; over-all, a see-sawing, confusing, disappointing hour.
Lauren German (who plays Lori 0000), utters the ultimate review, when referring to a returning baddie, but perhaps sums up the episode: “Clearly, you need some new material.”
The episode featured a truck hijacking/robbery that wasn’t (goods not stolen), the return (via flashback) of Steve McGarrett’s (Alex O'Loughlin) dad John,(William Sadler), threats from the yakuza, the comeback of a nasty criminal from season one, Sang Min (Will Yun Lee), the reappearance of Kamekona’s (Taylor Wyle) shrimp truck (though the hefty one is calorie-counting with five Subway footlongs), the continuation of doubt between McG and his Uncle Joe White (Terry O’Quinn), the rebounding of Danno’s (Scott Caan) preggie ex-wife Rachel (Claire van der Boom) about to give birth and so on.
Through it all, Hawaii looks damn good. If only the story could match the scenics.
The issue and mystery of Shelburne is finally revealed, but it’s a yawn.
But nice to see local faces in prominence: Dean Kaneshiro as Lee Dolan, the dude in the hijacked truck who isn’t killed. His pidgin rants were credible; not so with Sang Min’s. Plus the hearing of John Cruz’s “Hi’lawe” track from the “Five-0” soundtrack CD, with a plug for the album before the final aloha.
Will Carson plays the teen McG in flashback; probably will be reintroduced in future episodes, since that’s the template with the show. A character you know appears when you least expect it.
With the mystery of Shelburne finally solved, or resolved, does this mean this is the last we see of Uncle Joe?

High price of flicks: Heck, join the crowd

January 15th, 2012
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Movie-makers have been agonizing over the box office decline last year and a Christmas-New Year season that was lackluster, with the exception of the surprise performance and success of Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”
Who or what’s to blame?
Not an easy question to dissect, but a good issue to discuss as the awards season is under way.
I don’t know about you, but I attend at least one film a week, but often two and occasionally three. On the average, I believe I cough up admission for seven to nine films a month.
Luckily, I pay a senior rate now. That helps ... and softens the pain.
Frankly, admission prices are soaring, films are often redundant, and a been-there, done-that mentality prevails. So for many, economics is a major factor.
But 3-D, which is plentiful and costs a premium to partake, is turning off some viewers (cost again is an issue) because the quality level has diminished. And since theaters have designated 3-D screening space, the industry is saturating the marketplace with 3-D.

So join the discussion:
• Movies are extremely costly. Agree? A date night can be expensive, but what about a family of four going to see a first-run attraction? Prices continue to rise, not as bad as gasoline and airline add-ons, but you practically need a king’s ransom for a simple flick outing.
• Munchies are expensive, too. From bottled water to popcorn, concessions — which are what the theater operators depend on to keep their doors open — are way too pricey. As outrageous as airport food prices, with fewer choices.
• It’s been a dubious season for 3-D flicks and this feature is turning off a segment of the movie-going population. As good as a “Harry Potter” mainstream film might be, there’s every reason to question the necessity for a “Kung Fu Panda” to boast the extras of the third dimension; even Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” while laden with Indiana Jones-style chase template amid a motion-capture action format, was a modest tale that could have been told solely in 2-D. I paid the extra to see it pop; at least it won a Golden Globe as Best Animation Feature. You pay more because of the technology and the requisite glasses; the issue with 3-D is that there hasn’t been a universal blockbuster like James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which delivered a whole new world of action, adventure and artistry with a storytelling technique that justified 3-D...an Event Movie which established a model very difficult to match. Cameron, of course, is delivering an anniversary edition of his legendary “Titanic” film in a 3-D version this April; after all, nothing succeeds like success, or excess; just ask Disney, which put a 3-D imprint on its majestic “The Lion King,” to reboot the classic animated film while attracting fans who saw the original and introduce a new generation that was too young to see the original, even if a family had a DVD version on the shelf. And “Beauty and the Beast,” the animated Disney classic, is just out in its 3-D debut, too. The bottom line: you always reach a new audience each time.
• Too many numbers in a movie title, also known as a franchise, a sequel, and, yes, a prequel. While “Mission Impossible 3” has jump-started Cruise’s career and audience approval level, do we really need versions 4, 5, and 6? Think about it:
From “Twilight” to “Potter,” from “Star Wars” (which juggled the chronology) to “Superman” (which is reinventing the wheel), the big ill prevails” — sequelitis, reboots, prequels. The sequence matters little anymore. “Superboy” was a TV staple, but “Superman” flies again this year. “Batman” and “Spider-man” have had different actors interpret the iconic characters. “The Incredible Hulk” worked best on TV, but two failed feature films followed. Remaking a familiar title or reinterpreting a favored character is a Hollywood plague. Add “Police Academy” — which is destined for a comeback — to the should-not-revive-reboot-re-do list, yikes. The clutter will includes extentions of the likes of “American Pie.”
What do do? You can’t avoid the trafficking but there are some ways to pay less for a first-run flick.

It helps to be a senior citizen, since admission is discounted; if you’re a young adult or not-yet-senior status movie-goer, one consideration is the matinee screenings, which are cheaper.
Or buy those discounted coupons to Consolidated theaters and wait till after week three to see a current film; those coupons are barred from early viewing, but going later means less crowds. But the coupons are not eligible for 3-D or IMAX releases.
You could go the Netflix route if you don’t mind seeing a biggie in the first wave of the buzz, but there is an upside of the movie-going experience at the top-tier price and early viewing timetable: there’s nothing like being part of an audience responding as one soul, shrieking at frightful moments (think “Jaws”) or gasping at cliff-hanging segments (think “Mission Impossible 3”). Watching a high-tech, high-impact film, which cost an arm and two legs to make, isn’t as powerful an adventure if you’re doing a solo viewing or with your spouse/partner/family at home on your flatscreen.
The psychology and dynamics of film-going truly require that mass-crowd element. And, alas, that comes with a hefty price. It’s not the same feeling, too, if you’re mixa bag of arare into your home-made popcorn; that is a theater ritual.

Caan-fidential scoop: Dad joins son on 'Five-0'

January 13th, 2012
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Short and sweet: Actor James Caan will join son Scott Caan in a “Hawaii Five-0” episode in Februrary.
It’s not a total surprise — more a matter of when, not if — since the notion of twinning the veteran acting dad to do a role with son, who portrays Danny “Danno” Williams on the filmed-in-Hawaii procedural.
Specifics were not revealed; no date, no details on role, no plot info.

This was the Twitter message shared today by CBS and CBS studios:

EXCLUSIVE CASTING ALERT! Aloha to James Caan who will join his son Scott on #H50 in February! #TCA12

Book ‘em, Danno!

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