Though 50 years old, “Jesus Christ Superstar” still has relevance along with a dose of splendor,  without showing its old age.

Diamond Head Theatre’s revival, which opened Friday and continues through April 24, is a mix of the modern and  the traditional, embracing  the “rock opera” facet of theatrical genres, wholly sung as in an opera, not recited or spoken.

The show has a checkered history but has roots tied to a Honolulu singer-guitarist from Roosevelt High School, Yvonne Elliman, who became a global star first as the Mary Magdalene character on a concept album, then as the female centerpiece in the retelling of events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, initially in the breakout movie and then in the subsequent Broadway production. Till today, Elliman generally is the best known among the early “Superstar” performing circle.

DHT cast of “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Photo by Brandon Miyagi

The DHT endeavor, directed and choregraphed  by John Rampage, DHT’s artistic director, has a trio of reliable lead troupers – Aleks Pevec as Jesus, Bailey Barnes as Mary, and Taj Gutierrez as Judas Iscariot – who make the show soar. They are all locals, with Pevec as the only one with Actors Equity Broadway creds, and his vocal prowess in delivery radiates and illuminates; and while only Gutierrez is a fanciful dancer, all three have logged previous local musical credits leading to this production.

Aleks Pevec

The tale, exploring the last seven days of Jesus’ life through the vision of Judas, one of his disciples, in an alternating love-hate/loyalty-betrayal relationship that includes notable conflicting sentiments and a peck-on-the-cheek by Judas to Jesus. Further, Judas sings a smidgin of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” regarding the crucifixion and complexities of friendship. The mix of Christianity and Judaism prevails, so yes, this one has an empowerful religious dose.

The score, by the eminent Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics), includes several enduring hit songs (“Everything’s Alright” and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” both delivered with warmth and expression by Barnes), and “Superstar” (led by Gutierrez and the ensemble). Pevec’s presence and power punctuate “What’s the Buzz,” “Hosanna,” “Gethsemane” and “The Temple,” showing off his pedigree, with able assistance from the ensemble.

Bailey Barnes

Larry Paxton, veteran DHT leading man, appears as the regal Pontius Pilate, the governor, sharing his grandeur through his voice but dons “period” robes.  Costumed in  Karen G. Wolfe’s eye-filling red creation, with one kimono-length left sleeve and a golden vest, perhaps makes a fashion statement as the  wardrobe “moment” in the show.

So you know in advance,  a pair of traditional gender-bending secondary male characters/roles are credibly portrayed by Aiko Schick (King Herod) and Jody Bill (Simon Zealotes).

Larry Paxton

Movement is frequent and varied here; early on, Rampage’s expansive choreography borrows from ballet and hip-hop and more, and he injects an element of vaudeville and Broadway late into the show, during the supposed dream elements of Judas’ Prince-like prancing in fringed sleeves, fronting a trio of “Dreamgirls” in sequined, showy gowns. Score yet another triumph for costumer Wolfe.

Roslyn Catracchia, musical director, makes her seven-member combo sound double its size, handling the pumped-rock tempos and more melodic numbers with equal gusto and flair; the climactic laments, matching the chants and chiming of the ensemble, are properly eerie and discomforting to fit the prevailing mood.

Dawn Oshima’s scaffolding centerpiece on the stage – a versatile decision for functionality and simplicity —  allows two stairways for entrances and exits, and two levels for performances that shape  and move both the crowd and solo moments of the show.

Performances continue Thursdays through Sundays, through April 24. Tickets: $15 to $35, at www.diamondheadtheatre.com  or phone 808-733-0274. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


Henry Kapono’s “Artist 2 Artist” series, wherein he invites a notable peer from the Waikiki mainstream to partner with him in chit-chat and vocalizing, scored an unexpected  bullseye with Jerry Santos.

Kapono, onetime collaborator with Cecilio Rodriguez (Cecilio and Kapono, remember?), and Santos, leader of the beloved Olomana group, shared a measure of personal reflection and astounding artistry, in an unforgettable 2:15 concert last night (March 31) at Blue Note Hawaii.

The nightclub, at the Waikiki Outrigger resort, has been attracting sellout houses as the pandemic protocols are diminishing. For a Thursday night, the gathering was an emphatic indicator that islanders and visitors are weary from mask-wearing and nestling at home. When a marquee show anticipating a roster of signature tunes from both acts is the lure, a sellout was inevitable.

Henry Kapono

But this outing was somewhat of a new adventure for both Kapono and Jerry. While each have signature tunes in their respective credits, the evening was a reaffirming evidence that this pair of seasoned singers-composers, who helped shaped the Hawaiian Renaissance of island music from the 60s to the 80s,  needn’t have to rely on the best-of-the-best to earn applause. Risky perhaps, but this was an informative exploration of hidden gems in both C&K’s and Olomana’s history.

Further, Kapono has been test-driving this format of sharing tales and tunes for many months now, and has hit paydirt as he seems a lot more confident, assured, relaxed and conversational with his guests. There’s no script, only camaraderie to set the mood and manner, beginning with an exchange of alma matter digs, Kapono being of Punahou upbringing, Jerry of Kamehameha stock. (On an unrelated comparison, Kapono donned shoes, Jerry was barefooted, for this event For what it’s worth).

Jerry Santos

The agenda began with Kapono, clad in informal black top and grey jeans with a backward-worn baseball cap, making the first pitch – a new tune, “Sweetheart of Mine,” with a pop/country-western demeanor. He segued into a hip new arrangement of “Home in the Islands” (always fund to tweak an oldie and give it new sass) and revealed that he composed the tune late one night while in San Francisco back in the day.

He assumed the role of a troubadour, with one of his staples, “Friends,” telling one and all, “always keep your friends,” and yes, the audience knew this classic musical hand-shaking of sorts. Sing, and they sing-along, too.

Soon thereafter, the evening’s format focused on guest Jerry’s growing up days, and there was a consensus on who inspired them in composing music; an ensuing duet on Kui Lee’s “Days of My Youth” was part of the trek down memory lane. Turned out that both gents adored and admired the prolific Lee, whose compositions put Don Ho on the map.

We also learned that Kapono once played at the New Frontier and Toppe Ada Shoppe

Henry Kapono and Jerry Santos in an Artist 2 Artist outing at Blue Note Hawaii.

in Waikiki, Jerry at Gauguin and Black Angus in Waikiki , when they were not yet part of the glittery galaxy of island stars.

Jerry was asked how he came to create his best-known tune, “E Ku’u Home O Kahaluu,” and it also turned out that he wrote this one in San Francisco while he was homesick for his island home.

Kamuela Kimokeo

The song then was performed, with audience members invited to chime in, with trusty support for Jerry from Kamuela Kimokeo, his longtime partner in gigs outside of the Olomana umbrella. Not only has he learned all of the Olomana repertoire, he is a master of ki ho alu, Hawaiian slack key guitar.

Jerry and Kamuela provided the bulk of the evening’s riches, showcasing titles not commonly dusted off from the Olomana lifespan of the late Robert Beaumont, which included recollections of that song about rainy Hilo and how the sound of rain made it into the recording, along with a bountiful medley of Olomana treasures including “Seabird” and “E Ku‘u Sweet Lei  Poina Ole,” the composition by Emma DeFries, which was a must-perform title during Beaumont’s tenure with Olomana, and for many years after his passing – 40 years ago. Clearly, this also was an homage to the late entertainer.

Indeed, because Jerry has not been so visible during the pandemic, these oldies dusted off for this gig, provided stirring memories from the group’s discography. Jerry seemed to get misty-eyed, too, reviving Henry Mitchell’s anthem for Kahoolawe, when Hawaiian activists were pushing for the island to be returned to the populace here after years of being a military target practice island.

To break up the solemnity of Kahoolawe, Jerry and Kamuela ventured into the double-entendre song “Tewe Tewe, about fishing, with also implications of a sexual nature, depending on how much you understand about this Hawaiian classic.

As the show neared its end, Kapono returned to the stage to render “Teach Your Children Well,” as well as a new composition, “Sailors of Fortune,” a lovely entry advocating the validity of dreams to make things happen, with Jerry doing counterpoint backup vocals.

What the world needs is not only dreamers, but lovers, so “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” was a handy sing-along, too.

And because the audience hollered “hana hou,” Kapono came back to share one more for the road, one of his C&K classics, “Sailing,” written for his dad who was not a sailor.

So, yes, there were little nuggets of information throughout the serenades right down to the final blackout.

Kapono has another Artist 2 Artist show featuring the Makaha Sons, set for April 28. …

And that’s Show Biz. …


That Martin Nievera/Michael Paulo concert last night (March 3) at the Ala Moana by Mantra’s Hibiscus Ballroom, was a surprisingly sweet double bill of two locals who previously had never performed together on the same stage.

One exudes sexiness and charm, in his ballads; the other is all about the sax, a hoot of a tooter.

The pair have common backgrounds. Nievera is the son of Roberto Nievera, the late featured balladeer with the Society of Seven, and is Manila-born and Hawaii-raised. Paulo is an island native, the son of a singing mom and pianist dad who were known as Rene and Akemi Paulo in their heyday; his siblings are performers, too, and Paulo’s smooth jazz and pop riffs were part of the Kalapana legacy.

Incredibly, the twain never met till now. Nievera etched a career as the “concert king of the Philippines,” as a singer and TV host, and Paulo as a renowned jazz musician focused on his awesome saxophone tooting.

Clearly, this M&M union won’t be the last.

Martin Nievera and Michael Paulo: A surprising sweet M&M collaboration.

The sellout Ala Moana gig seemed to bring out each artist’s best. Nievera has always been a crooner of a tuner, like his dad, creating an imprint of love ballads mixed with slightly upbeat originals rendered in English and Filipino, signaling his wide international following. Paulo never sings a note, but sax’s the thing for him; his fingers work magic with the instrument, which emits eloquent sentiments without the arc of traditional language, but a vocabulary that reflects a variety of moods. He also is mobile and magical, traipsing through the crowd, never missing a note.

Paulo: A master in sax-speak.

How the pair would share the stage was the question.

So: Paulo offered a nearly hour-long set of jolting, expressive jazz tunes, incorporating his unique brand of hip-hopping prancing choreography, reflecting his joy and savvy in sax-speak, to coin a term; and he even jumped onto a table to show his socko involving power as an unrivaled risk-taker.

After an intermission, Paulo’s musicians became the house band for Nievera.

Nievera is never known to disappoint; he is witty, playful, inventive and totally in control,  belting out the familiar like “Corner of the Sky” and “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday,”

with confidence and charm. He adores adulation, and always makes an impression, this time jumping off stage to parade amidst the fans, utilizing a Plexiglas frame to suggest pandemic protocols. Unconventional, but a thrill for the audience.

One of the sweetly satisfying but unexpected duet was on Al Jarreau’s signature tune, “Mornin’,” with Nievera providing the voice and Paulo emoting the saxophone riffs, recalling the era when he was a sideman in Jarreau’s band. The sax accompaniment was otherwise sparing, thus effective.

Nievera: Approaching 40th anniversary.

Nievera, a composer when he’s not singing, shared two touching originals that showcased the depth and breadth of his sentiments. “Sacrifice,” inspired by the frontliners (first responders, hospital workers), reflected the themes of service and oneness – “we’re in it together,” as one phrase suggested. The other sentimental journey, “I’m Be There for You,” promised attention and love for the singer’s three sons, two in their 30s and making their niches in life, the third age 15 with special needs.

Clearly, Nievera has matured over the decades, and realizes he is a veteran and a likely role model for future wannabes. After all, he will mark his 40th year next July 5 as an entertainer; to anticipate the upcoming milestone, he did a reflective medlley that collated the memorable “Be My Lady” and “You Are My Song,” signatures in his repertoire.

Paulo’s sizzling band included Tateng Katindig, keyboards; Johnny Valentine, electric guitar; David Inamine, bass; Michael Grande, keyboards; Garin Poliahu, drums. For his segments, Nievera tapped two backup female singers and a trio comprising a horn section (sorry, identities unknown).

The M&M bill attracted quite a celebrity crowd, including former Governor Ben Cayetano and gubernatorial candidate Vicky Cayetano, Ginny Tiu, Jack and Cha Thompson, Danny Kaleikini, Melveen Leed, Augie Tulba, Emme Tomimbang, and the aforementioned Paulo parents.

Technically speaking, the lighting was erratic, lacking brightness for much of the evening, and the audio occasionally was uncomfortably louder than necessary.


Two generations of the Tihati ‘ohana share their rarely-discussed stories of love and faith on “Living Hope,” New Hope Hawaii’s new TV magazine series airing this holiday season.

The Tihati founders, Jack and Cha Thompson, open up their home and hearts, along with their successors, Afatia Thompson and Misty Thompson Tufono, in conversations with hosts John Tilton and Dawn O’Brien, in seven unprecedented screenings this weekend (see box), the second of a new series of programming.

“It’s about good news in challenging times,” said Tilton, new leader of New Hope and a former employee of Tihati Productions, about Tihati’s struggles amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which shut down operations for more than 18 months until the company’s Polynesian shows reopened when visitors finally started to arrive in Hawaii.

Thus, it’s a rare glimpse of dad and mom and son and daughter, revealing how their Tihati Productions company – the state’s and world’s largest entertainment-producing organization for 52 years – is deeply rooted in religion and family values.

Jack and Cha Thompson, founders of Tihati Productions

Faith is the glue that bonds the Tihati tradition; commitment to ‘ohana is the framework of its success.

As Cha declares about the religious orientation, “Give to the Lord first and he will come through.”

As Jack remembers, “We have to thank someone or something,” about their good fortunes then and now.

Afatia Thompson and Misty Thompson Tufono, current president vice-president.

Their revelations suit the theme of New Hope’s series of “Living Hope,” with pastor Tilton and Dawn O’Brien co-hosting.

God and prayers have been part of the Tihati spirit for decades, when inspiration hit the Farrington High School sweethearts one night. They went shopping/searching for a church, and set anchor at a Pearl Harbor home of worship. Since then, the church is where there is a need, like hotel show spaces where performers conduct Bible studies and offer prayers before and following each performance.

As Jack “Tithai” puts it, “we give to the Lord first and he would come through,” a sentiment that has prevailed ever since the company was launched. Through his South Seas Christian Ministry, Tihati has provided support and kokua to independent Samoa for 34 years, arranging for natives to receive medical supplies, creating water tanks to families, and building or rebuilding churches to continue the work of God.


12:30 p.m. Dec. 24, KITV

6:30 p.m. Dec. 24, KHII

8:30 p.m. Dec. 25, KHON

10:30 p.m. Dec. 25, KITV

9:30 a.m. Dec. 26, CW

6:30 p.m. Dec. 26, KHII

10:30 p.m. Dec. 26, KHON

Son Afatia, now Tihati president, and his sister Misty, now vice president, continue the gift of caring and giving, having lived and learned the ways of Tihati as youngsters with ringside seats growing up in a show biz family. “Being onstage, growing up in hotels…we thought that was normal,” says Misty.

“God has helped us weather this storm (of the pandemic) and we remain faithful in his plan,” says Afatia.

Misty says Psalm 46:10 in the Bible – “Be still” – is her inspiration. “In the fear, we will worship.” she explains.

The show includes a few vintage photos of Jack and Cha, back in the day, and should have included an archival clip of a live Tihati performance to provide visual evidence of the pulse of the company’s livehood: hula, mele, otea from the Polynesian resources that give the Tihati brand a sound and moving foundation.

However, there’s live music, to conclude the TV chat, as Afa sings “I Will Worship” on the front lawn of his parents’ Portlock home, surrounded by ‘ohana singing, dancing (Cha, in a sit-down hula from a queen’s chair), or listening on the front porch. For the holiday season, and befitting the Tihati message: a family that plays together, stays together, and prays together …

And that’s Show Biz. …



That’s the modes operandi at Chef Chai’s, when singer-pianist Robert Cazimero is in the limelight.

Cazimero opened a rare five-night run last night (Dec. 15) at the restaurant; normally, it’s a monthly one-night Full Moon Concert, but he’s chirping and tickling the ivories for multi-evenings because it’s the Christmas season.

His serenades are informal, impromptu and inviting.  Folks go not just for the food by chef Chai Chaowasaree, but for Cazimero’s patter and chatter, with livingroom informaliy. Indeed, it’s like a yuletide family reunion – everyone’s at ease, chuckling, listening and whispering with goodwill and cheer.

It’s more piano bar than showroom stuff, and you never know who’ll show up or not.

On this eve, Cazimero’s lone hula dancer was Bully Keola Makaiau, because partner Sky Perkins Gora had family visiting and took the night off. She’s likely to be aboard tonight.

No matter. With family in  the house, Cazimero sister Kanoe, aka Tootsie, was one of two from-the-audience hula stylists who obliged and danced.

Cazimero in action…

This kind of unplanned trysts provide spontaneity and surprise treats.

With the prevailing holiday mood, Cazimero shared a list of Christmas carols and seasonal tunes. One of his faves, “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” had a wistful tone. There was quiet, attentive goodwill on “Christmas Song” (“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”) and audience sing-along on the novelty flashback tune, “The Chipmunk Song” (“Christmas, Christmas time is near”). Then it was another moment of solitude with “Christmas Waltz.”

Yep, he did his “At Home in the Islands,” a signature for Cazimero as well as the tune’s composer, Henry Kapono, and the pendulum swayed to place-specific local tunes, from the comedic “Cock-eyed Mayor of Kaunakakai” to  the romantic  “Hanalei Moon,” prefaced with a mention that he returned home the day earlier from Kauai.

…sharing fellowship,

He shared one tune from his new “Mine” CD, “Hakipu‘u,”with anecdotal mention of Mary Kawena Puku‘i years ago had the lyrics but no melody, so Cazimero composed the song with her lyrics. Sitting an arm’s reach from Kuana Torres Kahele, himself a prolific singer-composer-musician, Cazimero got an assist when Kahele chimed in, without a mike but hearable, and even helped the guy on the piano with lyrics when there was a brief stumble. For the record, Kahele co-produced the “Mine” album, and possibly can sing the entire songlist of Cazimero compositions.

It’s that kind of fellowship that prevails at a Cazimero evening.

He’ll perform through Sunday (Dec. 19), but full houses are anticipated so make reservations at 585-0011. …

And that’s Show Biz ,,,