Beginning this fall, a Broadway star will be enrolled as an official Kamehameha School Warrior.

He is Ezekiel “Zeke”  Kekuna of Kaneohe, who has been portraying Young Simba, in Disney’s “The Lion King,” since last fall.

He winds up his gig at the Minskoff Theatre in August, and will be attending Kamehameha, where he will be in the seventh grade and a member of the future Class of 2030. I mua, Kamehameha.

Ezekiel Kekuna munches Leonard’s malasadas.

Zeke joins Kamehameha grad Auli‘I Cravalho, who became a certified film star, when she still was a student, voicing the animated titular seafaring character in Disney’s “Moana.” She’s still visible in new films, including the recent “Mean Girls.” And she provides the voice again, as Moana, in the sequel “Moana 2.”

Zeke, of course, is a show biz notable. He was home briefly a few weeks ago, catching up with family and friends, enjoying Zippy’s meals and Leonard’s malasadas.

Auli’i Cravalho in “Mean Girls.”

Two things are quite apparent: Hawaii has a stable of stellar hidden talent, and Disney has demonstrated a commitment to seek youthful unknowns and making ‘em bona fide stars when opportunity knocks. Like, Maia Kealoha, with Big Island roots, will appear as Lilo in Disney’s live-action “Lilo and Stich” film…

‘Merrily’ rolls out with a record $2.766 million

“Merrily We Roll Along,” which has wound up its incredible run July 7, topped the Broadway grosses in its final appearance on the list. It beat the unbeatable, “The Lion King,” in its final ranking on the Top 10.

The show, featuring songs by Stephen  Sondheim, is his most successful musical ever. If you recall, it opened 40 years ago and  was a flop…until it was remounted last October and nurtured a devoted audience; for the closing, the average ticket price was a record high, $357.94, with 100 per cent capacity, and $2,766 million gross for the finale.

The Top 10:

1—“Merrily We Roll Along,” $2.766 million.

2—” The Lion King,” $2.4463 million.

3—” Wicked,” $2.187 million.

4—” Hamilton,” $1.926 million.

5— “Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club,” $1.566 million.

6—” Aladdin,” $1.557 million.

7—”Hell’s Kitchen,” $1.526 million.

8—“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” $1.403 million.

9—” The Outsiders,” $1.376 million.

10—”MJ the Musical,” $1.292 million.

The complete list, courtesy the Broadway League:

And that’s Show Biz…


Hawaii’s top stand-up comedians – Frank DeLima, Augie T, and Andy Bumatai – continue to unite in periodic shows across the state.

Hawaii Theatre will be the trio’s Honolulu stop for their “Hawaii Comedian Legends Tour,”
 at 7 p.m. Sept. 14.

There’s strength – and drawing power – when the three take the stage together. They all have their pidgin gags, though DeLima usually puts on occasional costumes for visual frivolity. Augie and Andy uncork their hilarity without the costumery. The gags flow easily.

Tickets —  $33 to $49 —  are now on sale at the box office; visit or (808) 528-0506.

It’s been a while since I’ve ordered tickets for a Hawaii Theatre event – and I noted, in securing seats for the comedic bros, how the add-on charges have mounted per ticket: $3 for a service fee, $5 for a theater restoration free, and $4.50 for a ticketing free. So don’t be surprised…

Kevin I still merrily rolling along

Kevin Iwamoto, aka Kevin I, who’s enjoying a secondary recording “career” with downloading and screaming his remastered music from the 1970s-1980s the past two years, finally has growing support from island fans. “I wanted to share with you the power of your reach,” he said of a recent column about his ongoing popularity without singing a single note “live.”

Kevin I

“My latest data shows in Spotify that Honolulu has the top spot for listeners this week, and also on the top 50 cities list were Mililani and Kailua-Kona,” he said of the latest online activity he’s generating here. “Also, in Apple music and Pandora, a big spike in Hawaii listeners – that’s the power of your audience reach and influence. You don’t need a newspaper; you have the power of the pen no matter where you scribe from.”

Appreciate his kind words, but seriously, it’s all about his sound and his universal appeal, because globally, Kevin has developed a following from folks who never heard of him…till they listened to his romantic power ballads…

And that’s Show Biz…


Hundreds – perhaps between 600 and 700 – turned out yesterday (July 7) for the Celebration of Life for Jade Stice at the Koolau Ballroom in Kaneohe.

It was SRO, for certain, and the throngs gave her a thunderous standing ovation at the end of the program, which wound up with a mass singing involving the attendees, of “Let the Sunshine In”  the signature from “Hair.”

Jade – who died in a hiking mishap June 6 in San Diego – adored sunrises and  commonly used to get up early to witness the morning glow, from Kaneohe or from Sandy Beach. Her Facebook posts often show her as the sun rose.

The celebration of Jade’s life – a mixture of gladness and sadness and emotions in-between – was surely a reflection of love of life and the connections of love with those in attendance.

The takeaway: Jade was beloved by those who knew her, as she built communities she encountered: school chums, acting peers, mothers whose needs she helped while heading one of her passions, the Hawaii Family Hui, budding singers, actors and dancers she helped shape in several summers under the auspices of the I’m a Bright Kid Foundation, a theatrical company and molders of future stage souls, organized in the spirit of the late Ronald Bright, her Castle High School mentor who inspired her to seek a career in theater.

  • Another takeaway, albeit a bit of surprise: her eldest son, Jet Finley, brought some clarity to the cloudy and unexpected death of his mom, and the final hours he spent with her following the tragedy. Jet offered two stunning memories – the one-on-one time he enjoyed  with mom before the arrival of his siblings, Georgia and Tiger, and “the best time I spent with her” in the final four hours of Jade’s life following the fatal accident.
  • (Paraluman Stice-Durkin, Jade’s sister, provided further details following the celebration; that Jade and Jet were on a mother-son trip to San Diego and Mexico. “Part of the adventure that she planned was a hike called the Slot Trail in Anza-Borrego State Park. The trail is 1.5 miles long through a famous slot canyon. Jade and Jet set off with plenty of water and snacks,” said Paraluman.

(The hike was during the day; the pair apparently got off track, traveling in a wrong direction, and temperature was as high as 120 degrees, and Jade got overheated, but Jet located a cave with shade for his mom, and he sought help since there was no cell reception where they were.

(Jade quickly got overheated, so Jet found a cave for her to get some shade. He went to find help since there was no cell reception where they were. “Jet eventually made it back to the car, himself overheated and struggling to remain lucid,” said Paraluman. “At the trailhead, he called 911 and a helicopter rescue was ordered. They found Jade at the bottom of a washed out area of the canyon.”

(A helicopter arrived with CPR and AED aid, but unfortunately without success. Jet was found at the trailhead and was examined and treated  for rehydration.

(“We are beyond thankful of the miracle that Jet is still with us and his survival is truly the silver lining of this tragedy. He was smart, strong and brave through this entire nightmare,” said Paraluman)…

Folks who spoke or sang certified Jade was loved and cherished, like Leesa Souza, speaking with her husband Kaala, revealing she and Jade were “besties” well before the term flourished, wearing matching clothes and hairstyles early in their friendship; like Jacquelyn Holland-Wright, a Castle chum who has been starring in Las Vegas’ company of “Menopause, the Musical,” for decades, chirping an appropriately-themed “I Know You by Heart;” like Allan Lau, who championed IABK’s summer workshops with Jade, reciting her lyrics to “Now Fly to the Skies;” like John Bryan, another Castle alum, delivering “A Mother’s Prayer” as only a pal could; like sister Paraluman Stice-Durkin,  repeatedly pointing out Jade’s tenacity; like sister Ligaya Stice, recalling a side of Jade few have personally experienced, remembering Jade’s first role directed by Mr. B, playing a Munchkin in “The Wizard of Oz” but not Dorothy, and learning even little roles are vital in a show; and Ligaya offering another remembrance, when Jade did not know how to end her “West Side Story” role as Maria, she was reminding what Mr. B always said an actor tells a story and has to find a conclusion.

Jade always brightened a room with her smile, her joy, and her presence; on stage, with a spotlight and a role that embraced her stunning voice, she created theater magic, time after time.

She died at age 53, far too young for someone who had so much artistry to share. Imagine the reunion she’s having with Mr. B, in the grand theater in the skies…

And that’s Show Biz…


Did you watch the TV coverage of the fireworks shows in New York and Washington DC?

I did. With curiosity.

CNN carried both spectacles, officially from the nation’s capital, but linked to the NBC/Macy’s- sponsored coverage of the aerials in New York City.

The glow from the nation’s capital, amid iconic city views.

Though I’ve traveled to New York when July 4 fireworks drew visitors and locals to witness the dynamics from the Hudson River, I’ve never seen it live. Commonly, I’m be at a Broadway show instead – yes, a few theaters weren’t shuttered, to provide choices for folks unwilling to assemble in the mid-afternoon to view the evening fireworks.

New York’s fireworks were plentiful and spectacular.

And during summers when I wasn’t in New York, I’d watch the D.C. proceedings via TV at home, since they tended to project an Americana flavor. You know, a celebration of birth of the nation, with a military band (this year it was the Army) adding patriotic juice to the menu.

The First Lady and the President view the aerials from the White House.

Interestingly, President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, took a few minutes to see the D.C. aerials from a White House balcony, joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and hubby Douglas Emhoff, the first Second Gentleman, also taking in the fireworks.

So: which one was the winner, in terms of appeal?

For sheer volume and depth, New York shared more breathtaking displays, with huge chrysanthemum-like florals dancing with spurts of animated color. Boats and barges in the river also provided smaller, secondary explosive displays. Don’t know the costs, but these displays – lean on usual drone formations – were far more plentiful and logically more expensive. So The Big Apple wins, with better content.

The DC displays, however, won on patriotic appeal, with the live Army orchestra rendering Americana tunes, eventually programming classics like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”…

‘Merrily’ joins the $2 million club

Jonathan Groff

A new champion sits atop the Broadway grosses this week –“Merrily We Roll Along” beat the traditional winner, “The Lion King.”

Clearly, “Merrily” rolled along to the top, thanks to its four Tony Awards last month. Alas, for Tony winners Jonathan Groff and Daniel Radcliff, the successful journey winds up on Sunday (July 7), when it closes its run.

The Top 10:

1—“Merrily We Roll Along,” $2.321 million.

2—“The Lion King,” $2.263 million.

3—“Wicked,” $2.143 million.

4—“Hamilton,” $1.955 million.

5—“Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club,” $1.810 million.

6—“Hell’s Kitchen,” $1.549 million.

7—“Aladdin,” $1.398 million.

8—“The Outsiders,” $1.338 million

9—“MJ the Musical,” $1.336 million.

10—“The Wiz,” $1.313 million.

The complete list, courtesy the Broadway League:

And that’s Show Biz…


Everybody loves a love song … and many have an impossible dream. With hope, opportunities emerge.

Such has been the case for Kevin Iwamoto, known as Kevin I., when he’s talking about love songs and the music biz. He was a popular Hawaii recording artist with a penchant for love songs, back in the 1970s and 1980s. This year and last, however, Kevin I. became a digital-era musical force with certified hit songs, without ever singing a note.

Kevin Iwamto, aka Kevin I.

Kevin “retired” from music, after several years of performances in Waikiki nightclub and showrooms, but in the past two years, Kevin I. has emerged as a successful digital music star, followed by a remarkable global audience who downloaded and purchased the very music that put him on the map years ago. Undisputably, Kevin I.’s reach goes well beyond the reefs of Hawaii.

 “I have always dreamed about having my music played worldwide and outside of Hawaii but sadly never realized that dream when I was performing,” said Kevin. “Nowadays, with the music industry going digital globally, it’s really cool and validating to see the reaction from people all over the world who discover it and share my music with their friends and loved ones. It’s heartwarming to receive emails and posts about how my music has touched their lives and what it means to them.”

Kevin’s love songs, remastered for a new generation of fans.

Interestingly, Kevin has not sung live since his earlier era, because he’s logged 35 years with his “real” occupation in the business travel and events industries. He’s considered to be one of the original founders of Strategic Meetings Management (SMM) and is an in-demand author and speaker globally. While he’s formally retired, he still takes on guest speaking or panelist roles to serve his business colleagues. He has written two books available on Amazon and received numerous major awards and recognitions from business travel and event associations, as well as industry magazines. In 2001, he was elected President of the National Business Travel Association (now the Global Business Travel Association), and in 2009, he was awarded the rare designation of “Industry Icon” by GBTA. Throughout his extensive business career, Kevin has been a pioneering Asian American executive and a role model for minorities in the corporate travel and events industries.

But the surge of interest in and widening support of his limited catalogue of love songs, has been most satisfying. “I’m very grateful that I could witness this while I’m still around to experience a dream and career goal come true after 35 years,” he said.

Kevin, in his role as a speaker.

To validate and upgrade his earlier recordings, Kevin released “Love Songs Collection, 1980-1985,” comprising his remastered romantic signatures, on his Island Boy Music label, to meet the demands of a 21st century audience and fan base. The collection was released July 15, 2022, so its two-year anniversary is around the corner.

These romantic songs that were the hallmark of Kevin I.’s previous performing career in the 70s and 80s are flying higher than ever, connecting with a generation of global fans who didn’t know him, till they heard him deliver his long-dormant sound.

Indeed, he is proud of this benchmark. As he puts it: “These powerful and emotional ballads require solid singing technique, style, and emotional connection to the music and lyrics,” which was his trademark whenever he sang. With digitalization, his voice projects more vigor and vitality than ever.

Of particular interest: The new collection includes a never-before-released track, “One in Love,” written by local songwriter Manny Cabral. This live version was skillfully remastered from various taped recordings, including dress rehearsals, giving listeners a warm live rendition of a powerful love ballad.

“One in Love” earned a grand prize at the 3rd Hawaii Music Festival competition, which sent Kevin I. to represent Hawaii and the USA at the1983 International Tokyo Music Festival in Japan, where he competed with major international artists, winning two awards.

In addition to winning one of two Grand Prizes at the aforementioned Hawaii Music Festival, the song also won Best Composer laurels for Cabral and Best Arrangement honors for the late Willie Barton.

As the two-year anniversary approaches, “Love Songs Collection’ is on pace to exceed the first digital release in 2021 of “The Best of Kevin I. 1980-1985,” which featured 10 songs including his prime local hit and signature song, “Fairy Tale.”

The popularity of the remastered tracks is certification that love songs are universal and never out of vogue and emotionally connect with audiences everywhere. Kevin now is heard and played in more than 66 countries worldwide, on every continent, reaching multiple generations of listeners, besting his ’80s career. Despite the age of the music, it still appears on hundreds of international curated playlists, including those on Pandora and Spotify.

The resurrection of his digital tracks created two new hits outside of “Fairy Tale:” “If I Love Again” (written by Dennis Tanaka, who penned “Fairy Tale”) and ”Next Time I’ll Be Better” (composed by Kevin). The latter is his top streamed/downloaded track in 2023 and also his No. 1 Shazam’d track worldwide.

The streaming and downloads of both digital album releases have surpassed 250,000 and continue to add more listeners in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Middle East, Australia, Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The impact certainly has made local-boy Kevin, a Roosevelt High School graduate, an unexpected global star.

Additionally, there’s been keen interest from collectors in his vintage vinyl LPs, notably in Japan and Europe, but unopened vinyl LPs of both the Kevin I. reissue LP and his “New Dimensions” LP are in very short supply, because hundreds of discs, unopened in their shrink-wrapped cellophane, were dumped from storage and his late mom’s home in Manoa, before the sale of the home. Who knew that vinyl would enjoy a revival?

 “I’m just so grateful and blessed to be alive to experience the rebirth of my 80’s  music worldwide,” said Kevin, who views his belated fame as “a tremendous validation and late-life gratification that my singing career was not in vain or a fluke.”

 So, his love songs are flourishing, and his dreams soaring…

And that’s Show Biz…

 And that’s Show Biz…