By Wayne Harada
“Waikiki Kopy Katz,” a sweet valentine to the Waikiki of yesteryear, reimagines musical personalities from the past in a concise and nostalgic time-travel adventure bursting with charm.
Presented Wednesdays at the Warrior Lounge of the Hale Koa Hotel, the show has been a solid sell-out for the past month and has been extended for eight more weeks. Co-produced by veteran Waikiki showman Jack Cione (who wrote and directed) and stand-up comic Bo Irvine (who serves as host), “Waikiki Kopy Katz” owes its success to four contemporary troupers from Honolulu’s nightclub and theatrical stages, who deliver charming tributes — not impersonations — of Don Ho, Hilo Hattie, Alfred Apaka with an unexpected visit by Frank Sinatra.
The brainchild of veteran showman Cione, these encounters are enacted in joyous salutes by Kimo Kahoano (Ho), Cathy Foy (Hattie) and Charles Degala (Apaka); they revive trademark tunes in incidental liaisons that likely never happened in their lifetime but logical in this flashback.
Further, as a set-up in a bar of club of the past, Randy Smith appears as Ol’ Blue Eyes with generous musical tidings — even though Frank Sinatra never performed in Waikiki.
This is a new gem in Waikiki’s nightlife. It’s cute, contagious and charismatic — like revered puka shells strewn together with adoration — reflecting laid-back, gentler times in Waikiki. In short: this is a sentimental journey, a treasure to embrace and take home.
Kahoano, a veteran radio personality, TV host and sometimes actor and singer, does sound like Mr. Waikiki with “Ain’t No Big Thing,” “Tiny Bubbles” and “Pearly Shells.” The drawl’s perfect, the Ho-style banter echoing the original, as Kahoano treks from the bar to the stage in the tone and manner of Ho.
Foy, on the other hand, doesn’t sound or resemble the iconic comedienne, Hilo Hattie, but when she puts her own imprint on the signature tunes. Combined with Hattie’s trademark hip and hop, Foy reestablishes the legendary comedienne with adoration and grace. The recollection taps “When Hilo Hattie Does the Hilo Hop” and “The Cockeyed Mayor of Kaunakakai;” the papale may not be lauhala but the kerchief around the butt is certainly Hattie-precise. In short: Foy lovingly elevates her interpretation to musical theater.
Degala, also a onetime staple of local stage, brings a soaring vocal presence and genuine aloha to Alfred Apaka; a signature medley of “Beyond the Reef,” “Tonight Mapuana,” “Lovely Hula Hands” and “Sweet Leilani” is heaven-sent.
Smith’s stroll-on as Sinatra is based on the premise that he’s vacationing in the islands with his then-wife Ava Gardner, who is in their hotel room as he visits the watering hole. This enables Smith to offer “Where or When,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “You Make Me Feel So Young” and — start spreading the news — “New York, New York.”
Round two in the nostalgia stroll finds Foy upholding the joys of “Waikiki,” joined by Kahoano and Degala on a collaborative “I’ll Remember You” and “I Am Hawaii,” and Foy and Degala saluting wedding celebrants and anniversary couples with “The Hawaiian Wedding Song.” Yes, the celebrants dance cheek-to-cheek, to make the Waikiki memory real.
The 80-minute show converts the lounge into an informal showroom, with Hawaii projects behind a minimalist stage. And P.J. Galarneau is “the orchestra” and he pays homage to the exotic franchise of Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman including the hypnotic “Quiet Village.”
With its anchor at the Hale Koa, the show targets an appreciative military audience, which rises for a standing ovation, raising commotion and emotion aplenty. Locals may gain entrée as guests of military personnel, so if know or have a GI in the family, grab him (or her) and plan a trek to the Hale Koa. This could be a start of a new generation of show traditions in Waikiki.
‘WAIKIKI KOPY KATZ’
When: 8 p.m. Wednesdays
Where: Warrior Lounge, Hale Koa Hotel
Cover charge: $25
Bo Irvine is host of "Kopy Katz"
Kimo Kahoano is Don Ho
Charles Degala is Alfred Apaka
Cathy Foy is Hilo Hattie
Photos by Wayne Harada
Cathy Foy is Hilo Hattie