Immediately following the presentation of the Polynesian Cultural Center “Living Treasures” and President’s Awards, several dozen PCC alumni and friends proved once again that the talent of our people extends far beyond the beloved villages and stages at the Center…
A teaser photo of the finalé: Keep reading for a full report
…only, all of the action this time was taking place before a packed house in the BYU-Hawaii Cannon Activities Center on Wednesday evening, September 4, 2013. For those who couldn’t be here, the event was live-streamed.
Outside on the lawn between the CAC and the Admin Building, PCC Concessions had set up food booths and seating bowers, and quite a few people obviously ate their dinner while waiting for the show to start.
PCC alumni Terry Moea’i and Sia Tonga kept the program moving forward as emcees for the PCC 50th Anniversary Talent Show, introducing the following acts:
• Sia’s five daughters, the Tonga Sisters, sang for the crowd. Two of the girls are already PCC alumnae: They’re veteran Alii Luau keiki dancers.
• U‘ilani Murray Lee, aka “Nei,” sang Pua Lilia, with Cy Bridges and Bobby Akoi helping with the instrumentals and Kekela Miller [pictured at left] performing a lovely hula — as a specially tribute to sister PCC alum Abbie Basso Chase. Nei worked at PCC from 1972-74 as a front entrance greeter, and at one time said she was “just a queen at the night show,” but she was assured “all positions were and are important at the PCC.”
• Sisi Pututau, who worked at the Center from 1965-70 in the Tongan Village and at the night show, danced a very lively Tongan Tau’olunga with her son, Joe.
• A handsome quartet of men who all worked in the Samoan Village and other departments in the 60s — Tevaseu George Hunt, Iosefa Toia, Fata Vaitu‘u Kaio and his brother, former knife dancer Iameli Kaio — sang This is the Way.
• Joe Ahuna III backed up his grandson on the drum and also his son — both named Joe Ahuna as well — as they performed the Navajo hoop dance, with Joe IV using 22 hoops. Joe III worked in the Hawaiian Village and night show, where he learned to do the knife dance from Pisona Tevaga and others. Later, he attended BYU in Provo where he traveled the world with the BYU Young Ambassadors and learned the hoop dance.
• Haunga “Junior” Feinga played guitar as his wife, Moana Wolfgramm Feinga [pictured at right] — of The Jets — sang a beautiful song that reflected the love they share on their 14th wedding anniversary.
• PCC theater alumni Etivise “Vise” Epenisa sang while her brother, Tony Uesi played guitar.
• Paul Muti — Dallin Muti’s father, an original member of the pre-PCC Polynesian Panorama group and an original PCC employee — shared his beautiful baritone on Can’t Help Falling in Love with You, demonstrating where Dallin’s talent comes from, while grandson and namesake Paul Muti backed him up on stage. Paul made a bit of a media splash back in Panorama days when jumped one way off a little stage at the International Market Place in Waikiki back in the day, and his Maori piupiu went the other way. “Fortunately, I was wearing palangi underpants,” he told the audience.
• The Samoan Mamaz trio — Tua‘oitau Alaiasa Matagī, Vatau Galea‘i Neria and Luse Tapusoa Magalei Tua‘oitau Alaiasa Matagī [ pictured at right, left-right] — rocked the house with their smooth harmony. Each of their respective families have been associated with the Polynesian Cultural Center for many years.
Vatau, a former educational administrator in American Samoa, told a funny story how when traditional corporal punishment was phased out of the local schools, she would sometimes make ulavale students slap themselves to help with their discipline.
• Iwalani Nawahine, who worked in the PCC night show from 1979-80, performed a hula to the recording of Anoai by Ka Ehu Kai Hawaiian Band.
• Spencer Tracy and his cousin, Judge Bode Uale — PCC Laie Tram Tour alumni, plus Bode also worked in Sales and Reservations — played a number, and then, surprise, were joined on stage by Hawaiian “cowboy” alum Don Sibbett, who sang his own composition, a very funny paniola song. Both Spencer and Bode have ties to the Samoan families who helped build the PCC.
• The “shack pack,” a group of PCC alumni from the 1994-98 era who took the name based on where they used to live together in Laie, shared several very lively dance routines. Tulou lava, we didn’t catch anybody’s name except David Galea’i, but they were all very talented.
• Paul Needham, a 60s alum, played guitar and sang E Kuhi — Hawaiian words to the John Lennon song, Imagine — while his granddaughter did a hula.
• Next, all we can say is, WOW! PCC alumni put on a “fashion show” [pictured above] with a fabulous array of specially created costumes as Samoa Village manager Steve Laulu sang the Center’s own arrangement of Love Boat.
• Then a bit of PCC’s Haunted Lagoon meets Disney’s Little Mermaid, created by PCC’s own “imagineer,” William Mahoni, came to the stage in a black-light number that was complete with bubbles, fog, roaming 10-foot-tall monsters and other crawling “things.”
• And who knew? Fijian comedian Atunaisa Laqeretabua [pictured at right, on the right] absolutely cracked up the house, especially with his routine when audience “volunteer” and PCC alum Kawika Eskaran [at the right, on the left] tried to help a very “stiff-joined” Atu move around.
• Former 2005 PCC Museum Stores sales person Janette Manzano Catahan showed she’s still got it when she sang Whitney’s Houston’s hit, One Moment in Time. Janette was also the BYUH “Idol” winner in 2005; she now lives in Honolulu, has three kids, and is working on a master’s degree at HPU.
• If you were here in those days from 1976-88, you can never forget John-O — John Kaleikau Olszowka — and Carolyn Kawelo Purcell performing the late Ralph Rodgers’ comic hula and song, I Wanna’ Learn to Talk Hawaiian [pictured at left in an archive photo from back in the day]. Others sometimes stepped in to do the number, but John-O and Aunty Carolyn did it best.
• Okay, now the real fun began, featuring the full-on power of PCC Creative Performance Manager David Tiave who first reprieved his “Calendar Girls” number from a few years back, then brought on his latest choreographed spectacular — a dance routine for PCC senior managers, department managers and supervisors that was loosely based on the hit song, Footloose. Off the hook!
• Finally, just when you thought it was safe to get back on the PCC lagoon, when everyone’s thinking it doesn’t get better than this, the action kicked up another notch:
The Officer Team [pictured below] brought their own techno/Matrix men-in-black touches to Tiave’s choreography. What can we say? You had to see it yourself to believe all the moves. Soon enough, Bollywood also struck as the other managers and supervisors joined in . . . and the momentum just kept building and building to a big, BIG FINALÉ.
What a fabulous talent show. We didn’t get out until after 11:00 p.m., but nobody was complaining about the time. It was that kind of a PCC 50th Anniversary event.
— Story and photos by PCC alum Mike Foley