By Wayne Harada
For its Hawaii shows this year, the venerable and versatile Society of Seven, the Las Vegas-based group featuring co-founders Tony Ruivivar and Bert Sagum, has tapped Glenn Miyashiro to the roster.
Reason: Ruivivar has been wrestling with voice and throat problems in recent weeks. While he sang a few lead vocals and did some of the group’s customary introductions, Miyashiro, a member of the spin-off SOS LV combo, stepped in to add vocals to certain harmonies and take over some of the raps for Ruivivar. Indeed, Ruivivar had some projection issues and displayed some discomfort. A true showman, it was the-show-must-go-on, and he soldiered through two performances, with one brunch show remaining at noon today at the Ala Moana Hotel’s Hibiscus Ballroom.
There were a few new delights in the show, spotlighting the expansive repertoire of featured female vocalist Lhey Bella, who added currency and electricity in her vocals. No doubt, she is a powerhouse, singing a cute and flirtatious “All About the Bass,” the Meghan Trainor hit, in blonde wig and polka dot dress, and doing stellar belting on a Whitney Houston medley capped by the soaring “I Will Always Love You.”
In solos and duets with the male magnet in the combo, Michael Laygo (the hymn “How Great Thou Art,” “River Deep, Mountain High” and “The Prayer” were inspirational sizzlers), Bella remains a jewel in her second time here with the SOS. Or, as Miyashiro quipped after the Bella-Laygo duets, “Vocalizing doesn’t get better than that.”
Laygo also has a booming and seductive voice, offering rock ballads as well as operatic arias with equal exclamation points!
The show begins with vintage clips from the “Ed Sullivan Show,” when the group was known as the Fabulous Echoes from the Philippines. The evening concludes with an Americana salute to the men and women who have served the country, blending segments of the obvious soul-stirring “God Bless the U.S.A.,” “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Hawaii Aloha.” Only the large American flag, from Outrigger Hotel-era productions, is missing — but there’s still emotion-charged fire.
Of course, Sagum tosses in his comedic antics — as a plumed Las Vegas showgirl, as his signature “Little Richard” tribute complete with playful flirts with a gent in the house, and his bold and wacky shadowing of Bella’s interpretation of Beyonce’s “I’m a Single Lady.” And yes, he looks almost as stunning in his skin-hugging tights, though admittedly, she was the centerpiece.
And yes, that Diana Ross and the Supremes classic – Bella as Ross, Sagum and Low as the Supremes — still draws chuckles and hoots of delight.
What’s missing: the usual snippets from Broadway, an SOS tradition from way back, though “This Is the Moment” (from “Jekyll and Hyde”) enables each lead voices Ruivivar, Miyashiro, Bella and Laygo to strut their stuff.
The SOS also includes Hoku Low, Wayne Wakai, Roy Venturina, Jun Estanislau who provide treasured support as well as solos. In particular, Low is a workhorse with his impersonation of Frankie Valli and Wayne Newton; Wakai’s walk-in-the-audience with saxophone and curly wig, was his signature Kenny G slot.
Clearly, the SOS lives up to its self-proclaimed “the last of the show bands” (the subtitle of the book by Frances Kirk), with its variety-show format and enduring success.
SOCIETY OF SEVEN
Where: Ala Moana Hotel’s Hibiscus Room
When: Final brunch show at noon today (Aug. 2); doors open at 11 a.m.
Cost: $79, includes buffet and show