By Wayne Harada
Let the Christmas season begin.
Honolulu City Lights might unofficially herald the arrival of the holidays, but really, it’s The Brothers Cazimero’s seasonal songs and dances at Hawaii Theatre that the formally launch of the yuletide hoopla.
The eclectic and exquisite "A Cazimero Christmas" opened Friday night (Dec. 7) and repeats at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Dec.8) and 2 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 9). If you can secure tickets, go; you’ll feel the jingle and the joy of Christmas.
The show is at once a tradition and an anachronism. I mean, it’s a requisite part of the arts community, as is the “Nutcracker” ballet productions this time of year, but who else would spend hours of rehearsals with 18 kane dancers from Halau Na Kamalei O Lililehua and eight Ladies from the Royal Dance Company, programming contemporary and spiritual yuletide tunes, invite such guest artists as Starr Kalahiki (her first name unfortunately misspelled in the playbill) and good-luck-charm dancer Leinaala Kalama Heine to solo slots, for a very limited run. Add the added effort of hauling out all those decorations from last year and light them up for three shows only.
It’s like searching and then buying a Christmas tree, pruning and dressing it up, untangling the light cords and dusting off the ornaments, only to put it up for three nights.
Well, bless The Caz for caring and daring and sharing, maintaining this tentpole celebration for the community (OK, they abandoned May Day a few years ago after 25 years, but that’s a much larger endeavor — and only one night! so they're forgiven).
Over two acts and two hours (with intermission), Robert (the brain behind the song selections and choreographer, too) and Roland (the arranger of all the tunes) — with blessing from the show’s executive director, Burton White, who also is resident artistic director at the Hawaii Theatre) — propel us into the spirit of the holidays. This one will tempt you to start thinking of roasting chestnuts in an open fire. Or maybe luau pit.
Some original ditties (“Christmas Craft Fair Time,” “It’s Christmas Time”) define the Island ways and means of the holiday experience; other established tunes (“Well, Hello, Santa,” which is “Hello, Dolly,” reinvented) expand the cheer, with eight ladies appearing as St. Nicholas’ reindeer frolicking with one gent, in a sequined red coat, playing a hulaing Santa.
While the centerpieces remain Robert (singer, bassist, pianist) and Roland (guitarist, fill-in bassist when Robert fiddles with the ivories), they surely won’t mind my saying that two keiki steal the show: Miss Keiki Hula 2012 Lexi Mae Kamakanaokalani Pruse and Master Keiki Hula 2012 Alema ‘Ulaleo Ebana, the reigning kiddie hula kingpins from Halau Kekuaokala ‘Au ‘Ala ‘Iliahi, whose solo turns — particularly his frisky and feisty "Waiahole E," complete with winks — earned the most demonstrative hurrahs.
Kalahiki, seductively sensational in her glittery short dress, was every bit a “Cool Yule” hottie — and a bona fide Starr, earning a hana hou in an “Oh, Happy Day” gospel romp with The Caz and the ohana of dancers who double as singers.
I had a personal chuckle at one moment in the concert; the men of Robert’s halau, a few who’ve been in the ranks for perhaps three decades, can still belt ‘em and dance with the younger arrivals, but they warmly resembled middle-aged Honolulu Boy Choir kids, devotedly enmeshed in the music of the moment.
Though there are some brotherly bickering between the bros, providing both staged and impromptu laughs for the fans, the musicianship is solid and special. “Carol of the Bells” is that fast-paced tongue-twister that challenges any singer, especially with tempo, and Robert delivers it with bell-ringing clarity to much applause. Roland dwells in rockery, when he’s not engaged in Hawaiian music, so a thumping “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which has nothing to do with Christmas ... though it sounds like a shopper’s sad lament. Well, it helps him get his rocks off.
A Caz Christmas always ends on a note of solemnity, and this year’s medley of “It’s Christmas Time,” “Go To the Light” and “From Our House, to Your House” succinctly underlines the message of the season. Real. Spiritual. All about family.
And just when I was wondering, “Whatever happened to the holiday sing-along,” along comes the pre-final curtain audience participation “Mele Kalikimaka.”
There was a section about snow, embracing “Let It Snow” and “Winter Wonderland” and leading up to a sparkling sung/danced “A White Christmas.”
Which prompts a cautionary note: If you’re in the central orchestra seats particularly in rows D to H, bring an umbrella if you don’t want to be showered with artificial snow. Or not. It happens but once a year, as part of the tradition with The Caz. I wasn't among those snowed but have been in the past.
Part of the Mele Kalikimaka experience.
‘A CAZIMERO CHRIStMAS’
7:30 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 8), 2 p.m. Sunday