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The 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.

The ballroom 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....

Diva 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.

"Loyal said 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 solo lines!


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 breath, "Bitch!".

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 Diva's.  

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.

 

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