Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

REVIEW: ‘Te Moana Nui’ elevates Tihati’s Polynesian legacy

May 5th, 2014

“Te Moana Nui,” Tihati Productions’ exquisite flagship Waikiki show, brings authentic Hawaiiana to a new home, the Grand Ballroom of the Pacific Beach Hotel.

It heralds a major chapter in the changing and expanding Tihati ‘ohana legacy in Waikiki over the past four decades. It’s the first vehicle — and the fourth Tihati entity on Oahu — overseen by the next-generation show creators, Misty Tufono and Afatia Thompson, the daughter and the son of pioneering Tihati founders Jack and Cha Thompson.

ET_Te_Moana_Nui_01_0317 (1)



This is a vivid and vibrant postcard of the future of the Tihati brand, teeming with company’s longstanding trademark trinity of show production: entertainment, education and elevation.

“Te Moana Nui” — which loosely translates to “the vast ocean” —  is high on history and sizzling with showmanship, with Tufono’s writing and choreographic skills channeling and unlocking  traditional tales in a smooth, almost conversational script, framed with her brother Thompson’s flair for experimentation with modern elements including high-definition LED video to enhance the storytelling. He also composed the show’s title song.

The show explores the storied history, the colorful people, and the authentic costumes of the fertile South Seas. Images of the vast oceans and verdant islands provide the backdrop of seafaring voyagers who share tales and traditions of the Polynesian culture, the serious alternating with the comic, the simple with the spectacular, the intimate with the lavish.

Throughout, it upholds the rules of theater to keep it flowing, the secret of education to keep it valid and real, and the edginess of innovation to raise the bar on this genre of Polynesian syncopation and exposition.


This is not a typical luau show. The Samoan fire knife dance is the nightcap, as always, but there is uncompromising care to preserve the stories of a generation past with drumbeats, guitars and chorale singing, which elevates “Te Moana Nui” to folklorico levels.  As a fixture previously under the Starwood/Sheraton umbrella —  before relocating to the Pacific Beach located in a sector of Waikiki not previously known for a visitor-oriented attraction — Tihati is planting new seeds on fertile new grounds.

The transition from the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel’s Ainahau Ballroom, where the Tihati spectacle had been anchored for three decades, succeeds though the Pacific Beach only recently has realized that a sleeping giant is under its roof.  Challenged to retain tradition but also reach out for new paths, both the younger Thompson offspring as well as the hotel — which hasn’t quite grasped the potential in its new tenant — are jockeying for market share. The show has been running for two months, with scanty advertising to build visibility and accessibility. On-premise posters aside, wholesalers are still weighing options to elevate buy-and-sell options to the changing flock of Mainland and foreign clientele hungry for a taste of Polynesia while on Oahu.

Surely, this is the go-to show if you have out-of-town visitors. Or just go, for a cultural night out.

With an ensemble of alluring women and athletic men who sing and dance with ease and flair, it’s like watching a National Geographic spectacle leaping to life with visuals that pan the mountains and seas. The artistry is vibrant and the panorama resonates with the rhythms and rhetoric of the peoples of Hawaii, Fiji, Tonga, Maori New Zealand, Samoa and Tahiti. The drumming defines heartbeat and spirit; a musical ensemble provides instrumentation and sweet harmonies; but the performers also vocalize and move with impeccable precision and exhilarating passion.

And you don’t need a passport to navigate this Pacific treasure.

The opening otea features dancers on a double-hulled canoe, journeying from Raiatea to Hawaii. The climactic Samoan siva ahi (fire knife dance) features Mikaele Oloia, a four-time fire dance winner, whose feats bring spectators to their feet with roaring approval.

In-between, the numbers range from a solemn Fijian dance called the Meke, about a high chief venturing a journey into the unknown, to a Maori sequence  honoring seagoers savvy about canoe-building, ocean currents, and reading the “maps” provided by stars. And yes, the women whirl Maori poi balls and the gents engage in tongue-wagging gyrations of the spirited warrior.

The popular Samoan maulu‘ulu (women’s dance) and siva fa‘ataupati (men’s slap dance) are party-hearty and provoke fun, while the taualuga (dance of the virgin princess) is celebratory with hopes for a fruitful life in a new world, with Eden Annendale as the centerpiece.


ET_Te_Moana_Nui_01_0247A Waikiki stop assembles hapa haole songs in a nostalgic look at the distant past, with hula soloist Nicole Thompson exuding dreamy sweetness.  The show’s title song emerges in the dance of Tahiti, the ahuroa, where a woman’s attributes are compared to the syncopation of the rolling waves, with lithe Heather Ruth as the soloist.

Micah Tiedemann, a versatile dancer, doubles as a conversational emcee; he also designed and created many of the show’s lavish and vivid costumes with a palate boasting more hues than a rainbow.

There are four staging areas: the central mainstage, two auxiliary platforms boasting sailboats to the left and right, and a middle spot front and center. This crossfire movement provides variety, challenging viewers to remain alert on where  the action might be for solo dancing or a brief monologue setting up a centerstage moment.

Arrive early, and participate in pre-show festivities ranging from storytelling to stamping kapa to make bookmarks, from floral crafts to Polynesian tattooing.

This is Tihati’s fourth Oahu endeavor — others are at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, the Hilton Hawaiian Village, and most recently the Marriott resort at Ko Olina — which makes the company the most prolific of local show producers.



Where: Grand Ballroom, Pacific Beach Hotel

When: Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays

Time: Pre-show festivities from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., buffet service from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.; show at 7:30 p.m.

Cost: Dinner show package, includes a bountiful prime rib buffet feast with one Mai Tai or soft drink: adults (13 and older), $115; children (5-12) , $82; infants (4 and under), free; cocktails-only includes two standard drinks or one exotic (fruit punch for children):

adults (13 and older), $68; children (5 to 12), $50.

Information: 922-1233,





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'Five-0's' Afghan episode: Fish out of water?

May 3rd, 2014










Makani 'Olu A Holo Malie (Fair Winds and Following Seas)

Alex O'Loughlin (Steve McGarrett) and Michelle Borth (Catherine Rollins) in Afganistan. CBS photo.

“Hawaii Five-0” was a somewhat of a fish out of  water in Friday’s (May 2) episode, and indeed, waters infested by a shark.

That is to say, the CBS procedural — largely staged as a Catherine-goes-to-Afghanistan-to-repay-a-debt-with-McGarrett’s-help mini-movie — was a leap of faith with iffy results.

First off, “Five-0” barely won the 8 p.m. hour (9 p.m.  Mainland), with 8.69 million viewers, a whisker ahead of ABC’s “Shark Tank,” which pulled in 8.08 million, according to preliminary overnight Nielsen ratings, which may change with numbers updates.  Worse, in the coveted 18 to 49 adult demographics, “Shark” was No. 1 with a 2.2 rating, compared to the 1.2 logged by the homegrown show; this was an 8 per cent decrease for “Five-0” from last week’s 1.3 adults in 18 to 49. Even NBC’s “Grimm” had better demos (1.4) though fewer viewers (5.20 million), a matter of importance in setting advertising rates.

The episode, entitled “Makani ‘Olu a Holo Malie (Fair Winds and Following Seas),” was a risky send-off for actress Michelle Borth, who plays Catherine Rollins, the love interest of Alex O’Loughlin’s Steve McGarrett. Did it bite off more than it could chew?

At a poker game studded with faces that have previously appeared before (including Larry Manetti, Al Harrington, Duane “Dog” Chapman), Cath receives a desperate call from a Pashtan gent who previously rescued her, whose son was captured by the Taliban. She tells McG about the situation, and he goes along to support her mission, heading for Kabul.

The focus on Cath was valid; but the plot didn’t thicken, it sickened.  When the two arrive, he gets injured in a grenade throw, so now her search is for two, not one.

McG is captured, tortured, taunted, and gets roughed up and displayed in Taliban fashion, in a video. The Taliban supposedly keeps a case of enemy photos in a file, and there’s a pic of McG in his SEAL era, which leads to more beatings. McG doesn’t fess up names that the Taliban wants. “I can’t remember,” he pleads.

Of course, the home team — dealing with a subplot about stolen organs — has to come to the rescue, and Danno (Scott Caan) leads the troops. That means a plane, a team of soldiers, an effort with global implications (like, breaking the rules and laws) … acquired by bending reality a lot.  At least this time, the errant squad took a military plane to Afghan, not like the botched episode when McG went international to Korea, aboard a helicopter.

OK, the theme of loyalty, love, trust, friendship, debt-paying, humanity play out throughout the show, with mixed resulots

When the military brass discover the rescue squad’s antics, Danno is wonderfully aloof, brushing them off with a brave tone and saying he’s a civilian, not in the military. In other words, buzz off. As if it would work in real life.

Alas, the Afghan kid is not found, so there’s a window of  opportunity to revisit the case— and Cath — in a future episode. She remains there, he returns home, both with heavy hearts. As former Naval types and “Five-0” team members, they remain Navy strong, to be sure.

But McG wasn’t the only one tortured. His fans probably didn’t want to see him weep. Isn’t he supposed to the rock, the foundation, the pillar of the show?

In this one, McG is very human. There are real tears in his eyes (hers, too). There’s a telephone exchange between him and Cath, with several “I love you, you know,” “I’ll be careful,” “I love you, too,” “Good luck,” “Aloha,” “Aloha.”

She scoots off on a cycle — but you know she’ll be back.

Chin shows skin but 'Five-0' not so much in radicalist show

April 27th, 2014

Pe'epe'e Kānaka (Those Among Us)











Daniel Dae Kim (Chin) goes shirtless in spearfishing scene in "Five-0."  Photo courtesy CBS.

Note: This posting, normally done early Saturday, was delayed due to a problem with website issues that prevented me access to the blog site.


“Hawaii Five-0” delves into terrorism with “Pe ‘epe ‘e Kanaka (“Those Among Us”), on Friday (April 29). Alas, the script had too many holes and the preliminary overnight Nielsen ratings dipped again.

It’s an indication of the marginal viewing pattern on Friday nights, and a so-so story with an auspicious beginning told in earnest but lacking credibility.

Honolulu has its share of crime, of course, so the show that starts off promisingly with the shooting of a pool attendant in Lanikai, but  ending with a highly emotional Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) lecturing a young radicalist involved in an alleged Jihad cell is a  bit much.

Before the final credits roll, Danno (Scott Caan) and McG visit a veterans rehab center to relay news to a double amputee victim of Afghan terrorism brings some kind of closure to the soldier. But the midsection tale of terrorists in Hawaii having something to do with the kooks on the war front — with the alleged no-gooders dying — is a pill hard to swallow.

Here? In paradise?

That said, “Five-0” again had the most viewers (9.7 million, down from a week earlier) as usual, but remains second in the 18 to 14 adults demographics with a 1.2 rating, bested by ABC’s “Shark Tank” (a 1.7 rating), but fewer viewers (6.86 million).

That margin and pattern were reflected in the Friday night viewing perspective: ABC was No. 1 in adult demos, CBS had the most viewers, largely thanks to “Blue Bloods” (in the hour following “Five-0:”) with 10.81 million viewers and a 1.3 demo (which ABC’s “20/20” beat with a 1.4 demo, but with a 5.81 million viewership).

The episode was not without a couple of fine moments:

  • Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) shows skin, a rarity on the show, shown shirtless while spearfishing with Capt. Grover (Chi McBride), complete like McG/Dannon bromance banter, about who can catch the most fish and the emotion of jealousy.
  • Local lingo is integrated in the final moments of the show, when McG brings news to the legless vet and he asks McG, “How do you say thank you (in Hawaiian)?”  Of course, McG utters “Mahalo,” and the GI repeats it, adding “Semper Fi,” which played more like an “NCIS” moment but nonetheless memorable.

Bottom line: Friday is a safe haven for the Hawaii-based CBS procedural. It provides a wedge of victory in viewership, albeit with smaller ratings on a night that not many people are drawn to the tube, and the payoff means the 18 to 49 adult demo is also down, a yardstick by which advertising rates are determined. But the longer the show holds its on in primetime, the more the network will earn in its syndication deal with TNT (like, $2 million per episode0. There’s comfort and reassurance that Friday is a fit for “Five-0,” which does not compete with another procedural and especially since NBC’s underperformihg  “Grimm” has not been a contender in the 8 p.m. (9 p.m.) window.


Bruno Mars, the singer, vs. Mars, the chocolate candy bar

April 21st, 2014



With Bruno Mars in town for three historic sell-out concerts (and not forgetting the ticket controversy involving re-salers buying most of the available seats), it might be a good moment to compare Mars, the singer, with another Mars, the candy bar.


mars bar





BRUNO  MARS             VS.            MARS BAR
$148, including Ticketmaster fees, for prime seats COST TO                INDULGE  Under $1.39, at Walmart or, for small 2 oz. bar
Smooth moves, smart grooves, falsetto tones, the epitome of cool, commonly topped by a hat        IDENTIFYING         FACTORS  Sweet taste, with nougat, almond, soft caramel insides, and milk chocolate coating
Oozes charm, provokes squeals from young girls and women          SEX APPEAL Fits in pocket or purse,  easy to take home, but difficult to find
Headlined 2014 Super Bowl halftime show; a one-of-a-kind creation with homegrown Honolulu roots, earlier known as the world’s Littlest Elvis impersonator         CLAIM TO               FAME Has storied past, and  British roots, with a world version, a Canadian version, and an American version only sold at Walmart

Scott Caan replaces Shia Lebeouf as con man in 'Kasbah' film

April 1st, 2014



With “Hawaii Five-0” filming pau for the fourth season, series co-star Scott Caan, who plays Danny “Danno” Williams, can focus on his extra-curricular projects.

Caan has been tapped to replace Shia Labeouf in Barry Levinson’s “Rock the Kasbah” film. Caan will play a con man who tricks the main figure, a fading rock manager, played by Bill Murray. The film, also starring Bruce Willis and Kate Hudson, involves a botched USO tour of Afghanistan, where the Murray character finds himself sans passport or moolah.

Caan, the actor who created a stir when he earlier said he didn’t like the slow pace or the food in Hawaii, also has been filming a movie version of the HBO hit show, “Entourage,” expanding his profile more than any other regular on the CBS show based in Hawaii. The series ran eight seasons on HBO.

“Entourage” began filming in January, with a storyline beginning six months after the TV series ended. The project reunites the original cast featuring Caan, Jerry Piven, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara, Kevin Dillon and Debi Mazar, with Billy Bob Thornton and Hayley Joel Osmont joining the roster. The film is expected to be released in June, 2015.

Caan has diversified his show biz creds on stage, too. His play, “Two Wrongs,” had a brief run earlier at the Ocean City Center for the Arts in Maryland.  It’s described as a psychoanalytic contemporary comedy.