Thursday, November 4, 2004


The neon lights of the Hawaii Theatre have been restored, ending a $10 million project to return the exterior of the performance center to its long-ago glory. The effect is like having a little bit of Las Vegas in the heart of town.

Lighting up the night

The Hawaii Theatre celebrates
completion of its renovations
by lighting the marquee

The marquee at the historic Hawaii Theatre at 1130 Bethel St. will be lit up entirely for the first time at a ceremony beginning at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow as part of the free monthly "First Friday" art gallery walk in Chinatown.

"Light Up the Hawaii" will include the official turning on of the full neon marquee at 8 p.m.

The Hawaii Theatre, built in 1922, reopened in 1996 after a $22 million interior restoration. Tomorrow's ceremony marks the official conclusion of the $10 million-plus campaign to restore the exterior façade and install the marquee and vertical "Hawaii" sign.

The large marquee was a bone of contention during the theater's renovation. The original marquee was vertical and rather small, but the large neon sign added before World War II was such an identifying feature of the location that theater board members felt it should be restored as well.

Malcolm Holzman of New York's Holzman Moss Architects was the original architect for the restoration and will be among the mainland guests flying in for the celebration. Young Electric, based in Las Vegas, fabricated the new marquee, and will be represented by Tom Young and his wife.

Nina Kealiiwahamana, left, and Bill Kaiwa conduct a sound-check in the Hawaii Theatre when it reopened eight years ago. Kealiiwahamana will perform in the theater tomorrow.

Restoration has taken nearly a decade, but the theater site has helped revitalize downtown Honolulu's night life, and several boutiques and galleries have grown up around it with renovation of nearby buildings promising more to come.

Entertainment for the free outdoor lighting event will include music by the Royal Hawaiian Band, led by bandmaster Aaron Mahi; soloists Cathy Foy and Nina Kealiiwahamana; Tony Conjugacion chanting the Hawaii Theatre's oli inoa; Halau Hula O Kawaili'ula, led by kumu Chinky Mahoe; lion dancers from Kuo Min Tang Physical Culture Association and Lung Kong Physical Culture Club; and music by the Celtic Pipes and Drums. The Hilton Hawaiian Village Guard will conduct the installation of colors.

Refreshments will be available from the Hawaii Theatre's Commercial Data Systems Concession Stand facing Chinatown Gateway Park, as well as the sale of hot dogs from a cart staffed by galleries and businesses involved with the Downtown Honolulu Gallery Walk Map and First Friday project.

Call 528-0506 or log on to www.hawaiitheatre.com.

Among events planned at the theater are December and January performances of "Stomp" and "A Merry Christmas with Friends and Nabors" concert.

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