By Wayne Harada
Waikiki has two new shows with a common challenge: How do you fill the seats?
One — “Benise’s Nights of Fire!” — has been open a month, in the late-night slot at the Magic of Polynesia Showroom at the Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel on Kalakaua Avenue.
The other — “Aloha Live!” — is a Cirque du Soleil-inspired circus with aerial acrobats in an outdoor setting, which premieres this Friday (April 12) at the The Deck Waikiki at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel, on Kapahula Avenue across the street from Honolulu Zoo.
Cornell "Tuffy" Nicholas, "Aloha Live" producer
Both attractions will join the showbill and compete to find bodies — largely visitors, but some locals — in what is a visitor-centric marketplace. Who among the locals regularly visit showrooms in Waikiki?
The key is building a sales base over the next few months, attracting tour groups the way the established shows have managed over time— shows like “Creation,” the Tihati Polynesian/Hawaiian spectacle, at the Princess Kaiulani Hotel, and John Hirokawa’s “Magic of Polynesia” at the Beachcomber. There are luau shows, too, like the high-end Monday-only special at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel’s prime beachfront location, and the high-rise luau production atop the parking garage of the Hilton Hawaiian Village.
With the established shows, much of the audience is comprised of folks who bought the option prior to coming to the Islands. Thus, when these visitors are here, they have fewer opportunities to see a Waikiki revue since they’ve probably previously signed up for such destinations as the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laia or Germaine’s luau at Kapolei or Paradise Cove’s luau at Ko Olina — both have beachfront ocean settings, part of their allure.
Benise, flamenco guitarist extraordinaire.
Benise (he uses the single monicker) is a long-haired virtuoso of the flamenco guitar, who exudes exotic images via his passion for the instrument. His show is part travelogue, with segments beginning with video preludes of his destination (Paris, Venice, Cuba, etc.), and purely cultural, with vocals (he doesn’t sing, but his cast of six women and two male singers-dancers, plus a small band, provide the voices) and plenty of supert dancing reminiscent of contestant prowess on “Dancing With the Stars,” on which Benise has made an appearance.
Thus, Benise is a specialty act with tremendous appeal — with a year’s contract at the Beachcomber, he’ll need time to build up a following to fill the spacious Las Vegas-style showroom.
“Aloha Live” is a rejuvenated edition of Cornell “Tuffy” Nicholas’ earlier Cirque Hawaii production at the now-defunct IMAX Theatre in Waikiki, an indoor space with steep stadium seats that brought the cirque artisty to eye level. In the new space at the Queen Kapiolani, the show will feel more intimate, with rigging set up poolside on the renovated Deck. Yes, there are views of Diamond Head a long stone’s throw away.
The “Aloha Live” will offer pre-show magic and comedy, plus Polynesian and Hawaiian entertainment. A cast of 12 has been tapped; the main attractions include hula hoopsters, aerial silk acrobats, Liz the Fire Girl, and a Polynesian ensemble led by Vili theWarrior.
With the impending influx of visitors projected over the next few years, the goal and challenge for both casts and showrooms is to make inroads into sales that translate into dollars and filled halls.
‘BENISE’S NIGHTS OF FIRE!'
9:30 p.m. daily
Magic of Polynesia Showroom, Holiday Inn Waikiki Beachomber Hotel
$55 general, $76 VIP, $97 VIP Producer Circle seating; discounts for kamaaina and military
The Deck Waikiki at the Queen Kapiolani Hotel
Pre-show seating from 5 p.m., dinner buffet from 6 p.m., show at 6:45 p.m. three times a week (call for specifics)
Pre-show entertainment includes tableside magic, balloon artist, music and dancing
Show features aerial artistry (hoops, aerial fabric) and Polynesian and Hawaiian songs and dances; Vili the Warrior will lead the haka dance
Deluxe package: $89 adults, $69 children 3 to 11, includes steak dinner buffet, two drink tickets, premier seating, souvenir photo
Standard package: $69 adults, $49 children, includes one drink ticket, general seating
Couple package: $199 adults 21 an