Roland Cazimero and Leinaala Heine Kalama make surprise appearances at Saturday's Hawaii Theatre concert.
Robert Cazimero is in the prime of his professional and personal lives, if his Saturday (March 21) Hawaii Theatre concert is a barometer.
His brilliant show, “Open Windows: An Evening With Robert Cazimero,” was a genuine thrill, brimming with mele and hula and storytelling and sharing. It was a grand, glorious demonstration of the veteran musician-raconteur-singer-
keyboarder-kumu hula’s wizardry in mounting a show that reflected his stature and savvy as the pioneering Hawaiian entertainer and hula teacher of his generation, while advancing simultaneously as a seasoned and down-home local boy still with plenty of heart.
And surprise! With on-the-mend brother Roland Cazimero out of sick bay, strumming stand-up bass fiddle midway through the evening, along with hula favorite Leinaala Heine Kalama rendering sit-down hula by his side, Robert provided a wave of the unexpected. Bro Roland had been on a medic-mandated year’s leave from the performance stage, so his brief but spirited few moments during a contagious segment saluting the act’s regal reign as one-time headliners of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s Monarch Room, was worth the price of admission. Roland looked as fit as his stand-up fiddle; and that semi-retired kumu ‘Ala, often dubbed the third brother, also made a cameo that simply elevated the concert to homecoming/nostalgia ranks. She and Roland were all smiles and beams, glowing with the roaring cheers of fans who’ve missed them in Caz gatherings in recent months.
The Royal sequence was dressed with a backdrop of Diamond Head, the view the performers had when they were ensconced at the Pink Palace, and with gents and hula ladies who have also graced that iconic Waikiki stage also on stage, one must wonder and hope why the room sits idle when this kind of majestic montage can easily restore the music that was the magic in a Hawaii of the recent past.
And that Burton White, former g.m. and artistic director of the Hawaii Theatre, also was in the house, made it a special reunion for those who’ve savored, patronized and applauded these figures over the decades.
With 11 widow frames hanging above a set that included two rattan sofas, one side chair, an end table, a lamp and beaucoup palms, anthuriums and Monsterra leaves greenery, this was clearly a breezy glimpse of a Hawaii that some folks have given up on. With Robert serving as a one-man orchestra, playing piano accompaniment on a grand Baldwin, this was artistry of the rarest kind. OK, Manu Boyd was on hand (another reunion, he being a former member of Robert’s halau) to chant while playing on an ipu, and Roland’s bass was a brief second instrument on stage.
It was like being in Robert’s living room, with aloha and love to spare.
Oh, there was also an homage to another disappearing and tarnished Hawaii tradition, Lei Day, which the Caz carrying the Don Blanding banner with popular Waikiki Shell May Day concerts for more than two decades. Oh, the date still is on the calendar yearly, but the date-specific celebration was tabled several years ago.
The Royal montage featured classic songs from the duo’s residency there, including “The Royal Hawaiian Hotel,” but the seven hula sequences, with the gents appearing as trios, duos and soloists, also provided artistry akin to a mini-Merrie Monarch Festival spectacle.
After intermission, the incomparable Raiatea Helm, occasionally strumming ukulele with bass support from Nick Lum, provided a glimpse at four generations of the Genoa Keawe ohana, sharing hula and mele. If you didn’t know that the late Auntie Genoa was born on Halloween, the Halloween masks and treat bags might have been initially puzzling; while Helm had her solo moments singing hometown faves like “Kalama Ula,” with a lingering and powerful falsetto, it was the arrival of Keawe granddaughter Pomaikai Keawe Lyman’s guest appearance/duet on grandma’s trademark hold-the-note-with-a-smile “Alika” that brought down the house.
Hu‘ewa, a trio performing prior to intermission, provided a powerful and potent sound at once reflecting a rustic past and a robust future.
All in all, a bright night for performers and spectators alike.