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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 21, 2010

Cazimero, Nease offer musical mixed bag

BY Wayne Harada
Special to The Advertiser

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Broadway actor Byron Nease, who played Raoul in “The Phantom of the Opera” at Blaisdell Concert Hall in the 1990s, has also played the Phantom on Broadway.

Advertiser library photo

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7:30 tonight

Hawaii Theatre

Reserved seats: $200 loge, orchestra. General admission: $75 orchestra, $50 balcony


Fundraiser for Neil Abercrombie campaign

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Robert Cazimero

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"Barefoot Broadway," 7:30 tonight at the Hawaii Theatre, unites the Islands' Robert Cazimero and Broadway's (via California) Byron Nease with Grammy-winning jazz-pianist-composer John Proulx in a mixed bag of tuneful concoctions.

Some of the energy may be spontaneous, however.

"Actually, I'm not really sure what I'm wearing, feet or otherwise," said Cazimero, one-half of The Brothers Cazimero, who will sing to his own piano accompaniment and employ his hula buddies in dance. Cazimero may represent the casual barefoot notion of the Island persona, but he admits, "I had to give that up (shoelessness) from running into the ocean and getting all those wana (sea urchin) spikes going into my feet! LOL.

"I approach these performances always the same way; I'll think of songs, stories, ideas; have a dancer like Keola Makaiau and Sky Perkins Gora get on stage; and let the moment and the audience dictate what will be done," said Cazimero.

Nease, whose Broadway pedigree taps some of the Great White Way's classics, claims roots in Rodgers & Hammerstein's musicals even though folks in Hawaii know him best for "The Phantom of the Opera," in which he played and sang the Raoul role in two separate productions at Blaisdell Concert Hall in the 1990s. Further, he also has donned the Phantom's mask and played the disfigured and misunderstood resident of the Paris Opera House in the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic that's still playing on Broadway, and has written a book entitled "Behind the Mask ... No More," sharing his insights about the production and the role.

"Our show is about two guys who appreciate each other's styles, but are very different," said Nease of the breadth of the music. "We sing separately, but get together for the finale."

The concert is a political fundraiser, but is open to all.

Cazimero said he befriended Nease years ago, before becoming a "forever fan," calling the singer "Byron 'Tall and Blond' Nease." Though Nease's franchise has been the Broadway songbag, Cazimero credits familial influences for his personal adoration of the Broadway genre.

"As kids we played dance music in our mom's band; such music included standards from the 1940s. My oldest sister and cousin came home one day with a billion song sheets, many from movies and Broadway plays; I learned them, loved them, remember many to this day. Thus the (Broadway) connection."

Nease's five-year stint with "Phantom" prompted him to pen a memoir, sharing experiences through the mask of the disfigured titular character. "We all wear masks, put upon us, or we don masks," he said. "Raoul is pretty much the person I am, and is not far from home. But when you put on a mask, like the Phantom's, you take on all that it means; you can explore different things with the freedom of the mask or not take chances in other roles without a mask. What I love about Raoul ... is playing this romantic hero, making love to a beautiful woman on stage. But the Phantom, who is on stage only 17 minutes, explores my being, my dark sides. And the book has been cathartic, an extension of my baring my soul, hopes, fears. You know, the good angel-bad angel sides of my life."

That's why the Phantom still connects with audiences after all these years.

As an actor playing the Phantom, Nease said the mask prompts him to find creative ways to express himself, "with voice, with movement, with the acting; your body language can be just as powerful. Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote 'Phantom' with that in mind with so many expressive songs and bits of action that explain fully the man he was. So with words and music, the actor has the means to express the best and worst of this being."

This could also be the see-sawing times for Robert and brother Roland, The Brothers Cazimero, one of the community's leading resources for Island music. While they regularly work outside of Waikíkí, they don't presently perform at a Kalakaua Avenue showroom or club as they celebrate their 35th anniversary.

They frequently refer to themselves as dinosaurs in Hawaiian music, facing extinction. "I think it's a fear that's been transferred from our parents/kupuna to us," said Cazimero. "Once we became 'caretakers' of this aspect of culture, we inherited everything including the threat of extinction."

But it's not the end of the road. The Caz are in pre-production for a Phil Arnone-directed KGMB/KHNL TV special that will explore the duo's life this fall. And Cazimero's mindset includes more creativity. "I am entertaining the thought of teaching more dance, more music, more storytelling and more experimentation," he said. "I enjoy living in the moment of this amazing culture."