Rule No. 1 in show business is that if something works, you don’t mess with it.
Tony Ruivivar developed a winning formula for the Society Of Seven some 40 years ago, and Tuesday’s opening of the group’s "homecoming" show proved the formula is still a winner. Old-time night-lifers who remember SOS from their heyday in the ’70s and ’80s can count on embracing this latest production by Waikiki’s once-and-forever show group. Anyone seeing SOS for the first time is certain to leave a fan.
And why not? The show contains all the traditional SOS magic: lots of celebrity impersonations, tightly synchronized choreography, cross-dressing comedy, Broadway classics and impressive original arrangements of contemporary pop hits.
SOCIETY OF SEVEN
» Where: Outrigger Main Showroom, Outrigger Waikiki, 2335 Kalakaua Ave.
» When: 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays
» Cost: $45 (kamaaina rates available); free validated parking at Ohana East, 150 Kaiulani Ave.
» Info: 923-7469
Never mind that Hawaii is welcoming two new SOS members. In four decades of consistent showroom success, Ruivivar has steered the SOS through enough personnel changes since the original seven opened at the Outrigger in 1969 to field three complete SOS septets. Each time a stellar talent departed — "Little Albert" Maligmat, Roberto Nievera, Jun Polistico, Eddie Ramirez, Terry Lucido and Gary Bautista, to name six — group leader Ruivivar found a stellar replacement and carried on.
Ruivivar’s latest stellar find is Elika Santos, who clearly deserves his place as the newest member of the group.
Santos stands out from the opening number, a high-octane arrangement of Santana’s 1971 classic "Everybody’s Everything," on through several showcase segments. He thrilled the opening-night crowd with a pair of Journey hits and topped it with a tribute to Pavarotti.
Santos also handles his share of the load when Ruivivar introduces the "SOS Stimulus Package" — impressions of entertainers with Las Vegas connections. The cast of characters includes Josh Groban (Santos), Stevie Wonder (Vincent Mendoza), Wayne Newton (Hoku Low) and Kenny G (Wayne Wakai).
Bert Sagum, the other founding member of the group, has a great time, as always, playing Little Richard; Sagum’s persistent flirting with a man in the front row is part of the character.
Ruivivar, Santos and Sagum provide the backing vocals as Low steps forward as Frankie Valli in a tribute to "Jersey Boys" and the Four Seasons.
Low is celebrating 33 years with SOS this month and is still hitting the high notes.
Santos joins Sagum and Low as the third man in another proven crowd-pleaser. Ruivivar asks the crowd to imagine "three good-looking guys, totally naked" who are dancing the cha-cha with only two small pieces of pink cardboard for cover. It’s the SOS version of fan-dancing, with Sagum losing his covering in quick and comical fashion.
Roy Venturina is the seventh member of the current roster. Like Roy Guerzo before him, he spends most of the show supporting the others on keyboards but steps up front a couple of times to join in on the choreography.
And, as Ruivivar would say, there’s more.
SOS also features a "special guest," a 15-year-old Farrington High School student who goes by the single name of Arshiel. "This Will Be," the Natalie Cole hit sung as a duet with Santos, provides her with a great introduction. The power ballad "All By Myself" is a highlight number for her later in the show.
Arshiel joins Santos, Ruivivar and Sagum as the stars of a rousing rendition of "You Can’t Stop the Beat" during a "Broadway Show-Stoppers" segment, and shows off her potential as a recording artist and showroom star with "And I Am Telling You" — the "Dreamgirls" hit SOS introduced to Waikiki when it was new almost 30 years ago.