Lei Day is over, but the buzz remains.

And if Robert Cazimero, the eminent kumu hula, singer, composer, and pianist, is at the helm, exhilaration is part of his game plan.

The May Day concert, on May 1 at the Bishop Museum lawn, was staged in a mammoth tent/structure capped with a stage depicting triangular swaths of white fabric evocative of boat sails. The concept included dining tables and chairs for the VIP crowd, with exterior grass seating on the lawn and on the slopes of grass, like the old days.

Robert Cazimero, at his piano draped with plumeria lei.

Surely, folks in attendance today are talking about the grand, newish workspace that is temporary but looks permanent. On a plain, this gizmo could be godsend, with open-air charm.

So, the evening was a superb blend of hula kahiko and auana, with Cazimero as the skipper and Keauhou (Zachary Lum,  his brother Nicholas Lum and  fellow Kamehameha and University of Hawaii grad Kahanuola Solatorio ) as the house band, occasionally steel guitarist Jeff Au Hoy sitting in.

Na Kamalei gents render a hypnotic homage to The Mountain.

Nuggets from the awesome cultural evening:

  • Cazimero’s hula company, Halau Na Kamalei o Lililehua, continues to impress; they’re the rare kane halau which not only dances, but sings. Thus, the gents – often in full force of about 20 – provide vivid interpretations of the comedic (“I Want to Go Back to My Little Grass Shack,” with a wink to the hapa haole genre) to the hypnotic (“The Beauty of Mauna Kea,” with the lads dressed in black skirts from waist to feet, with a sliver of ti leaf as a simple necklace, in a showstopper homage to address the controversy about The Mountain).
  • With soloists Nina Keali‘iwahamana (pictured right), the beloved soprano with roots in the prolific Vickie I‘i Rodrigues family, and Jerry Santos (pictured below left), the endearing singer-guitarist-composer, in the house, a “first” was logged, with Cazimero, Keali‘iwahamana and Santos sharing their first-ever tune singing together on “E Kuu Sweet Lei Poina Ole.”  Naturally, the two kupuna vocalists also had a moment to render their own hit songs so Keali‘iwahamana  updated her “Silhouette Hula” and Santos his signature classic, “E Kuu Home O Kahaluu.”

Thus, it’s always a plus to have the positive and prolific vibes of the veterans of Hawaiian entertainers.

  • Agnes Renee Leihiwahiwaikapolionāmakua Thronas Brown (pictured, below right), 2023’s Miss Aloha Hula, was a guest soloist fresh from her Merrie Monarch Festival triumph, bringing not only her sleek, expressive style, but an aura of royalty to the evening, adding Lei Day Queen to her laurels, at least for this evening. And her reign, post Merrie Monarch, is off to a grand start with this credit.

Never will you every see strands and strands of yellow plumeria lei, which were draped on Cazimero’s white piano; yellow plumeria lei showed  up to accessorize several hula numbers. Cazimero wore his favorite lei, pikake, a generous assembly of strands galore, with the scent fueling his aloha.

Zachary Lum of Keauhou also has evolved as a savvy host and a genial commentator throughout the evening, expressing his and the brotherhood of the Lei Day cast’s desire to bring Lei Day beyond the shores of Hawaii. Like, there will be a belated Lei Day trek, with an abbreviated cast, to Japan this month.

Keauhou’s Zachary Lum, Kahanuola Solatorio and Nicholas Lum.

Cazimero’s dance soloists from the Royal Dance Company, and members of Hālau Ka Lehua Tuahine directed by kumu hula Ka‘ilihiwa Vaughn Darval, also performed.

Sponsorship is key to staging this kind of spectacle. Thus, mahalo to Hawaiian Airlines, for its title support and Kilohana for preserving and presenting Lei Day with focus on cultural traditions.  The nonprolific group, Kāhuli Leo Leʻa and its director Zachary Lum,  have demonstrated meaningful vision to shape and perpetuate Lei Day for future generations to come.  Cazimero (as The Brothers Cazimero, with the late Roland Cazimero) previously staged concerts inside the museum and did one outdoor Lei Day, without the tenting. It’s wonderful that he’s returned to presenting a true museum piece. 

Debbie Nakanelua-Richards and Billy V co-hosted, not just for the local crowd; the show was beamed locally and streamed for a global audience. Let the magic continue beyond the reefs of Hawaii …

And that’s Show Biz. …


It was halau of a show –artistically stunning, emotionally celebratory — proudly championed and shaped by the incomparable Robert Uluwehi Cazimero.

For kumu hula Cazimero and his hula disciples from Na Kamalei O Lililehua, yesterday’s sold-out performance at Leeward Community College Theatre was a benchmark event, a prelude to a likely series of performances leading up to Na Kamalei’s 50th anniversary in two years.

Cazimero and his two dozen gents have been popular attractions on the hula horizon, though like everyone everywhere else, took a break during the stifling three-year pandemic hiatus.

So the long overdue fund-raising hoike of sorts was a much-anticipated cultural event. So many hula types and A-list Hawaiian entertainers were among the crowd.

Sometimes, the gents sing…

For the dancers – the “then” group and the current crop – it was a major outing, like those long-gone Cazimero May Day and Christmas events.

For the audience – who have followed and witnessed Na Kamalei’s success – this was a continuation of a shared journey. The intermission was ripe with whopping howdy-dos, hugs and kisses, long-time-no-see expressions, and catch-up-and-talk story reunion. The spectators brought lei and sweets for the king of ho’olaulea, and leadership and fellowship were evident.

Quick recap:

— This is one heck of a halau; the fellas generally sing while dancing, adding modernity to some of the fun stuff. Yep, there are kahiko and ‘auona moments, but humor and joy are ingredients in the choice of material and execution.

— The lads are always immaculately and stylishly costumed, whether it’s ti leaf motif, aloha shirts and jeans, dress shirt with tie. The looks matter, and the hues are coordinated.

— Almost always, fresh lei adorn the dancers’ necks. Sometimes, nut and shell leis rule.

Robert Cazimero at the piano, best-buddy Kaipo Hale sharing memories.

— There are selective surprises. The return of prolific Kaipo Hale (Cazimero’s best buddy) to reflect on what it’s like being in the halau ranks, circa 1975 in the awkward but savvy launch of the group, was a joyous revelation of lessons learned, never forgotten, and the links of brotherhood camaraderie gained.

More often, the gents hula

— Cazimero attempted to theme his playlist, beginning with a projection of his personal desk at home, where his brainstorming and theories evolve.  The mele here began with a casual “War Chant,” and familiar fare featuring hula soloist  U‘ilani Lum on “Kuamo ‘o,” Ki Quilloy singing and Kaohi Daniels dancing on “Destiny,” and Zach Lum sharing his falsetto tones on “Ahulili.” A Travel Desk segment uncorked a splendid Big Island medley of “Ho’ea,” “Keawa ‘iki,” “Kona Kai Opua,” and “Mahai‘ula,” and a rhapsodic Punahele Moleta treatment of “Ikona” with hula by Sky Perkins. And dancer  Parker Spencer had his moment of glory, with swishing arms, on the ensemble hula to “Little Grass Shack.”

— After intermission, “Hula Guys” with the dancers also vocalizing, reflected the kind of sustenance within the halau.

— Further, the gents’ trademark “Teve Teve,” choreographed by Cazimero in the salad days of Na Kamalei, was a positive remembrance of song/style fusion, with an element of double-entendre naughtiness, that has characterized the brotherhood’s legacy.

— Cazimero was unusually chatty throughout the show, though his miking could have used a bit more juice to make him properly heard. He seemed a bit uneasy to launch an In Memoriam segment – should he or shoudn’t he? – and he did, with visuals of about two-dozen former gents who have gone to the giant halau in the sky over the nearly five decades of operations.

— I wondered if “Waika,” a classic staple in the repertoire, might be revived, and surely, it wound up as the finale number, with Robert singing with his gents from  at his usual keyboard perch, then walking to the front of the stage to convert the vocal into an a cappella specialty to close the show, with other previous gents and hula soloist Lahela Ka‘aihue joining in. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


It began with the posting the flags, by the 100th/442nd Infantry Regiment Honor Guard, followed by the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Initially, the sell-out audience stood, but the voices were scanty, building up as more joined  the chorus of folks proudly singing and demonstrating their patriotism.

This was at the Hawaii Theatre last night (March 18), at a “Defining Courage” screening that saluted and glorified the Nisei soldiers – largely from Hawaii – during World War II.

For those who missed it, a second screening will be held in April. So secure tickets, pronto, to avoid disappointment. On many levels, “Courage” is a winner.

The immersive program was a unique first — part documentary, part lecture with visuals, part history lesson, part musical concert,  part salute to unsung heroes.

And wholly emotional, engaging and enlightening.

With Emmy-winning Los Angeles co-producers David Ono (who served as narrator) and Jeff MacIntyre (who handled behind-the-scenes needs as show director), “Defining Courage” was a celebration of the legacy of American wartime heroes, in vintage footage with more recently site visitations that demonstrated the valor and diligence of AJAs (Americans and Japanese Ancestry), in battles in France, Germany, Italy, Okinawa and Hawaii, who were instrumental in turning the pages of history to win the war.

It’s still a work in progress, and each performance in different cities,  will vary. Actress Tamiyn Tomita, who introduced the film, was right on target when she ID’d the screening here as “Defining Courage, Aloha Edition.” Aloha was plentiful on screen, and in the theater.
Among the hundreds of spectators were families and relatives, whose grandfathers and fathers, served in the Army in the era depicted. The movie was a time for joy and tears, and loads of hurrahs and aloha.

Without a cheat sheet, to properly ID the luminaries on screen, I regrettably won’t chance it in fear of misspelling the names of GIs and battles depicted.

So, some random observations instead:

  • The indominable spirit of the Nisei soldiers light up the screen; the scenes of their desire to serve and carry on the torch to victory, are emotional and incredible.
  • A few soldiers kept journals, with sketches, that inspired and shaped the documentary; there are shared notebooks with hand-written, first-hand memories that should be shared with future generations.
  • A small band of musicians, led by pianist-conductor Chris Wade (with Ericka Bar-David on violin, Kamuela Kahoano on guitar and ukulele, and Sibora Miloradovic on cello) performed periodically during the film, with alternating vocals by choir members (Jody Bill, Michael Covert, Andy Degan, Barrie Kealoha, Lauren Hanako Kincaide, Landon Lee and Emi Sampson) singing solo and/or as an ensemble. The newly minted numbers provided a new dimension to the visuals, with touching lyrics performed by powerful voices, but titles and composers were not properly identified in a hand-out program flyer.
  • One of the on-screen heroes known throughout the world: the late Daniel K. Inouye, who served in the war, where he lost an arm, and as a civilian he served as Hawaii’s senior Congressman for decades.
  • Two current icons – volunteers Jane Kurahara and Betsy Young, from the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii — are depicted in a brief segment regarding the efforts to establish and restore Honouliuli as a national park and historical site, for its wartime internment camp in the Ewa plains.
  • Journalist Ono several times mentioned that the history books should be rewritten to include precious details and stories that recognize the valor and service of 100th 442nd soldiers who gave their lives. It might be prudent, too, to remember the 442nd battle cry, “Go for Broke,” which was not remembered or uttered in the program. And the 100th already has a nickname, 1-puka-puka, for its zeroes. Perhaps the 442nd “Broke” slogan could be properly recognized in the second presentation at 7 p.m. April 23, again at the Hawaii Theatre. Tickets: $25 to $50, on sale at www.hawaiitheatre.com or  text (808) 528-0506. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


Good things come in threes, so the saying goes, and in Manoa Valley Theatre’s Hawaii premiere of “Tick, Tick…BOOM!,” the little off-Broadway musical with genuine appeal, threes matter. A lot.

First: the title is comprised of three words.

Second: there are three in the cast.  Jon (short for Jonathan Larson) is portrayed by Taj Gutierrez;  Michael, Jon’s buddy and roommate, is enacted by Kimo Kaona; and Susan, Jon’s girlfriend, is played by Emily North. I saw these three last Saturday (March 11), but the three roles are double-cast with three  other actors (Moku Durant, Ian Severino and Bianca Tubolino, in selected performances, (March 17 and 19, plus all Saturday matinees).

Third: the performers hop to and from three staging zones — stage left, stage right, and right in the middle. The central floor displays three rugs, for no particular reason. But  see, good things come in threes.

Jon is struggling to complete his first show, by the time he’s 30. And the clock is ticking. The angst is mounting. The frustration is elevating stress.

Kimo Kaona as Michael, Taj Guitierrez as Jon, and Emily North as Susan, in “Tick, Tick…BOOM!”

Gutierrez is a revelation, with charismatic presence, a bold and sustaining voice, and an appealing conversational stance – especially in monologues, like he’s taking straight to you. But Guitierrez’ agility also is astounding, as he prances and dances from one staging area to another, never breathless, always in character. Catch him if you can; he makes you a believer that he is a thespian with ambition and hope.

Michael is threatening to move out to a better space, and does, and he has a BMW that reflects his success and lifestyle. He’s got a more sensible analysis of life, so exits the zone of the beleaguered stage wannabe and makes the leap into the business world. Kaona, however, is the kind of a dependable HIV buddy who is loyal to the core, and can still provide a shoulder for his script-writing pal, and puts his dreams of a normal life with wife and family on the back burner.

Meanwhile, Susan wants Jon to move in with her, to eliminate the commute (two subways and a bus trek) and she  yearns to get married , relocated to Cape Cod, and stands by her convictions and challenges Jon to make firm decisions.

Set in 1990 in New York, “Tick, Tick…BOOM! Is personal, precise, minimalist and autobiographical, a portrait of a cliched Broadway wannabe, with that dire goal to finish a show by his 30th birthday. The dream  puts more pressure on himself that undermines his day-to-day doings. Jon waits tables  at a diner; his role model of efficiency and success is Stephen Sondheim, the prolific and legendary songwriter, whose name Jon only “mouths,” not utters, and SS commits to come to the workshop if and when Jon completes his play.

Jon is abundantly disappointed, when workshop attendees don’t include a producer or two who might take a chance on staging the show, but at Jon’s birthday party thrown by Susan, he gets a phone call and message from Sondheim that he doesn’t respond to. Part of Sondheim’s wisdom: Jon’s finished his first play, but he should immediately engage in his second. Argh!

Elyse Takashige’s set design strips the shoebox theater into a one-scene “open” space, with no second-level acting space, with four musicians, including pianist-musical director Jenny Shiroma, who are literally part of the action, like a studio unit  with the three principal “band” instruments of bass, guitar and drums. There are stand-up mikes that augment the body mikes of the performers, resembling a recording studio.

Director-choreographer Mathais Maas is tasked with more direction than dancing, maintaining a balance of staging his principals in the trio of  work spaces.

An off-Broadway production featured Lin-Manuel Miranda as Jon, who had his own dreams and bouts with creativity without the binding deadlines. Miranda directed last year’s film version of “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” starring Andrew Garfield as Jon, in an expanded screenplay and a delicious roster of real-life Broadway luminaries in splendid cameos.

In this stage telling, as in the film, Jon’s debt to Sondheim is reflected in the song, “Sunday,”  which is a tribute Sondheim’s trademark “Sunday in the Park With George.”  It is one of two stellar contributions in the score; the other is the profound “Larger Than Words,” delivered by all three actors as a “company” number that brings down the final curtain.

A footnote: Jon did complete a second production, “Rent,” which would become his signaaure show. On the eve of its debut, he died from an aortic aneurysm,  so ironically, he never got to live or enjoy the riches of hurrahs and successes (like the Tony Awards) that tick-tick-boomed in his soul.

In the end, Jonathan Larson’s plays numbered three – “Siberbia,” “Tick, Tick … BOOM!” and “Rent.”

See, threes matter. ..

And that’s Show Biz. …


“Tick, Tick…BOOM!”

A pop-rock musical by Jonathan Larson

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through

Where: Manoa Valley Theatre

Tickets: $24 to $44, fees included; discounts available for seniors and youths, at https://www.manoavalleytheatre.com/shows-tickets


Expectations were high, when  “Magnum P.I.” aired in a new time slot on a new network this past Sunday (Feb. 19), but audience response was disappointing.

“Magnum” moved to NBC  on Sundays, with a double-dose two-episode launch. The Peacock network rescued the island-based show which ran for four seasons on CBS … then abruptly cancelled the show.

Simply stated, the highly-anticipated “Magnum” debut on NBC  drew lower-than-expected ratings.

 The first of two episodes drew 3.8 million viewers and a 0.3 rating in the demo.

 The second logged 3.2 million viewers and a 0.3 rating.

The slightly good news? The second episode won the 9 p.m. hour. So numbers matter.

You remember, Thomas Magnum (Jay Hernandez) and Juliet Higgins (Perdita Weeks) were smooching like young lovers, at the finale of season four last year.

Magnum and Higgins still are very much together during season five, sharing an intimate shower, hugging, and engaged in lovey-dovey banter while cruising on Magnum’s signature red Ferrari or settled in their Windward Oahu estate.

But mum’s the word, so far, so the chat’s not out of the bag yet. Their relationship is still hush-hush.

Hernandez remains one of the show’s producers, so he’s likely in the driver’s seat to help steer the storytelling. How and when he and Higgins will come clean will be an ongoing sideshow.

Perdita Weeks (Higgins) and Jay Hernandez (Magnum) go under cover in season five of “Magnum P.I.”

For now, they’re clearly an “item,” and it’s a big secret.

The question now is, they’re harboring an awkward shibai (Japanese for “lies” or, bull)  and they’re afraid or confused about how and when they tell their colleagues that they’re in a relationship.

After all, both are investigators and professional and devoted to their jobs. A romantic alliance is not an easy task, no different from any office affair. Lips are sealed. Period. But gossip will emerge.

Alone, they share affection but are treading slowly and it makes sense that the episode when the revelation is made will highlight the fifth season.

Meanwhile, there’s a new sweetness in their unexpected relationship. Magnum and Higgins have a new normal with extreme pressure to only display their feelings privately. When they’re a coosome twosome.

There was a warm aw-shucks moment when he surprised her with dinner in the wine cellar.

They demonstrate their commitment to their jobs,  and  they go undercover to play lifesavers to  help solve a mystery of a drowning death.

There are potential conflicts, challenges and changes to complicate their new roles as partners in life and in work

Immediately, Rick (Zachary Knighton) moves into the guest house, without earlier informing Higgins, and he’s a potential third wheel distraction  (four, if Rick’s new infant daughter is included).

Higgins is often the thinker and the smart one in the equation, confessing there would be issues if Rick is on the premises.

So there’s a period of adjustment in the immediate future.

Further, there are other red flags:

Michael Rady
  • The uncertainty of the fare of Timothy  Det. Gordon Katsumoto (Tim Kang), a police honcho in the four seasons. He has a successor, however temporary, in season five, so yep, he’ll soon do his soul-searching to decide his fate.
    • The presence and purpose of Katsumoto’s replacement, Det. Chris Childs (Michael Rady), is somewhat shady with valid concerns: Is he a loyal peer or potential  foe of Magnum and Higgins?
  • The return of Jin Jeong (Bobby Lee), a comedic character now involved in offering $5,000 to purchase the innards of a storage slot, is a convenient diversion from the romance.
Bobby Lee

So: how will Rick (Zachary Knighton), Theodore TC Calvin (Stephen Hill) and “Kumu” Tuileta (Amy Hill) discover the under-wraps romance between Magnum and Higgins?

My bet’s on Kumu, who seems to know a lot of things a lot of times. …

And that’s Show Biz. …