Christmas is a time for reflection. And with Yuletide approaching — it’s already Dec. 1! — I thought it would be apropos to recall warm holiday memories from seasons past.
>> Jim Nabors’ “A Merry Christmas With Friends and Nabors” presided for a decadelong run at the Hawaii Theatre, from 1997 to 2006; Burton White directed the spectacle. Nabors’ booming, operatic “O Holy Night,” and his participation in a Rockettes-like lineup with Diamond Head Theatre’s youthful Shooting Stars on “March of the Wooden Soldiers” (the “Babes in Toyland” fave) was charismatic in cadence and precision, but it was a stretch for nondancer Nabors, who generously did this in the spirit of the season.
>> The Brothers Cazimero’s holiday show, held for a couple of seasons at the unlikely site in front of the grass hale inside Bishop Museum, couldn’t accommodate their vast numbers of fans. I once described the event as “a museum piece,” since the setting was just perfect for Robert and Roland to render “Away in a Manger.”
>> The Brothers Caz’s later residency at the Hawaii Theatre emphasized that location matters: larger venue, theatrical lighting, spacious staging, festive Yule decor. The duo, with an expansive hula cast, inherited the venue after Nabors’ departure. With Christmas tree a-twinkling and splendid holiday cheer, “Aloha Kalikimaka,” “We Three Kings” and “O Come All Ye Faithful” were takeaways.
>> Ed Kenney offered his original “Numbah One Day of Christmas” during his holiday runs. He “owned” the tune (he co-wrote it with Eaton “Bob” Magoon and Gordon Phelps) in the early decades of the ’60s and ’70s, and his tongue-in-cheek parody of the original “Twelve Days of Christmas” was clearly a signature. Venues uncertain.
>> The Honolulu Boy Choir’s pre-Christmas serenades at the Royal Hawaiian’s Monarch Room were a tradition in the Roy Hallman-directed era. Their joyous, cherubic facial expressions made their animated version of “Numbah One Day of Christmas” a hoot.
>> Then Frank De Lima came along in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and developed his own rendering of “Numbah One Day of Christmas” with an audience-participation element, hauling up 12 folks to depict the days, from “one mynah bird in one papaya tree” to “12 televisions,” always selecting a visitor who predictably would mangle the mynah-papaya lyrics. Of course, he had a seasonal trademark, too, in “Filipino Christmas,” performed in a lit-up Christmas tree costume, to howls of delight. It was a Pagoda Restaurant tradition, but apparently won’t be staged this year.
>> DeLima’s pidgin version of “A Christmas Carol” had a couple of runs at Diamond Head Theatre. What the Dickens, he made a perfectly grouchy Scrooge, and the local lingo added island flavors and insinuations. The comedian challenged the cast, though not intentionally, when he frequently ad-libbed his lines.
>> Jay Larrin, the songwriter-pianist-singer rarely seen/heard these days, always shared his year-round favorite, “The Snows of Mauna Kea,” notably at the Sheraton’s Gangplank Lounge and more recently at the Prince Waikiki. The tune takes on Christmas relevance in December, since the peak and slopes are sheathed in a coat of snow. Of course, the mauna has been the focus of ongoing protests, causing mounting delay of installing a new telescope.
>> Willie K’s unbeatable rendering of “O Holy Night,” is the Maui singer-composer-guitarist’s most popular entity in December. It was blessed with the spirit of Christmas then, and still resonates with relevance and authenticity now. His appearance over the decades on Emme Tomimbang’s “Emme’s Island Moments” is timeless, and he and she are at it again (after a break of several years) this season on the networks of Hawaii News Now.
>> Since 2006, the annual radio airplay of “It’s Christmas Once More in Hawaii Nei,” by Gail Mack, truly is the state’s best holiday expression, ranking right up there with your favorites by Johnny Mathis, The Carpenters, et al. Oh, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas,” composed by island tunesmith R. Alex Anderson, receives regular airplays, too.
>> Honolulu City Lights, the annual parade, light-up-the-tree ritual, features city buildings and parks aglow in nighttime finery. OK, the route these days has less pizzazz (budget costs, of course), but it is our annual tradition.
>> The “Jingle Bell Run,” a bygone seasonal fundraiser for the then-Honolulu Advertiser, was a jog along the Honolulu City Lights route. It was a cooler, nocturnal romp with no need for sunscreen, and if you had jingling bells on your sneakers, the more fun the run. …
THE LOCAL ANGLE
Ho‘okena will reunite in a one-nighter at 6:30 and 9 p.m. Dec. 22 at Blue Note Hawaii. Besides Hawaiiana, there will be holiday tunes, with current singers Glen Smith, Horace Dudoit III and Chris Kamaka joined by Manu Boyd and Ama Aarona. Tickets: ticketmaster.com, 777-4890. …
Pastry chef Teresa Shurilla, program coordinator for the University of Hawaii Maui College Culinary Arts Program, will appear in her fifth Food Network competition, as one of the sugar artists in the “Holiday Wars” program premiering today. Wish her luck and tune in. …
Hey, if you’re flying United, I can tell you that its improved Polaris first-class service now features restaurant-like meals (fish, meat and vegetarian options both ways), but its two-four-two seating layout is a matter of space utilization. Flew to Kentucky, with a Chicago connection outbound, and returned via a Houston stopover. The Texas airport was a spectacular, ultra-modern, chic, appealing destination, compared with the still unsightly, unfinished plywood walls and doors at my arrival gate, G4. Depressing.
Jack Johnson and his wife and kids were seated across the aisle, returning home from a Costa Rica vacation. …
And that’s “Show Biz.”
Wayne Harada is a veteran entertainment columnist. Reach him at 266-0926 or email@example.com.