Henry Kapono’s “A Tribute to Jimmy Borges,” staged last night (May 27) at Blue Note Hawaii at the Outrigger Waikiki resort, had a tentative start but a celebratory finish.

The concert capped a weeks-long series of Kapono-led presentations, enabling island musicians a venue for gainful employment and exposure, and audiences to get a notch closer to a restored life of club-hopping normalcy.

Henry Kapono, top; Jimmy Borges poster, foreground.

In brief, it was a triumph, though Kapono initially seemed uncomfortable crossing from his pop-contemporary world into the jazz hemisphere of the late and great Borges. He dipped his metaphoric toes into the waters, by asking John Koliva, leader of the Honolulu Jazz Quartet who has had a couple of decades of gigs supporting Borges, the obvious question, “What is jazz?”

Kolivas, whose life has always been all about the bass (fiddle), wisely responded, “Jazz is a conversation…and improvisation.”

And therein was the model for the evening.

Kapono shared conversations about Borges – “when he sang it, he owned it…a true artist,”   he said of the honoree.

Then despite a repertoire largely new to him, Kapono worked the improvisation mode frequently. Since jazz, by rule, enables individual musicians to indulge in brief and relevant interludes of solo instrumentation during a vocal, each song choice embraced the conversational and the improvisational elements. The HJQ, comprised of bassist Kolivas, saxophonist Tim Tsukiyama, keyboardist Dan Del Negro and drummer Noel Okimoto, was the logical “house band” for the tribute. The accompaniment was superb, helping define the jazz spirit befitting Borges.

With a few exceptions, Kapono’s song choices to salute Borges were familiar melodies that most would recognize, refashioned for variety. On “Night and Day,” there was a bossa nova tempo; on “Can’t Take That Away From Me,” a sorta honky tonk veneer; on a two-tune medley of “Sunny” and “Fever,” a generous finger-snapping blues motif; on “When Sunny Gets Blue,” a Kapono-on-guitar-only elocution inspired by a YouTube clip featuring Borges, projecting both sadness and gladness.

When Kapono introduced “Fly Me to the Moon,” he said of Borges: “He owns this one like he wrote it.” It  was composed by Bart Howard and recorded and popularized by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, legendary icons admired by Borges throughout his life. Lest it be forgotten, Borges was given permission to utilize Sinatra arrangements for concerts here and Bennett has dubbed JB as one of the greatest singers ever.

A poster photo of a smiling Borges, draped with a maile lei, was a constant reminder of his cheer and grace, though its presence was not mentioned. But his impact lingered.

There were anecdotal recollections of Borges’ links to New York/Broadway and Kui Lee — generating tunes such as “On Broadway” and “Ain’t No Big Thing,” an anthem to the Great White Way and a Lee composition, respectively — that were marginal at best.  And while Kapono included a couple of titles from his Cecilio and Kapono catalogue, this was not a C&K retrospection whatsoever. His fans won’t let him leave a stage without a signature or two or three.

As the show neared completion, the nostalgia factor increased, with Kapono offering “Goodtimes Together” to punctuate the happy memories shared, a guitar-backed “Over the Rainbow” and the wholly proper “My Way,” a favored show biz anthem. One puzzlement: if this was a tribute, wouldn’t it have been kosher to have one of Borges’ certified partners in song to sit in and share first-hand memories?



“The Best of Kevin I., 1980-1985,” a new digital release, offers a peek in a window of the life and times of Kevin Iwamoto, professionally known as Kevin I. He’s been a longtime buddy of mine, dating back to the Hawaii of the ‘80s, when I was writing reviews, interviews, and an entertainment column called Show Biz in the Honolulu Advertiser.

The reboot that has gone viral.

Prompted to revisit his musical past, while simultaneously updating and defining ownership of his best tracks, the digital album should appease his former fans and attract a new fan base.

Kevin is at a crossroads. The plan was to update his analog recordings and convert into MP3 digital tracks, remastering and bolstering the sound and flavor to carve a niche in the new streaming world of music where there is no physical product like CDs.  His music was being posted on YouTube and other social media sites without his knowledge or permission.  “I felt I had to take back control of my past recordings in this new age of streaming on-line music,” he said. 

Kevin also has launched a career retrospective website that preserves his ‘80s career, which serves as an electronic resource for himself, his family and his fan base.  It has been a painstaking process, but with energy and resources, he is finally able to redefine his territory.

With the help of talented engineer Garrett Haines, Kevin jumpstarts a series of signature tunes.

His first local hit on island radio was “Fairy Tale,” a warm and cozy ballad composed by the husband of his former hairstylist, is about unrequited dreams. It’s a triumph; his voice is majestic, and honestly, you may not recognize the singer. It is a formidable flashback.

“Candle in the Night,” written by Cecilio Rodriguez of Cecilio and Kapono, with Cecilio doing back-up vocals is not earmarked, but it is here, and you can detect his tones.  Both singers’ vocals blended well relying on their mutual love of R&B music.

NOTE: This review originally was published on Kevin Iwamoto’s Kevin I website. Wayne Harada is the longtime entertainment editor, columnist, and journalist with the Honolulu Advertiser, where he served for 45 years. He also wrote the Show Biz column in the combined Honolulu Star-Advertiser daily newspaper for another 10 years after retirement.


Shari Lynn can be affectionately labeled a chanteuse, because she has the pipes, the vigor, the capability of fusing singing with storytelling with acting.

In yet another Medici’s appearance last night  (May 21), she shared her love for jazz, her passion for the stage and her joy of dusting off oldies. She possesses a reliable voice but is a seasoned stage actor who knows how to deliver a melody while delivering lyrics with empathy that pushes her performance to the caliber of a stage gig.

Shari Lynn, with Vi and Wayne Harada

No sets, no special lighting, no book, no ensemble of back-up singers or dancers. Her trusty musicians are pianist-arranger Jim Howard and bassist John Kolivas, and remarkably, their union elevates a cabaret performance where words and music matter plenty. There is an intermission of sorts, like actual theater, but more on that later.

When Shari sings, everyone listens. Her intersection of skills might well be her take-home memory. On a seldomly performed novelty, “The Boy From,” a parody of sorts of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “The Girl From Ipanema,” she bossa novas her way, somewhat with tongue in cheek, to the subtle Brazilian tempo on a gem with manic lines and exquisite delivery. The song is by Stephen Sondheim, the esteemed master of intricacy, who utilized a pseudonym of Esteban Riunuti with collaborator Mary Rodgers to create this height of kookiness for a musical called, what else, “The Mad Show.”(Yep, she knows the history and idiosyncrasies of most of her song choices).

It is a comedic jewel amid her playlist of serious jazz and reflective romantic faves from the short list of master composers from an earlier time.

You could hear a pin drop, when she took a pop trip with “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” with many lips quietly mimicking the lyrics. She respects the melody and savors the lyricism.

Shari Lynn at Medici’s

When she visits  her Broadway evergreens of ditties performed by what she dubs “loud women,” she is in fine form. Delivering Barbra Streisand’s “People” from “Funny Girl” and Carol Channing’s (or most recently Bette Midler’s) “Before the Parade Passes By” from “Hello, Dolly,” she is in her theatrical element.

She is comfy with jazz and the Great American Songbook; and yes, there are resourceful centerpieces like “Love Is Here to Stay,” “Fascinating Rhythm” and “Embraceable You” from the library of George and Ira Gershwin, and “I Got the Sun in the Morning,” “What’ll I Do, “Let Yourself Go,” “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and “Stepping Out With My Baby” from the well of Irving Berlin. Her template is joyously jazz.

Of course, she pays tribute to New York via an expressive “I Love Being Here” (and she will be, in June) and “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” anthems about the pulse of the city.

Finally, there are mounting, peculiar protocols at Medici’s. There is no gracious way to say this, but the club’s co-owners, Timothy and Carolyn Stanton, continue to take the stage in the midst of the performance to present a disruptive “commercial” that impacts the artistic arc of the show. Music fans are eager to support and keep the club open, and yes, Tim (the chef) and Carolyn (front of house honcho and music teacher) work tirelessly to showcase Shari and other acts. A pitch after the show might be kosher, but midway is no way to go. Tim’s culinary skills are applaudable but  now he serves jokes, too.  The mission of the cozy club is to provide a venue for musicians; and passing around a collection bowl is morally wrong. Churches do this, but clubs shouldn’t. End of sermon.


“The Little Mermaid,” a Disney animated film and later a Broadway musical, is a balmy but bewildering ride through the land of make believe.

Ariel, the mermaid, is an undersea princess, if you follow the Disney norm; she yearns to have legs, to live above the ocean, and is willing to give up her precious voice so she can connect with a prince with legs.

So, yes, this show has “legs,” a term referring to something or someone with possibilities and popularity to sustain grand box office in the theatrical realm. The Farrington Performing Arts Center’s production, now streaming, is inspired by a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, and boasts a darling princess in Elisha Caneso-Cabasan, who has a requisite sweet voice; a surly but not threatening antagonist Ursula in Nadia Amian, who has the build but not enough thunder to be frightening; and a handsome Justin Basques who looks the part of Prince Eric but possesses a slim voice.

Elisha Caneso-Cabasan as Ariel

Thus, the recipe leading to a convincing make-believe tale to change a fish tale to legs is lacking ingredients to make the stew stimulating. This is an uneven but likable production. What’s bewildering is the lack of interest in the subsidiary characters: the six sisters, the red crab Sebastian who looks like a lobster (with hands, not claws), for instance.

In the original Broadway version, the sisters wore Heelys (shoes with skates) to simulate gliding, but logically, not a priority here. Miguel Cadoy III, Farrington’s eager and savvy drama honcho who directed and oversaw music, delivers an eye-filling production in the “High School Musical” manner, enabling his cast of mostly students new to acting to become fantasy characters to stage a two-hour show (with a five-minute intermission) to build pride, community and deliver a virtual product with sufficient cheer and energy. Caneso-Cabasan is a senior; Basques, Keith Cabbab as Sebastian the crab and Bernielle Isidro as Chef Louis are 2020 Farrington grads. And Johnric Acosta as Flounder, a Kapalama Elementary fifth grader, are guest troupers in the endeavor.

Nadia Amian as Ursula

This is the first cast I’ve seen in any performance – live in the flesh or taped and shown virtually – where the singers-actors don clear face masks in these pandemic times. Certainly, it’s a safety protocol, but surely the masks must interfere with projection and delivery of words and vocals. So: kudos for this mask-erade.

Of course, the score – music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Howard Ashman and Glenn Slater — includes hit songs “Part of the World” and “Under the Sea.” You’ll smile, and perhaps privately hum, with the joy of recognition.

Families with young children will adore the show, which has a sleek look thanks to a series of slide projections instead of movable sets to designate scenes. These prefab elements enable student productions to project a measure of professionalism at minimal cost and could be the wave of the future in Broadway productions, where these budget-friendly background visuals have started to emerge.

Prince Eric: Justin Basques as Prince Eric

Unlike other streaming shows, available at the discretion of the viewer, “Mermaid” is available only at specified times. Remaining regular performances are at 2 p.m. today (April 25) and May 2, and at 7 p.m. April 30 and May 1. Three performances have been added, at 8:30 a.m. April 28, 29 and 30, to enable schools to tune in, but also open to the public. Tickets are $10 for a single adult (18 and above) and $5 for single students (17 and below), and $20 for a family of three or more people. A streaming code will be sent for each purchased ticket to be used for one device. To purchase tickets, visit https://www.showtix4u.com.


Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast on ABC is the industry’s most abnormal Oscarcast ever, one that’s frustrating to plug into due to the pandemic. Though I’ve seen a clutch of nominees, none were viewed in a traditional movie theater. Streaming has been the only option for most, and viewing a film via streaming is, well, akin to watching TV. You miss the bells and whistles of large screen watching, and popcorn with arare, too. I mean, do you make homemade popcorn to sit in front of the tube?

Didn’t think so. Still, it’s fun to predict who’ll win. It helps to have seen a flick and a performance, so the fewer movies you’ve streamed, the more you feel distanced. How was he, or she, in a touted role?

Nonetheless, I’m posting my choices, but only in films I’ve seen, Happily, what I’ve viewed seem to be among the wider-reaching films in a year of unfortunate circumstances limiting access, and consequently, viewing.


Best Picture: “Nomadland.” Hulu exhibited this one – a dark, often gloomy, fascinating and organic glimpse of a subculture of folks who aren’t homeless, but live like those without a roof, traveling hither and yon in vans. It’s mobile home folks, inhabiting camps and thus co-exist as a tight, itinerant community with shared woes and hopes.

Best Director: Chloe Zhao, “Nomadland.” She yielded an artistic stroke, converting the somber and lonely landscape into a character with a commanding sense of reality. Besides directing, she wrote, edited and produced the film.


Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” Netflix screened this one, and Boseman (he died last August) is a sentimental posthumous winner playing a brilliant but stubborn musician in the band of a luminous blues singer in difficult times.

Best Actress: Frances McDormand, “Nomadland.” She was gritty, grand and commanding as the turf she frequented as a roving gypsy in her van, a difficult journey and a demanding challenge.


Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah.” He inhabited the role of Fred Hampton, the Black Panther Party chairman and activist, dominating the film in what clearly is a leading actor performance, which sort of gives him a better chance of winning this category. Premiered on HBO Max.

Best Supporting Actress: I have to pass here, since I’ve not seen Yuh-Jung Youn, the favored winner from “Minari.” Streamed on YouTube and Apple TV. I’ve seen the other nominees (Glenn Close, “Hillbilly Elegy;” Amanda Seyfried, “Mank;” and Maria Bakaloa, “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”) but if Youn doesn’t win, I’ll go with Close.

Two categories I can vote for, on titles I’ve seen:

Best Documentary Feature: “My Octopus Teacher,” a stunning diary of undersea mystery (streamed on Netflix), following a favored octopus, who appears, disappears, and reappears in the watery forests off the coast of South Africa. Kudos to co-directors James Reed and Pippa Ehrlich for this visual journal that doubles as a love story of dedication and perseverance between a sea creature and a filmmaker. In pandemic times, this was a splash with flash.

Best Animated Film: “Soul Story,” a joyous triumph by Pete Docter, whose Pixar experience yielded a stunning, entertaining, and about a jazz musician who goes to heaven. Should win for Best Score. Easily could have been a contender for Best Picture. Streamed on Disney+.