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A friendly tradition


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POSTED: Friday, November 27, 2009

It's the smiles that mean the most to Jim Nabors these days. Smiles from people who recognize him, recall some special moment—maybe a “;Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”; episode, maybe a comic sketch with Carol Burnett—and smile with their memories.

“;That means more to me than anything,”; Nabors said during lunch with his sister, Ruth, and several friends on Saturday. Several people at nearby tables recognized him; one group, all too young to have seen “;Gomer Pyle”; during its original run in the '60s, asked whether he would join them for a photo afterward. He graciously complied.

Hawaii residents, especially those who remember Nabors' annual Christmas show, “;A Merry Christmas with Friends & Nabors,”; have more reason than usual to smile when they see him these days.

               

     

 

'A MERRY CHRISTMAS WITH FRIENDS & NABORS'

        » Where: Hawaii Theatre, 1130 Bethel St.
       

» When: 7:30 p.m. today and tomorrow; also 2 p.m. Sunday

       

» Cost: $30-$75 (discounts available for HTC members, keiki, students and military with valid ID and groups of 10 or more)

       

» Info: 528-0506 or www.hawaiitheatre.com

       

 

       

Nabors announced several years ago that with the death of producer Tom Hansen, the time had come to retire the always popular production. But he's been persuaded to bring it back for a hana hou run this weekend at the Hawaii Theatre, thanks to the efforts of Burton White, artistic director and general manager of the theater.

“;Tom Hansen is the one who put the show together for me each year,”; said Nabors. “;Tom was my choreographer all the years I played Las Vegas, (and) he did such great shows.

“;When Tom died I didn't really want to produce it ... so Burton White is producing it this year. It took all the pressure off me. He's doing a great job.”;

Nabors will be joined by Jimmy Borges, Guy Merola, Karen Keawehawai'i, puppeteer Phillip Huber, perennially popular Emma Veary and maybe 100 or so other performers. Matt Catingub will direct the Hawaii Theatre Orchestra, and the cast also includes the Hawaii Theatre Ensemble Singers, kumu hula Snowbird Bento's Ka Pa Hula ka Lei Lehua, the Diamond Head Theatre Shooting Stars and the La Pietra Select Choir.

“;It's all new kids, naturally, and we have new singers, and all the singers are fabulous in their own right, so I'm just coming in and doing my thing and singing my songs and rapping with the audience,”; Nabors said.

“;Phillip Huber has two new numbers, and they're just fabulous. I was watching little kids (in the cast) who haven't seen the show before, and they were just mesmerized by the puppets,”; he added, also mentioning that Huber's cute marionette dog, a favorite character in past years, will appear in the curtain call.

The biggest highlights of the show throughout its original 10-year run were the stories Nabors would tell—true stories, not figments of a comedian's imagination—about his experiences and people he'd met over the years. Some have become such classics that a show would hardly seem complete without them. However, life continues to provide him with new stories to share. (He mentioned a few during lunch that might be part of the show this weekend.)

“;I don't tell jokes,”; he said. “;I tell true incidents that have happened in my life, so I really don't know what is going to come out this year. Everybody always wants me to tell the one about the lady in the john, which is a true story, but I've told it at least 2,000 times—but every time it always works. It's kind of like singing a standard.

“;I never realized when I told that story for the first time on 'Johnny Carson' that I would end up doing it for the rest of my life, but people always ask for it.”;

Nabors said that nostalgia is also an important part of the show.

“;With Christmas shows it's very difficult to strike a happy medium between new productions and (old) things because people want to hear 'Silent Night,' they want to hear 'White Christmas' ... it's nostalgia time. We try to create that.”;

As for the return of “;Friends & Nabors,”; he's happy to be back.

“;I've really missed doing it,”; Nabors said. “;I didn't realize I would, (and) I'm happy to be back doing it.”;