Kuana Torres Kahele at Blue Note Hawaii

YODELING AND SHOELESSNESS, ON AN EASTER SUNDAY SPECIAL

It was the yodeling, ultimately, that set apart this show, filled with sparks, laughter, and Hawaiian culture rarely shared on a Waikiki stage these days.

And on Easter Sunday (April 4), nearly all the troupers were barefooted, except one, at Blue Note Hawaii. It is not uncommon among Hawaiian performers to take the stage sans shoes.

And as a spectator, peering and applauding from behind two layers of Plexiglas, this amounted to a first-rate attraction, but a challenge to review.

So apologies to Kuana Torres Kahele, the host and headliner of two performances at the Outrigger Waikiki venue, and his guest singer, Karen Keawehawaii.

I am not fully acclimated to nor qualified to, fully identify and share kudos to Kahele’s rich catalogue of tunes – several with hula performances, in exquisite and fashionable costumes – so I will dodge listing titles I may misidentify.

Since I did not possess, nor request, a set list, this recap fails to name names of songs. But as Kahele mentioned midway through the second show I attended, he alters his plans anyway. So…I will say this much: His four musicians and dancers are explicitly wired to songs new and old, with accent on rarely-performed melodies from the past, depicting places and stories stretching over the island chain.

Kahele is the showmeister of this tapestry of old-time Hawaii, adapting a few current-time tunes from behind a pandemic-reliant plastic separating his musicians from the audience. “We can see our own reflections,” he observed late in the show. It has to be a distraction to have the see-through barriers stretching nearly the entire course of the stage; from my perch on the showroom’s elevated tier in front of the light and sound booth, there was another veil of plastic protection, yielding more reflections.

Keawehawaii, stationed to the left of the performance zone, occasionally worked minus the plastic, too.

This environment brings out the best of these artists. She is the consummate vocalist, too, disciplined and delightful in both serious and comedic moments.

And she yodels. And she got Kahele to yodel, too.

In a Hawaiian show, this is not that unusual. A yodeling voice requires upper-register falsetto tones, and she’s got that and so does he.

She was outfitted with requisite blooms in her hair; he, too, had his traditional head lei.

Mutual trust is an unstated trait when local performers cultivate a show, knowingly or by instinct, and that is the thrust of this rare species. And Waikiki doesn’t regularly provide performance space for culture and heritage that might be enjoyed and applauded by residents and visitors alike like this event.

All the performers were barefooted, including the pair of Miss Aloha Hula, Tehani Gonzado and Mahealani Mike Solem. Perhaps it’s a trademark of the cultural past, perhaps shoelessness brings out the best jolt of talent.

Keawehawaii donned shoes; maybe it gives her power to yodel with more oomph. Or maybe she didn’t get the memo that it was a shoeless Sunday.

That’s today’s take on a special show on a special day.

PHOTOS: Kahele, left, and Keawehawaii, right.

Shari’s Back, with Power and Pizzazz

Shari Lynn continues to be a queen of song, sharing an impeccable repertoire of jazz, standards, and Broadway favorites. She delivers her music with savvy, style, and simplicity, painting pictures of romance or travels, with her disciplined style punctuated with elocution, presentation and some storytelling.

Her performance last night (April 2) at Medici’s at Manoa Marketplace was yet another triumph of artistry in motion. Power with pizzazz.

Standing in-between dependable and versatile musicians John Kolivas (bass) and Jim Howard (piano) and separated from her spectators with Plexiglas panels indicative of the safety concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic, Shari manages to create moods and moments that play well despite the curtain that provides challenges for singers as more clubs and venues bring live music to audiences.

Opening with “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” and ending with a curtain-call “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” she never misses a beat, providing anecdotal insights occasionally as she unveils her song choices.

“Here’s to Life,” a tribute to her late duet partner Jimmy Borges, is sentimental stuff, while “A Tisket, A Tasket” is joyous and timely, a kiddie fave from yesteryear that also has Easter implications. That’s the arc of her appeal

A snappy “On the Sunnyside of the Street,” an oldie now updated on a TV commercial, gives her liberties to change “Rockefeller” In the lyrics to Don Conover, her sometimes keyboarder partner who was in the house. He had another moment, shouting out a response from the audience, during her out-of-the-park “Mama’s Song” rouser from “Gypsy,” with emotional relevance of missed dreams. Everything doesn’t come up roses unless you work hard to achieve goals, so a bouquet of roses for Shari for this one.

But Shari knows how to pick ‘em. “Send in the Clowns,” the Stephen Sondheim signature from “A Little Night Music” is the essence of an actress with a bona fide stage voice that makes the right connection with the spectators.

She also has empathy; like the rest of us, she misses traveling due to the restrictions of Covid-19, so “Let’s Get Away From It All” was panacea for planning a future trek.

Just as her followers who’ve missed her club work here, “I Love Being Here With You” was her declaration of her glee to be chirping again. And she respects her musicians, giving solo and instrumental time (like the Duke Ellington moment) to spotlight their pedigree.

The Medici’s setting, spruced up with faux greenery and blooms, resembles an indoor garden where a singer like Shari can shine in full-bloom glory. Club proprietors Tim and Carolyn Stanton (he’s the chef, she’s the front-of-the-house honcho) also have had to adapt to the times; his imaginative served meals (no more buffets, alas, replaced by set menus from soup to dessert) require additional servers; she has new duties checking temperatures, logging names and monitoring facemasks upon check-in.

Shari returns to Medici’s on May 21.

PHOTOS: Shari solo, Shari with Kolivas on bass, Howard (hidden) on piano.

Robert Cazimero at Chef Chai’s

It was imperfect, but Robert Cazimero’s return to the limelight last night (March 28) at Chef Chai’s was momentous and a measure of what the local show biz has been lacking for months.

Cazimero’s gig, dubbed the Full Moon Concert, had been a monthly fave at Chai’s, linked to the lunar calendar. It was sidelined last year by the pandemic, so the homecoming of one of Hawaii’s luminous troupers drew a full house.

But like a vehicle idled for an extended time, Cazimero had to pull the throttles, step on the gas, and look in the rear mirror to find his footing. Behind his keyboard, he’s a master, but it took an effort to get his engine purring.

The format here is sharing moods and memories, a structure that allows him to cruise with tunes from all genres, and in the driver’s seat, he doesn’t speed, he coasts and maneuvers his ride without a formal agenda nor a GPS. Thus, it’s a ride that’s equally familiar yet unexpected, because he and his viewers have been on that road before.

It’s curious that the car-ride Hawaiian oldie, “Holo Holo Kaa,” was among the fare, with his two hula dancers, Sky Perkins Gora and Bully Keola Makaiau, chugging along joyfully. This punctuated the evening of magical memories.

Surely, the tapestry of tunes – “Rainbow Connection,” “Keawaiki,” “My Sweet Pikake Lei,” “Waikiki,” “Always,” “At Home in the Islands” – painted a reflective tone of a casual party.

Folks in the audience – Manu Boyd, singing and dancing, Cha Thompson hulaing — joined the celebration. From her seat, singer Nina Keali’iwahamana Rapozo was mouthing the lyrics, simulating a duet with Cazimero, several times.

Of course, there were a couple of Cazimero charm; he shared local-style sing-along ditties, tapping “Happy Birthday,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “I’m. Little Teapot,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” “You Are My Sunshine.” Cute, crazy, Cazimero stuff.

Then not surprisingly, he closed his set with a Christmas song he learned back in the day from the late Mahi Beamer. Who else could get away with a yuletide gift now?

Future Full Moon Concerts are scheduled for April 25, May 27, June 24 and July 23. Reservations: 585-0011 or www.chefchai.com.

Iz’s ‘Rainbow’ Legacy

There’s yet another pot of gold at the end of Israel “Bruddah Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole’s rainbow.

Iz’s iconic hit, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World,” today (March 24) will be added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry for preservation as part the heritage in recorded sound.

Marlene Kamakawiwo’ole, Iz’s widow, said the honor is “a blessing for my ohana and we are so happy to share his magic with the world.”

And Jon de Mello, who produced the disc, said “Our wish is that Iz was here to witness the joy the song brings to the world.”

The inclusion in the registry is not surprising, since “Rainbow” already has logged more than a billion views on YouTube, has been included in dozens of feature films (“Meet Joe Black,” “50 First Dates”), television shows (“EZ,” “Scrubs”), commercials, and has earned multi-platinum sales records in the U.S. and many global nations.

The characteristic “ooooh, ooooh” opening notes are part of the charm of the tune, and even the intro-only has been utilized in commercials. Clearly, it’s Iz’s sound and emotion that appeal to listeners; ironically, Iz was a Hawaiian entertainer but his aloha in the pop tunes is what connected to the world beyond the shores of Hawaii.

The track was included in the best-selling “Facing Future” album, and the medley has emerged as the undisputed No. 1 hit in the annals of Hawaii recordings.

Iz died on June 26, 1997, at age 38, so he never enjoyed the popularity and appeal of “Raiinbow.”

Iz’s inclusion in the registry’s Class of 2020 is also historic: among this year’s honorees is Thomas Edison, for the first-ever sound recording.

Review: ‘Shout’ at Diamond Head Theatre

‘SHOUT’ AT DIAMOND HEAD THEATRE IS DANDY AS CANDY FOR THESE PANDEMIC TIMES

“Shout: The Mod Musical,” now at the Diamond Head Theatre (through March 28), has a soundtrack jammed with 1960s-early ’70s pop hits mostly with British roots), a modest storyline about five women with life and love issues, and robotic choreography that captures the spirit of the era.

An off-Broadway blast from the past, “Shout’ enables DHT to return to producing shows with a cast of five women, singing to taped music in front of a single set of rectangles and squares depicting five hues – red, green, yellow, orange and blue – with each character designated by the colors. With pandemic practices in place, the theater can only fill 25 pct of its seats and drastically modified the niceties of theater-going: no playbill to identify the performers, which signals a lack of courtesy and respect to the cast. Of course, the audience is masked, with social distancing, and there is neither an intermission nor an apres-show meet-and-greet.

Yet the cast soldiers on, delivering credible performances despite the wafer-thin storyline.

“Shout” is mostly about the nostalgic tunes – popularized by the likes of Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Lulu, Marianne Faithful, The Seekers, and others – so you may leave the theater humming a fave like “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” “Georgy Girl,”

“Downtown,” “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” “To Sir, With Love,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “I Know a Place,” and “You’re My World.” Even “Goldfinger.”

Those were the days, and these were the songs.

The show’s title alludes to a Brit tabloid dubbed, what else, SHOUT, and Red, Green, Yellow, Blue and Orange (as the roles are defined) also share monologues of gripes and issues sent to the magazine’s advice columnist.

The show is like a huge candy jar, with eye-filling vibrant costume colors, as well as the chirpy and contagious music, providing joyful nibbles and sweetness.

John Rampage directed and choreographed with his usual measure of syncopated fun and expression, inspired by that mound of music. There might be repetition in the motion, but the end result is a delightful dance-a-thon. However, take caution: dancing in the aisles is not allowed, but occasional sing-alongs and clap-alongs are welcome.

The show runs Fridays through Sundays, through March 28; some performances are sold out. Tickets: $22, at www.diamondheadtheatre.com