Big-band music returns to Waikiki as big-ticket showroom entertainment this week with the official opening of "Pacific Swing Hawaii" at the Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa.
‘Pacific Swing Hawaii’
» Where: Kona Moku Ballroom, Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, 2552 Kalakaua Ave.
As seen at last week’s preview, the "1940s big band dinner show" is a hodgepodge of authentic big-band classics, pop music hits, standard hapa-haole numbers and vintage film clips. Give the producers credit for treating the classics with respect rather than exploiting them as camp or kitsch.
Credit the star of the show, Nathan Osmond, with a knack for improv. When a backstage delay threw the preview performance off schedule, he asked a woman in the audience to dance and then invited couples to join them on the dance floor.
To answer the obvious question, Osmond is the son of Alan Osmond, oldest member of the Osmonds, and a nephew of Donny and Marie.
Osmond is supported by a talented corps of Hawaii singer-dancers. Autumn Ogawa stars in an exquisite rendition of "When You Wish Upon a Star" and returns as the titular "doll" in "Paper Doll," at times dancing beautifully en pointe, at others remaining frozen in position while several male dancers move the inanimate "doll" around.
Kristian Lei gets the vocal spotlight with "Over the Rainbow," charismatic dancer Philip Amer Kelley steals several bits with a well-timed smile or raised eyebrow, and Kyle Malis opens a hapa-haole segment with a solid take on "My Little Grass Shack."
The hapa-haole segment is basic showroom fun, but Osmond can thank his lucky stars he’s not at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, where there has been little affection for such ticky-tacky antics. He does the "Hawaiian War Chant" wearing a cellophane hula skirt, a coconut bra over a T-shirt and a Carmen Miranda-style headdress — garb that would likely get him shut down at the shopping center as quickly in 2011 as "Waikiki Nei" in 2008 and "Heartbeat Hawaii" in 2009.
The biggest problem with the show is the sight lines. The stage is built into a wall at one end of the ballroom, and people who have the misfortune of being seated too far off to the side can’t see much of what happens.
The costumes are hit and miss. Ogawa and Lei wear beautiful vintage gowns for their big vocal numbers, but having the female dancers wear what look like board shorts under their skirts is neither ’40s nor appropriate for a Waikiki showroom in 2011. The choreography is obviously intended to reveal what the women are wearing under their skirts — board shorts don’t cut it.
Having Malis wear a T-shirt under his aloha shirt in the hapa-haole segment is also a bit much.
Embellishing several numbers with clips from vintage films is a good idea, but when the screens show the performers, the results can be disconcerting. On one big number the camera showed far more of the singer’s teeth and tonsils than anyone but their dentist could ever care to see.