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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, March 3, 2000

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Nobuyoshi Koba in full geisha costume

Freshman folly

Nobuyoshi Koba finally gets
to strut his stuff as a geisha
in follies debut

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


NOBUYOSHI Koba survived the American A-bomb attack on Nagasaki in 1945, but it is he who wants to make amends for Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor that drew Americans into World War II. He says this is one of the reasons he's performing in "Mardi Gras Follies 2000" at Pearl Harbor.

"It is hard to explain, but I wanted to contribute to the show to help them raise money," Koba explains through translator Mariko Lyons.

Koba is making his debut in the Follies, dancing as a geisha with Lyons and Sing Sing Bliss as his attendants.


Bullet What: "Mardi Gras Follies 2000," presented by the Pearl Harbor Performing Arts Association
Bullet When: 7:45 p.m. today and tomorrow, and 2 p.m. Sunday, repeating March 10-11, 17-19, 24-25, 31 and April 1
Bullet Where: The Banyans, Pearl Harbor
Bullet Cost: $40 and $35, with buffet and free parking
Bullet Call: 473-1703

Their number, "Sakura," is a highlight in the show and for good reason. Koba attained fame in Japan as a hairstylist and beautician, but traditional Japanese dance is his passion.

Koba began studying traditional Japanese dance at the age of six and dreamed of becoming a professional dancer. His dream survived the Pacific War and the hardships of the American occupation, but as he approached adulthood he decided a career as a beautician made more sense financially.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Nobuyoshi Koba gets psyched and suited to play a geisha,
his debut performance in the "Mardi Gras
Follies 2000" at Pearl Harbor.

Koba came to Hawaii several years ago expecting to retire. Instead, he created work for himself as president of Diamond Head Bridal in the Hyatt Regency Waikiki. But he still has time to pursue his twin passions, finding that the performing and beauty arts share an interest in makeup, hair and transformation.

It takes Koba more than an hour to transform himself into a geisha. His kimono, and those worn by Lyons and Bliss, come from his collection of costumes, accessories and elaborate wigs. Koba's preparations for "Sakura" included travel to Japan to pick up additional materials.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Dancer Joni Albao performs a graceful hula.

Koba carries on an long tradition of men performing male and female roles in Japanese theater. Koba also dances conventional male roles such as samurai, nobles and "ordinary men."

He says he chose to dance as a geisha in the follies because of the renewed interest in geishas in the media -- thanks to Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha," and fashion designers Jean-Paul Gaultier and Dolce & Gabbana -- and the greater challenge involved in portraying a woman.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
These brightly costumed salon dancers are among the
many performers participating in the "Mardi Gras
Follies 2000" show.

"In Paris and London and New York designers are taking a sense of the essence of geisha and geisha style in fashion, but despite the interest it is very rare to see a real geisha.

For a man to be convincing (dancing) as a woman he must emphasize beauty and grace to the (highest) ideal. This is very challenging but I want to show the traditional beauty of the geisha and also the beauty of the traditional kimono."

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Colorful costumes are part of the pageantry
of The Mardi Gras 2000 show.

Annual Officers’ Wives
Club fund-raiser entertains
with a spectrum of talent


Bullet Mardi Gras Follies 2000, Jack Cione production

By John Berger
Special to the Star-Bulletin


JACK Cione opens "Mardi Gras Follies 2000" with Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation," making it clear that he is taking the show in a more contemporary direction.

The annual fund-raiser began in 1955 as a project by the Officers' Wives Club and still has an amateur show ambience in places, but professional entertainers and others with pro-caliber talent are Cione's brightest stars this year:

Bullet Nobuyoshi Koba portrays an elaborately costumed dancing geisha with exquisite grace and skill in "Sakura."

Bullet Mariko Lyons and Felix Chavez enact a seductive battle of the sexes in an erotically charged Tango Argentino "El Choclo."

Bullet Beijing-trained Sing Sing Bliss displays the beauty of traditional Chinese dance in "China 2000."

Bullet International recording artists Mila Yandell and Rhonda star in separate numbers. Yandell introduces songs from her current album. Rhonda displays her power and range with "Don't Rain On My Parade."

Bullet Bill Doherty contributes ever-bigger and more extravagant costumes. The floats and "Parade of Birds" in "Polynesia 2000" are a career best for him.

Other performers also stand out. Terry Pershing's snappy and seductive rendition of "Cabaret" hits all the right emotions, Le Tap Hot has two fine numbers, and irrepressible Arsenio Tejada co-stars with Cindy Serkies in a comic sketch involving amorous mannequins.

There are low moments as well. Several segments are far too long. Others suffer from bad lip-synching. It's nice of Cione to give every one a moment of fame but both script and pacing need tightening.

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