By Wayne Harada
Do the math: A corps of mostly Filipino entertainers gather to do a concert to raise funds for their family, friends and other victims of the recent devastation due to the typhoon in Haiyan; a community-spirited Filipina TV personality comes out of sick bay to organize and emee the show; a devoted Hawaii had already donated $400,000 to the effort since the storm; an equally giving audience at the Hawaii Theatre Saturday (Dec. 28) cough up $100,000 to the effort.
And the Consuelo Foundation, one of the key sponsors of the show, match the monies raised to date. The grand total: $1 million.
Such is the result of Hawaii’s lend-a-hand citizenry, always banding together to support a cause. So the “Aloha for Philippines Mahalo Concert, as the fundraiser was called, was yet another measure of Hawaii’s open heart and arms to its sister nation in a time of need.
Here’s a recap:
· Previously unannounced special guest star and ultimate headliner: Willie K. He’s Hawaiian, but has a Filipino heart, appearing in casual aloha shirt, jeans, slippahs and dark glasses; he sits on a stool, says he’ll do a request for “the godmother of my children,” and proceeds and sings “Imagine” (with a twist) for Tomimbang. The crowd goes wild with cheers; then he exits — for a hana hou. Then somebody shouts “Pavorati,” and he goes operatic with an aria, then vanishes again. Very impromptu, very casual, and surely mainstream — he is the powerhouse voice and personality Waikiki needs to recharge its batteries, show-wise.
· Best in Show: Little Albert Maligmat, formerly of the original Society of Seven. Now a soloist in various Waikiki venues, Little Albert wowed ‘em first with his heartfelt delivery of the inspirational R. Kelly ditty, “I Believe I Can Fly,” while hugging Kahala Nui caregier Maricris Baniqued, who lost a brother and an aunt in the Haiyan tragedy. This, after she had rendered the eloquent and expressive Celine Dion trademark, “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic.” Maligmat’s voice was reassuring, his body language touching, his hugs comforting. This brought down the house. And if that wasn’t enough, he also delivered a resourcefully inventive solo treatment of the 1980s anthem, “We Are the World,” showing that his residency with the impression-heavy SOS was not wasted; he did snippets of the song from a catalogue of iconic troupers with the kokua of minimal props, voice control and authority — Michael Jackson, Jose Feliciano, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen and more. A showstopper, for sure.
· All That Jazz: Grammy winner Pauline Wilson, formerly of Seawind, soared with her still-powerful and incomparable “Follow Your Road” hit from the past. Clearly, she’s been the real deal all along, and there’s nothing like the genuine article that still sparkles.
· The Society of Seven LV, minus a few members through featuring the awesome Jeanette Trevias on backup vocals and electric keyboards, opened the evening with a short set including “This Is the Moment.” And indeed, this was the telling moment: a band rudely axed from the Waikiki show scene just a month earlier shows up to put on a good face and a great sound to kokua tortured souls, when, indeed, they have their own hurt and uncertain future ahead. They handily won the Wounded Warriors award for their contribution.
· Broadway Babe: Kristian Lei, who’s sashayed from Broadway roles to Christian music, appeared twice, once with husband Gavin Vinta in a recreation of her Kim song in a Germany production of “Miss Saigon” (which was done in Europe in German, but in English here), “The Last Night of the World.” Her pipes are powerful as ever, and her hubby’s a crooner, too, doing the Chris part of the duet. She also appeared with her Broadway Babies choir with an uplifting tune reflecting the undiminishing spirit of aloha locals have for the Haiyan victims.
· Idol Worship: Though it’s been some years since Jasmine Trias won the hearts of Hawaii and Philippines fans as the third place finisher in the third season of “American Idol” (the year that Fantasia prevailed), she still has ‘em cheering hurrahs. Her medley of Idol-era tunes, like “Mr. Melody” and “Unbelievable” was sung to tracks, not live music, which distanced the intimacy somewhat, but those strings ‘n’ chorale voices were perfect — no squawks about pitches. She introduced and featured a Brit charmer of a guest singer, but failed to mention that Ben Stone is her boyfriend. So there. You know.
· For the finale, Trias and Stone were joined by Kristian Lei and Vina and singers Ben Vegas and Maila Gibson, for a right-on version of “The Prayer,” which host Tomimbang said had become the prevailing theme of the recovery movement in the Philippines. The ballad was nourished with the stunning hula artistry of Nani Dudoit, a soloist with Ho’okena, who recorded the tune with Gibson and features it their live shows. OK, they’re not Filipino by race, but they might have add just as much charisma and charm to wind up the evening.