Producer of the only circus show on Maui, seventh- generation circus performer Enrique Valencia has recast and re-imagined Kaanapali's Cirque Polynesia to create a funny, daring production with a little bit of drama and a whole lot of thrills.
Under the stars at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, Cirque Polynesia has a fun, family-friendly, carnival atmosphere complete with popcorn, cotton candy and a funny, mischievous silent clown "Pepe" (Peterson Jardim), who creates a lot of laughs playing with the audience before and during the show. The acts range from beautiful displays of grace and artistry to jaw-dropping feats of balance, strength and sheer bravery, many accompanied by Ashley Kaulana Jardine's powerful vocals.
Valencia's brainchild has been years in the making. "I had this idea for a long time," he said. "I think since I was about 15, I've had it in the back of my mind to do a show like this."
Kevin Owens / Cirque Polynesia photo
Born into a family of circus performers, Valencia started performing at age 7 and never looked back. In Cirque Polynesia, he performs the terrifying climactic act, "The Wheel of Death," which features stunts performed on the spoke of a towering metal wheel.
"Aerial acts are what we love to do, my family," said Valencia. "But my father never let us kids get up on the flying trapeze. We'd have to sneak up, because he said it was too dangerous. He wanted it to die with him. But we always wanted to do it. He taught us acrobatics, he taught us hand balancing and stuff like that from a young age, but he never let us go up high. So finally when I learned how to weld and I learned how to make equipment, I made the wheel for myself without him knowing. And I just showed him one day and said, 'Look, dad, look what I can do!' And he was like, 'Well, it's too late now, you already did it.' He never told me - he wasn't the kind of person that would tell you, 'Hey, I'm proud of you, son' - but he always told everyone else how proud he was."
Many of the other Cirque Polynesia performers come from multiple-generation circus families as well, including Jardim, who recently moved to Maui from his native Brazil, and Peruvian performer Antoly "Toly" Huaman, an aerial silk artist who has also performed acrobatics, trapeze, "the Wheel of Death," and "pretty much everything" else there is to do in circus.
Other performers found the circus from other professions. Hand-balancing artist Morgon Oldham began as a dancer at age 12, switching to contortion and finally hand-balancing several years ago. She studied hand-balancing at The New England Center for Circus Arts and landed her dream job at Cirque Polynesia only a month after graduation.
"It worked out perfectly," she said.
Hand-to-hand and Chinese pole acrobat Rocco Lapaire served in the National Guard for eight years, including tours in Iraq and Kuwait.
"The military is so much more boring than the circus!" said Lapaire. "So I'm really glad to be doing this. This is a fun job."
He began working with his current hand-to-hand partner, Micah Ellenger, only six months ago. He explained, "Micah I met at the same training facility where I learned my skills. He's been working for a very long time as a base. In acrobatics, you have a base and flyer, the top guy and the guy that's holding them up. And they're more than a piece of furniture! There's a lot to being a base, so I had to be pretty picky. And Mika was the only guy that could do it. I mean, I'm not a skinny little aerialist girl, and you've got to be able to hold me up. He was the only one that could do it."
Cirque Polynesia also features amazing hula-hoop artist Olessia, who transforms into a human slinky with dozens of simultaneously whirling hoops; Simone Lazar, who glides through the air like a swan on aerial hoops; contortionist Odgerel Oyunbaatar; and high-speed drummer Eliezer Plasencia.
With awe-inspiring, superhuman performers from across the globe, Cirque Polynesia is bound to wow kids and adults alike.
* Cirque Polynesia shows at 7:30 p.m. Mondays though Saturdays at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa. Tickets start at $26.10 for children younger than 12 and begin at $58.50 for adults. For tickets or additional information, visit www.CirquePolynesia.com or call the box office at 667-4540.
Sesame Street Live, "1-2-3 Imagine! With Elmo and Friends": Kids of all ages can imagine singing and dancing with Elmo, Abby Cadabby, Big Bird and all your favorite Sesame Street Live friends! It's as easy as counting "1-2-3 Imagine!" This high-energy musical will transport audiences to faraway places as Ernie captains the high seas, Elmo dances to the rhythm of the African rain forest and Bert meets an octopus who has the blues. It's a story of adventure and fun that teaches children they can be anyone, do anything and go anywhere with the power of imagination.
* Sesame Street Live shows at 7 p.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m., 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 4:30 p.m. Sunday in Castle Theater at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. Tickets are $10, $20, $33, $48 and $73, plus applicable fees, available from the MACC box office, 242-7469 or mauiarts.org.
Last chance to catch "Chicago":?Don't miss the final weekend of Maui OnStage's sizzling-hot "Chicago," its best performance of the season. Maui's top-level razzle-dazzle production of the hit 1975 Broadway musical follows the exploits of Roxy Hart, a murderess with a knack for show biz, as she navigates death row, vies for the spotlight with fellow vaudevillian murderess Velma Kelly and discovers that fame and fortune may be only a gunshot away. Set in Prohibition-era Chicago, this razor-sharp satire features music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb, including unforgettable numbers like "All That Jazz," "Cell Block Tango," "Mr. Cellophane" and "Razzle Dazzle."
* "Chicago" takes the stage for the last weekend at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $15 to $40. Enjoy preshow dinner theater packages with Caf O'Lei in Wailuku or Bistro Casanova in Kahului. Call the Maui OnStage offices at 244-8680 for dinner theater information. For ticket reservations, visit mauionstage.com or call the Maui OnStage box office at 242-6969.
"Damn Yankees": Spend an evening under the stars with the whole family at Maui Academy of Performing Arts' outdoor production of the musical comedy "Damn Yankees" at Maui Tropical Plantation's Field of Dreams. A charming retelling of the Faust legend "Damn Yankees" follows the story of a middle-age baseball fanatic who makes a pact with the devil for a chance to lead his favorite baseball team, the Washington Senators, to victory against the New York Yankees. It's a fun, all-American, family-friendly show that has something for everyone. A nostalgic throwback to a simpler time, "Damn Yankees" is a great love story wrapped up in a terrific sports story with a variety of show-stopping dance numbers and memorable music. Audiences are sure to walk away from the show with smiles on their faces and a warm feeling in their hearts.
* "Damn Yankees" performs 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, Aug. 5 to 21, at Maui Tropical Plantation. Gates open at 6:15 p.m. Bring blankets or low beach chairs for lawn seating, or sit in the bleachers. Call 244-8760 in advance to arrange special needs seating. Tickets are $25 for adults, $22 for seniors (62 and older) and $18 for students (18 and under). For tickets, visit mauiacademy.org or call the MAPA Box Office at 244-8760.
Wanda Skyes at the MACC:?Called "one of the funniest stand-up comics" by her peers, Wanda Sykes is ranked among Entertainment Weekly's 25 Funniest People in America. From movies to TV shows to stand-up and comedy tours, the comedian has proven that funny is her business.
* Wanda Sykes is coming to the Maui Arts & Cultural Center on Sept. 9. Tickets are $46, $66 and $76, available from the MACC with information listed above.