Chai’s counts down to closing
BY JOHN BERGER / email@example.com
The countdown towards the end of an era in local entertainment continued last night as Robert Cazimero played his closing night show at Chai’s Island Bistro in the Aloha Tower Marketplace.
Chai’s owner, celebrity chef Chai Chaowasaree, has made his restaurant a showcase for contemporary Hawaiian music throughout its 14-year run at Aloha Tower, but with disruptions in parking and limited access to the restaurant anticipated during an upcoming renovation of the complex, Chaowasaree decided against renewing his lease. The restaurant’s last night of operation will be New Year’s Eve; in the meantime, each night is “closing night” for the Hawaiian headliners who perform there.
Robert Cazimero entertained a sold-out house on Friday, Dec. 28, with support from the men of his halau hula, Halau Na Kamalei, and the women of the Royal Dance Company. Members of both groups performed in various combinations throughout the evening. With Cazimero singing and accompanying himself on acoustic piano it was a night to remember, and the type of Hawaiian entertainment — authentic, natural, from the heart — that many akamai (smart, intelligent) visitors dream of finding during their stay here.
Cazimero opened the second set with a rewind, as it were, of “A Cazimero Christmas,” the Brothers’ recent Christmas show at the Hawaii Theatre, as Na Kamalei and the Royal Dance Company joined him for a medley of Christmas songs that he dedicated to Chaowasaree.
Young talent got its time in the spotlight when Cazimero introduced the Lum Brothers — Na Kamalei member Nicholas Lum, and his real-life brother, falsetto singer Zachary — and had them sing a number while standing beside the stage.
There was spontaneity as well — a delightful element in any Hawaiian party — when Cazimero called on Dennis Wong to dance hula to “Royal Hawaiian Hotel.” Wong was mid-way through the song when two friends, Lehua Kalima and Lee Alstrom, dashed up to the stage and stuck money in his pants while he did his best to continue dancing.
(“I gave him a five (dollar bill),” Kalima said afterwards.)
Cazimero’s solo performance of “Waikiki” was one of the musical highlights of the evening. It’s no surprise, given his demonstrated talent and career accomplishments, that he did a superb job interpreting not only the musical composition but the deep emotion in the lyrics of Andy Cummings’ hapa-haole masterpiece.
Another magical moment in the evening came when Lehela Ka’aihue went forward to dance hula while the men of Na Kamalei added their choral harmonies to Cazimero’s beautiful arrangement of “Waika.”
The count-down of closing night shows continues at 7 p.m. today and tomorrow. HAPA closes tonight, with HAPA founding member Keli’i Kaneali’i and Healani Yuen the final Hawaiian entertainers to play Chai’s when they close the series on New Year’s Eve.
Chaowasaree will open a new restaurant, Chef Chai, in the Honolulu Pacifica Building in February.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.