KAANAPALI - After a two-year run in Kaanapali, Cirque Polynesia is closing Jan. 21 because it was unable to renew its lease with the Hyatt Regency or find another, preferably outdoor, venue.
Doug Harris, the managing partner who brought cirque to Maui after Cirque Hawaii in Waikiki also lost its lease in 2009, said he was pleased with the response on Maui and would be ready to resume if he could find the right location.
("Cirque" is merely French for "circus," but thanks to Cirque du Soleil, it has come to be the label for a particular modern sort of circus. No animals, but a range of acrobats, aerialists and contortionists, performing in moody lighting with a custom score rather than a brass band.)
On Wednesday, Harris was informing some of his contract performers, just back from Asia, of the decision. The closure also will mean layoffs for about nine nonperforming employees.
During the two years Cirque Polynesia performed in Kaanapali - at first in the Regency's Monarch ballroom, later at a 350-seat outdoor arena - the venture also successfully developed its Asian business, Harris said. That remains a land of opportunity for the combination of cirque and Polynesian themes.
At times, the business has had up to four troupes, one on Maui and others working in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. They did special performances, shopping centers and other shows.
"We were working with the largest concert promoters in Asia," Harris said.
Harris was pleased with both the concentration of potential customers and the clear skies in West Maui. In nearly two years, Cirque Polynesia had to scrub only 11 performances because of weather.
Indoor locations are problematic because the performers need a ceiling 40 or 50 feet high for their aerial routines, and such spaces are scarce.
But "we will keep looking," Harris said.
Hyatt General Manager Michael Jokovich said it had been "a great partnership" that was originally only intended to be temporary. "We extended it and extended it," he said.
When the hotel first made its ballroom available, he said, it was during the deep economic slump when nobody was renting ballrooms.
Later, the show moved outside to a part of the parking lot that is used for tennis. Earlier, the tennis courts, which had been near the ocean in the early days of Kaanapali, were moved mauka to make way for the Napili Towers.
Tennis is an important amenity that the resort wants to offer to its guests, Jokovich said. The parking lot is being reworked, which will make it unavailable for the cirque.
* Harry Eagar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.