So how do you get a big-name act, one that typically makes hundreds of thousands of dollars a night, to come play in a venue that only seats 325 people?
Ask Brian Evans.
The part-time Wailea resident and popular crooner has performed countless opening acts for big names in show business, and currently opens for Joan Rivers and Jay Leno in Las Vegas. Now, he says, he's "pulling a favor" by inviting the stars to be part of his new Maui Celebrity Series at the Hard Rock Caf Maui in Lahaina. The monthly event kicks off on Friday, Dec. 18, with Evans' "old friend" William Shatner (best known for his longtime role as Captain Kirk on "Star Trek") as the featured celebrity.
Maui Celebrity Series photo
Crooner Brian Evans, a part-time Wailea resident, is launching his Maui Celebrity Series at the Hard Rock Café Maui, featuring stars like Roseanne Barr.
Evans says it was a "time-consuming, pride-swallowing siege" to try to get the lineup in place.
"Fortunately, we're Maui and not Kansas," he says. And now that the first celebrities are on board (Roseanne Barr in January, Hal Sparks in February), Evans says he's getting interest from all kinds of stars, from Bob Saget to Robin Williams, who want to make the trip. There's even talk of a reality TV show based on the series.
"We're making it a vacation for the celebrity," Evans says. "We've been fortunate enough to get sponsorships from Hawaiian Airlines, Enterprise, Royal Lahaina Resort and others; so that makes zero expense in bringing them here."
So why go to all the trouble of luring the stars?
"It really gives Maui exposure," Evans says. "With the economy the way it's been, you can see with the naked eye how quiet things have gotten in Lahaina and elsewhere The island needs something that brings attention to it from the Mainland on a consistent basis, something a little different, a little special."
What makes the series unique, Evans says, is that these stars typically play arena settings - like Roseanne, who recently played the 6,000-seat Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City. Not only will people get to see their idols in a more intimate venue, they'll also get to meet them after the show.
For Evans, it's a great way to give back to the island that he loves. The former actor on "Full House" and "Beverly Hills 90210" has been coming to Maui for years to escape the insanity of show business. Aside from opening acts in Vegas, his vocal talents are featured on TV programs like "So You Think You Can Dance," "Big Shots" and "CSI."
Lately, he's been busy recording his major label debut, but you still might catch him doing some late-night crooning at Sansei in Kihei - he's a self-professed karaoke nut. In fact, he's thinking of launching a Karaoke Night at the Hard Rock with Erik Estrada of "CHiPs" fame in the near future but for now, Evans and his co-producers, Andrew Biltz and Arman Zajic, are excited to kick off the Maui Celebrity Series next weekend.
The event will feature Evans in concert beginning at 10 p.m., followed by Shatner signing copies of his new autobiography "Up Till Now." Audience members must be 21 or older, and a late-night menu is available. Tickets range from $40 to $75 (a portion benefits World Hunger Year); available at the Hard Rock Caf Rock Shop or www.groovetickets.com.
Speaking of celebrities, Maui OnStage celebrates its connection to one of the most beloved stars of the older generation: Frank Sinatra. Turns out Sinatra was no stranger to the Iao Theater, performing USO shows there during World War II, and making appearances for the premiere of "From Here to Eternity" in 1953 and the filming of "The Devil at 4 O'Clock" in 1961. For the final celebration of the Historic Iao Theater's 80th anniversary, Genie Calagna and Michael Pulliam host a Frank Sinatra 94th Birthday Bash tonight from 7 to 9. Musical guests include Fulton Tashombe, Benoit JazzWorks, Melissa M. from Mojomana, Cheryl Rae, Paul Janes-Brown, Steven Dascoulias, Tom Althouse, Lynnea Barry, Casey Murphy, Diedre Tegarden and Cassandra Wormser. The event is free (21 and over only); donations to MOS are encouraged.For more information, call 242-6969 or visit www.mauionstage.com.
The bright and shiny musical "Annie" wraps up at the Historic Iao Theater. The Broadway show is a co-production of Maui OnStage and Maui Academy of Performing Arts, and features a large cast of Maui talent, led by guest director Brian Swasey. Musical director Robert E. Wills also stars as Oliver Warbucks, also known as "Daddy" Warbucks to a certain optimistic orphan. Annie (Tyler Charbonneau) heads up a sturdy crew of orphans who sing and dance and never let the boozy and hilarious Miss Hannigan (Deidre Tegarden) get them down. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for students and seniors 65 and older, $15 for all seats on Sunday. Student tickets for the Saturday matinee are $5 with a donation of two canned food items for Maui Food Bank; $15 for other seats. Tickets are available at If the Shoe Fits in Wailuku, at Lava Java in Kihei, online at www.mauionstage.com, or at 242-6969.
Even if you missed the ProArts production of "Cabaret" last month, you can still catch Maui's own fun and flirty Kit Kat Club at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Caf Marc Aurel. The dancers will perform their second annual Christmas Cabaret as part of a food drive for Maui Food Bank. The evening will feature "Christmas shenanigans" with comedy and cabaret acts, music and dancing with DJs Sid and Joey the Wrench and the BrownChicken BrownCow band, a "Bad Santa" photo booth, and performances by Rachel DeBoer, Tom Althouse, Lynnea Barry, Karli B., Jason Wulf and others. Admission is free with a canned food item. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/kitkatclub cabaret.
Maui Choral Arts brings back its "musical gift to the community" with the ninth annual Sing-It-Yourself Messiah at 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 20, in the Monarchy Ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. This year features the largest chamber ensemble yet, with 12 players from Maui, Molokai and Oahu, including players from the Maui Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. The three Maui soloists are Robert E. Wills, Leighanna Locke and Karyn Sarring. The first half features Part I of Handel's "Messiah," and the second half will be familiar Christmas carols. The Maui Concert Chorus and Maui Community College Chorus will also perform "A Musicological Journey Through the 12 Days of Christmas." This year for the first time, MCA will include a "Charitable Gift-Giving Fair" with tables for local nonprofits to raise community awareness.
* Advance tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for youth 18 and younger; tickets at the door are $15 for adults, $13 for seniors, $8 for youths. For tickets or more information, call 870-5560.