Rogue Wave of Laughter Hits Waikiki
It hit out of the blue. I’d turned my back on the evening. I wasn’t paying attention. And, boy, was I glad.
When I stepped up to the counter outside the showroom at the Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach last Thursday evening to pick up my ticket for that evening’s performance by the Society of Seven, I expected to be given a piece of paper and, then, retreat to the end of a long line and wait to enter the showroom. Instead, the guy on the phone quickly put the receiver down and whisked me inside. He pulled out a stage-side chair for me and said to the waitress, “Special guest of Tony’s.”
I guess blogging has its privileges. (Truth is there isn’t a bad seat in this cozy theater.)
I sat next to a proper couple visiting from Salt Lake City. I glanced around the crowd. About half looked to be visitors and the other half kamaaina, with the groups laying a spread of taro chips and macadamia nut cookies on their tables the obvious locals.
A few children and young people sat in the crowd, but Baby Boomers predominated.
At promptly 8:30, the glittering, gold curtain opened in front of me and an announcer introduced, “And, now, here they are, the Society of Seven.”
The Society of Seven got their start in 1969. You would have probably called them a variety act then. Their success led to a regular gig in Las Vegas. Before they left for the mainland—almost 10 years ago—they trained a troupe to carry on in Waikiki. Through September 20, the Vegas version is home, performing at the showroom at Outrigger Waikiki on the Beach.
The two opening songs gave little hint as to what the night would entail apart from a pleasant, little group of singers playing cover tunes off-Vegas. Newest member of the Society of Seven, Elika Santos kicked things off with a rendition of Santana’s “Everybody’s Everything.” Then, 15-year-old, special guest Arshiel appeared on stage, taking over vocals for Natalie Cole’s, “This Will Be.” Their big moments would come later.
Only two members from the Society of Seven’s original 1969 troupe remain. Tony Ruivivar and Bert Sagum. They each performed their perfected roles. Tony served as emcee for the evening. He introduced the next medley—an homage to the great hotels and the great performers of Las Vegas. A pencil-thin-mustache-wearing Bert popped out to impersonate Little Richard. His flirtations with a man in the crowd were more memorable than whatever song he sang. It was a role he would reprise throughout the evening. Alika reappeared with a wig on his head in the guise of Josh Groban.
There were more impersonations—Frankie Valli, Stevie Wonder, Wayne Newton, Kenny G, Diana Ross and the Supremes.
The group moved to “Broadway Show-Stoppers,” performing numbers from Hair Spray, Jesus Christ Superstar and Dreamgirls.
Their one-and-a-half hour show included a tribute to Luciano Pavarotti, for which Elika received a standing ovation—the man can sing—and a Celine Dion medley by Arshiel.
The Society of Seven show is more than just a singing troupe. They’re comedians. They’re impersonators. They’re entertainers. But they don’t take themselves too seriously. If they did, Bert wouldn’t dress the way he did, especially for the Beyonce number. (I really don’t want to spoil the surprise for you.)
I sat down at 8:30 p.m. in my front-row seat with little knowledge of the Society of Seven, apart from their status as a fixture on the Waikiki show circuit. But, hey, this is Waikiki, not the mainland, so truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much. And I’m glad I wasn’t. Because when I walked out at 10:00, I wore a smile across my face and I shook my head thinking, “Who knew?”
Ignorance is bliss.
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 Kauilani Ave.