'There is a rain that
appears only on
“ ‘Ulalena” photo
The cast of ‘Ulalena on stage
As the opening words danced across the darkened theater, I settled into my cushy seat and prepared to re-experience " 'Ulalena," four years after the first time I saw it. Expecting to enjoy the show, I ended up being blown away by it - and that's the best feeling you can hope for from live local theater.
As " 'Ulalena" approaches its 10-year anniversary, the show exhibits remarkable fortitude in a struggling economy. It's a well-packaged product, as evidenced by a full line of themed merchandise (CDs, T-shirts, posters, etc.) for sale in the lobby of Lahaina's intimate Maui Theatre. But behind the shiny wrapping is something of substance and significance: a lingering lesson in history and culture, a valuable reminder to slow down and appreciate our surroundings, a powerful homage to the Hawaiians and their gods, chants, myths and legends.
Simply from an entertainment standpoint, " 'Ulalena" is beautifully done. The journey begins with the Kumulipo, or Hawaiian creation chant, and carries the audience through an artistic interpretation of Hawaiian history all the way up to a joyful vision of the future. Along the way, we experience a sequence of gorgeous images crafted through a combination of live music; visual effects; dance, from hula kahiko to modern dance; and cirque, from aerial silks to stilt walking.
* " 'Ulalena" showtimes are 6:30 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Tickets are $39.50 to $59.50 for children (age 3 to 12); $59.50 to $79.50 for adults; available by calling 661-9913 or online at www.mauitheatre.com.
* "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 3 p.m. Sundays; through Aug. 2. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors, $15 for Sunday matinees; available at If the Shoe Fits in Wailuku and Lava Java in Kihei, online at www.mauionstage.com, or by calling 242-6969. Dinner theater packages are available at Caf O'Lei; call 244-8680 for reservations.
There's the ocean scene in which colorful "fish" skim over our heads, floating on long poles held by the performers. The mythical forest where half-hog Kamapua'a chases volcano goddess Pele through the shaggy trees. The waterfall where the silvery mo'o, or lizard spirit, spills down a silken cascade. The village where kapa makers and poi pounders beat a rhythm of daily work. The Makahiki celebration where the dancers display both fierce rivalry and laughing camaraderie.
Then there's the arrival of the European explorer and the coming of shadows to the land. The Hawaiian monarchy waltzing by as immigrants suffer in the gray-green sugarcane fields. The fiery wrath of Pele, sending yards and yards of sheer red fabric billowing over our heads. The soothing grace of Hina, goddess of the moon, spinning on her ethereal hoop against the darkened sky.
It's an emotional ride, but one that uplifts much more than it saddens. The onstage action is accompanied by an exquisite soundtrack, brought to life by a team of musicians and an amazing assortment of flutes, drums, cymbals, chimes, gongs, bells and other instruments. At times, the music was so entrancing I was torn between watching the dancers or the musicians.
If you sit near the aisle, you'll be close to the performers padding barefoot up and down the stairs. For the exultant finale, an entire canoe was carried down the aisle within an arm's length of my seat.
Maui residents who have seen the show before can expect a few slight changes from the original version - the most noticeable being the editing of the immigrants' tragic "Butoh" dance to increase audience enjoyment, according to General Manager Dennis Preussler. Other changes are due to the economy: a reduction in shows from five nights a week to four; and efforts to "green" operations: cutting electricity costs by more than 60 percent.
"Good things can come from troubled times," Preussler says, describing the changes as a means "to discover a better way of doing business."
The opening of Cirque Polynesia at the Hyatt, rather than pulling guests away from " 'Ulalena," has done the opposite, according to Preussler. "They have created a large buzz again in the marketplace for an evening event other than a luau,much like we did when we first opened," he says."Marketing that pulls focus away from luaus or snorkel trips and gets people thinking about evening entertainment is good for us."
" 'Ulalena" is currently planning a 10th anniversary celebration for later this year, with sizable discounts for kamaaina. It just might be the perfect time to rediscover this Maui favorite - and maybe even be blown away.
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A bordello might not be your typical setting for a musical, but it sure makes things interesting. Maui OnStage has turned on the red light, and the Historic Iao Theater is "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," complete with red carpet, sheer curtains and ladies in skimpy attire. Kristi Scott directs the 50-plus cast of the rollicking Broadway musical, and Steven Dascoulias leads the Chicken Pluckers Band. Based on the real-life legendary Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas, the play is drawn from a short story by Larry L. King originally published in Playboy magazine in 1974.
Once picketed and protested, the play later became a movie starring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds. Now MOS brings "Best Little Whorehouse" to life with gusto and glamour, featuring rousing dance numbers and songs both poignant and humorous. The show is not appropriate for children.
* Contact Sky Barnhart at firstname.lastname@example.org.