room is absolutely packed. We're at the Sheraton here to share
memories of Loyal Garner with all of her friends. Judging from the
crowd, her friends number in the thousands! The huge Hawaii
Ballroom has suddenly turned into a sardine can. Droves of locals
have come to see Hawaii's Local Divas, in their Christmas Event 2001
dedicated to Loyal. Carole Kai, Nohelani Cypriano, Melveen Leed and
Mel Cabang are in the house... Someone check the talent capacity of the
room - I think we're gonna violate that limit tonight!
Backstage, the Diva's make final preparations for the show. Augie
and Lanai peek in, then Keith Kaneshiro - Many friends stop by to say
hello and to wish them good luck. But luck isn't necessary
tonight... Weeks of preparation, practice sessions, and hard work have
gone into this tribute show. The Diva's are motivated and prepared
to give it their all tonight by one of Loyal's final wishes... that this
concert be one to remember. Loyal's three Diva sisters are ready to
fulfill and exceed Loyal's hopes. "Family" is a value that
is personified backstage. Everyone's close, all are treated like
close relatives, and everybody joins hands during an inspirational last
minute prayer before showtime.
darkens, and the giant screens above us insure everyone an up close view
of the on stage action. Someone is coming out! Is it a band
member? Is it a Diva? Holy smokes, it's Mel Cabang in a flashy
black shirt complete with flames across the front. Top it off with a
black hat with a red feather and you've got one funny Hawaiian Pimp!
For 15 minutes, we are bombarded with classic Cabang humor... I haven't
seen a great routine like this for years, and it reminds me of the old
classic days of Hawaii Comedy. The audience loves him, even the
people in the front row who are easy pickings for Mel's signature
"spotlight" roast. Get caught in that spotlight and watch
out! Mel incorporates his recent time spent in prison into his act
and has fun with it. "I told the IRS the wrong joke..."
It's over way too quick for the eager crowd. Hey Mel, we need more
than 15 minutes! Concert, concert, concert....
sighting! Nohe in Red, Melveen in White, and Carole in Blue...
Patriotism all the way. The three beauties opening number is just a
tease of what is in store for the capacity crowd, now wide-eyed and
attentive (and maybe a little sore in the stomach from laughing so hard)
after Mel's opening act.
Melveen is the
first diva up, walking on stage in a stunning glittery white gown singing
her classic "Paniolo Country" (joined by the cowboys and
cowgirls of the Tau Dance Company) and "Music Man's Kind of
Love". Her voice is strong and unique, and the feeling that she
puts into her songs is signature Melveen. Between songs she cracks
up the crowd with her own "tita" brand of humor and quick
wit. As a special treat, Melveen's daughter Kaula does a very lovely
dance to "Nani Kauai" while her proud mother accompanies
her. Just Beautiful! Tau Espiritu skillfully dances his
interpretation of Melveen's finale, an emotionally driven
super-powered rendition of "What I did for Love" which she
dedicates to Loyal. Melveen must eat plutonium for breakfast,
because this tita's lungs are definitely nuclear powered. Her love
for Loyal is made crystal clear by the feeling and heart she pours into
the words of the song.
Nohe emerges from
the dark in an awesome blue rose petal patterned flowing dress.
"Brother, Brother" is tailor-made for Nohe's silky smooth
voice. She works the stage and audience expertly and treats us to a
Christmas Carol (not Carole!), "The First Noel" which she sings
for Loyal Garner. Nohe's talents also extend to the piano as she
plays us a song she wrote for her mother, "Puleleua", backed up
by some graceful dancers in red. As far as vocal talent goes,
there's no better in Hawaii than Nohe. In a word, Wow!
It's Carole's turn! Carole "eternally 30 years old" Kai
starts off at the piano singing a medley of "I Feel the Earth
Move" and "Too Late Baby" - 2 classics that I love.
Carole's love for her many friends shows as she unselfishly shares her
stage time in every single one of her bits. She's great! Her
old buddy Kevin Iwamoto (he took 1st place in the Hawaii Music Festival in
the 80's) joins her in a great version of "Islands in the
Stream", complete with hilarious Kenny Rodgers/Dolly Parton type
verbal exchanges. "Kim Chee Breath!", she shouts at him as he
gets too close. Kevin then gets the spotlight, and dedicates
"Unforgettable" to the Lady of Love. Carole jumps back on
the piano and jams "Sing your praise to the Lord" with a razor-sharp
backup by her bandmembers.
to me, I going pinch yo' okole if you don't sing 'This is My Life',",
Carole reminisces about her next number which she dedicates to Loyal.
No worries Carole... Your okole isn't in danger - The song was remarkable.
Next, the audience is treated to a video montage featuring Loyal and the
Divas. These candid videos are a little sad, but uplifting and
enjoyable to watch, because it brings our Lady of Love back to the
spotlight where she flourished.
The girls get together again for a medley - one of their favorite songs
"Kuuipo". The harmony between these three is top notch,
and all three have this one nailed down solid. Gotta admit that this
is my favorite song, especially the parts where Melveen gets to croon her
Mel Cabang returns
to the stage with Melveen as they do a comedy/improv skit together... It
starts off with Mel just getting off of the plane from Prison. He
gets into a cab which is driven by fugly-toothed immigrant taxi driver
Melveen. The laughs grow exponentially by the second when these two
get going. "He's one crook, one crook." Melveen's immigrant
driver says of Iva Kinimaka (chef and owner of Iva's Komplete Katering and
the Kalihi Diner's drive-in). "Crook?", Mel says," You mean
cook... I'm the crook!" Seeing Melveen's "no mo' HDS
plan" prop buckteeth was worth the ticket price alone! These
two cut ups bring the house down as Melveen's imaginary cab goes from
place to place, until finally she kicks his ass out of the cab
(literally!). The skit ends with Mel Cabang muttering under his
More priceless footage of Loyal and the girls having fun on their road
trips is shown on the huge overhead monitors. It's at this point that the
show reaches it's nostalgic high point. I keep thinking about
Loyal. She would have been so proud of the girls and what they have
achieved this evening.
Once again Mel
Cabang returns, this time to flirt with all three
pretty ladies, who just happen to be singing "Dancing
Queen". He causes mayhem as he gets in the middle of their
musical number... Getting in the way of their dancing, dropping Carole on
her butt when distracted by Melveen, and moonwalking in front of the
The Diva's end the show by sharing the stage with the fantastic City of
Refuge Church Choir. We could have run a small city with the
amount of vocal power emanating from the stage finale. Loving fans
crash the stage as the show ends to shower the girls with leis and
flowers, and they head outside to meet the public and to sign their CD's
and posters for thousands of fans.
411 conclusion: It was a fine night for entertainment.
Never in Hawaii has there been such an accumulation of talent sharing the
same stage in one show. Loyal Garner was a Hawaii Legend - one of
the all-time best. What better way to bid her aloha than to honor
her with this stellar performance from four other Hawaii Legends? To Melveen, Carole, Nohe, and Mel
Cabang: You guys are the best, and thank you so much for giving Oahu a
timewarp back to old Waikiki. I went to the show expecting
to see some tears... to see hurt friends remembering a lost loved
one. What I saw was not a weepy "I remember when" show ,
but rather a celebration of Loyal's life: What she stood for and who she
was. Loyal was an entertainer at heart, and nothing would have made
her happier than the show her sisters put on for her on December 19th. Rest well
Loyal. You are loved. This one was for you.