n exciting high-energy performance! That is how I would describe opening night for the Society of Seven Las Vegas. Seven talented performers were sought out to perform together two months ago and the result is one of the hottest new groups in Hawaii.
The legendary "Society of Seven" with 31 years of success in showbiz became mentors to these young talented performers referred to in newspaper advertisements as "The New Kids on the Rock." The plan for the Society of Seven Las Vegas is to perform at The Outrigger Main Showroom until mid-June while the original SOS is performing on the mainland. Then the new group will relocate to Las Vegas to settle into a hotel showroom and a regular performance schedule.
If I described this group as talented, it would be an understatement. Each member is multi-talented and contributes to the show with their individual specialties. Johnny Fernandez has been a professional singer most of his life and most recently had the starring role of Thuy in the touring company of "Miss Saigon." Jonathan Kaina plays saxophone, drums, guitar and bass and played in the band "Honolulu." Jan Luna is a keyboardist and ukulele player who played for Mana'o Company, Side Salad and Na Leo Pilimehana. Glenn Miyashiro plays trumpet, flugel horn, congas, timbale and some guitar and was in the group "Honolulu." Richard Natto plays guitar, keyboards, bass and drums and played with such groups as Toma/Natto and The Krush. John Salvatera plays guitar, bass and keyboards and recently moved back to Hawaii from California where he played with several bands. Freddy Von Paraz plays drums, percussion, bass, guitar and keyboards and played in such bands as The Krush, BBC, The New Generation, Triad, Kalapana, Simplicity and Cecilio & Kapono. All seven members are singers with their own personal vocal style who make beautiful music together.
It would be hard for any group to take the place of the Society of Seven in their absence, but the Society of Seven Las Vegas respectfully fills in following a similar format of the original show with impersonations, harmonious medleys and broadway tunes performed with their unique flavor. Impressions include Fernandez as Michael Jackson, Salvatera as Stevie Wonder, Kaina as James Brown, Natto as Chuck Berry and Salvatera and Miyashiro as Sonny and Cher (Yes, Glenn Miyashiro wore a dress). The group displays their humorous side in short take-offs on cartoon characters such as Fernandez as Pee Wee Herman, Von Paraz as Elmo, Natto as Kermit the Frog, Luna as Miss Piggy, Salvatera as the Chipmunk and Kaina as the Tasmanian Devil and Bullwinkle. A short medley of choreographed "N'Sync" songs are a contemporary addition to the show. And one of the highlights of the evening are the broadway performances of "The Lion King" and "The Phantom of the Opera" complete with impressive costuming. Glenn Miyashiro eloquently takes on the majority of the narration for the show keeping the pace flowing smoothly.
Opening night, May 8, attracted a long list of VIP's and media as attendees. Among the well-wishers were Craig Schulman (who played Jean Valjean in "Les Miscrables" and the Phantom in "Phantom of the Opera"), Wayne Harada, John Berger, Eddie Sherman, Al Waterson, Michele Nigalan (who played Kim in "Miss Saigon"), radio and television personalities, and the Society of Seven members with their families. At the end of the performance, the opinion of the sold-out audience was unanimous - standing ovation from every person in the room. Rave reviews! All of the rehearsals into the wee hours of the morning paid off and the show is a success!
This is what people are saying about the Society of Seven Las Vegas' new show. Al Waterson - "They are awesome entertainers individually as well as in a group! The show is a must-see!" Norlita Yere- "Electrifying! Energetic! It was an overall impressive show." Craig Shulman enjoyed the entire production very much. Elena Fernandez (mother of Johnny Fernandez) flew to Honolulu from Las Vegas to witness the opening. Elena was extremely proud of her son's performance and thought the entire production was wonderful.
I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed the entire show. The combination of these seven individuals' talents is fantastic, their chemistry onstage with each other is excellent, and their ability to captivate an audience and hold their attention is admirable. There is continuous movement with no dull moments and the stamina is evident with their determination to please. Their goal is to entertain and they can definitely say "mission accomplished" at the end of the evening.
I highly recommend that Hawaii residents check out the Society of Seven Las Vegas before this group moves on the mainland in mid-June. Showtimes are Tuesdays through Saturdays, 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Kama'aina rates are available and validated parking is at the Outrigger East Hotel. For reservations, call 923-7469. You'll love it! I did!
MEET THE MEMBERS:
JOHNNY FERNANDEZ began his show biz career at the age of five when he made his television debut on "The Happy Hour." Among Johnny's numerous television and film appearances since then have been "One West Waikiki," "Mistah," "Blade" and "The Longest Show." Born in Honolulu, he most recently toured with "Miss Saigon" in the starring role of Thuy. He also has performed throughout the Pacific as a soloist, having recorded two albums, "True Love," and "Puede Ba." In addition, he has toured with The Jets, Nia Peeples, Gary Valenciano and NKOTB.
JONATHAN KAINA, a graduate of Lahainaluna High School on Maui, as well as Maui Community College, plays saxophone, drums, guitar and bass. Known for his great voice, he has been in the bands Honolulu and Night Life. Audiences have enjoyed his performances at the Captain's Table in the Holiday Inn, Trappers in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki, at the Esprit Lounge in the Sheraton Waikiki and at the Outrigger Main Showroom. Jonathan cites his musical influences as Michael Bolton, Peabo Bryson, Luther Vandross, and The Society of Seven.
JAN D. LUNA, praised for his keyboard and ukulele talents, is a graduate of Waipahu High School who has played in such bands as Mana'o Company, Side Salad and Na Leo Pilimehana. His experience includes shows in Guam with Cecilio & Kapono, as well as Mana'o, and at the Esprit Lounge in the Sheraton Waikiki. Earth, Wind and Fire provides his musical inspiration.
GLENN MIYASHIRO, acclaimed for his spectacular voice, has been heard in Aiea High School and Leeward Community College. He also plays trumpet, flugel horn, congas, timbale, and some guitar. Influenced by The Society of Seven, Chicago, and Sypro-Gyra, he has appeared in Las Vegas at the Palace Station, in Reno at the El Dorado and in Waikiki at Trappers, the Esprit Lounge at the Sheraton Waikiki and in the Outrigger Waikiki Main Showroom.
RICHARD NATTO, a New York-born graduate of Kaimuki High School, has over 30 years experience with such groups as Toma/Natto and The Krush. Accomplished on guitar, keyboards, bass and drums, he considers The Beatles, Stevie Wonder and Elvis among his musical influences.
JOHN SALVATERA, a native of the Philippines, plays guitar, bass and keyboard. A versatile vocalist known for his jazz, R&B, rock and contemporary stylings, he has played with such bands as B-4 Dawn Show Band, Tite Fit, Lookout and Spice of the Night. Salvatera has opened for Stevie B. and Lenny Williams and has played back-up for such artists as Java, Reycard's Duet, Pilita Corrales, Elizabeth Ramsey, Victor Wood and Carmen Patena. He says he has been most influenced by Nat "King" Cole, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Earth Wind & Fire, and The Society of Seven.
FREDDY VON PARAZ, plays drums, percussion, bass, guitar, and keyboards. He also has been trained vocally by Neva Rego and Eunice DeMello. Born in Honolulu, he has been in such bands as The Krush, BBC, The New Generation, Triad, Kalapana, Simplicity and that of Cecilio & Kapono. Freddy has performed on such national television shows as "Soul Train," "Mike Douglas" and "Byrds of Paradise"; toured Japan with Triad; and been seen at the Blaisdell Arena and Waikiki Shell with The Krush, New Generation, and Stevie B.