The circus is coming to town
A PERMANENT live theatrical show, Cirque Hawaii, is coming to the old IMAX Theatre in Waikiki starting in mid-December.
A six-member team of show-biz and theater-business veterans has renovated the movie theater into a venue befitting a live stage show, with dressing rooms, an aerial truss, big show sound and light, surround-sound and so on, said Producer Cornell "Tuffy" Nicholas.
The room now has a multilevel stage, 70-feet high and about 24-feet deep, "which is a very large part of the auditorium," Nicholas said.
"There are actually two stages. One is 35 feet above the large stage and there are a couple platforms on two towers on each side."
The aerial truss is to support the trapeze, silk and bungee acts, he said.
Team members Mathieu Laplante and Alan Goldberg have more than 20 years' combined experience working with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas and they are among the creators of Cirque Hawaii's shows.
The team is accustomed to staging this type of modern circus in much larger venues seating many more people.
The "O" showroom at the Bellagio in Las Vegas is home to Cirque du Soleil and seats 1,800 people who pay $99, $125 or $150 to see the show.
Cirque Hawaii's venue is much smaller, 500 seats, but "we love the intimacy of this theater," Nicholas said.
CIRQUE HAWAII tickets will cost $75 "for the best few seats," $65 and $55. There will be a 20 percent discount for children, kamaaina and military personnel, with proof of residence or service. "We're fans of our military," Nicholas said.
"Because its such a big show in a small venue, we're going to be doing two shows nightly, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. and eventually matinees for kamaaina and you know, school kids ... and possibly matinees similar to the way they do in New York with the Broadway shows," he said. The theater will run shows six nights a week and will be dark Wednesdays.
Cirque Hawaii's 30 performers from around the world arrived last week and had their initial Hawaii rehearsal on Wednesday.
"We do a salute to Hawaii in one of our production numbers," choreographed by local hula dancers, Nicholas said.
"The girls are all excited, practicing the new dance steps," in offices they all wish were bigger, he chuckled.
Cirque Hawaii will constantly evolve as does any live show, Nicholas said. "We will change some performances every year, but the show will evolve from the opening day to the final performance of the year. The next year, we will reopen with new artists."
In addition to performers, Cirque Hawaii has hired about 20 support staff from ticket sellers and ticket takers to ushers, riggers, spotlight operators, and sound and light technicians, "all the people it takes to run a venue of this size," he said.
In addition to Cirque Hawaii, the team owns a couple traveling shows, such as the Moscow Circus, that has performed at Blaisdell, Nicholas said.
The company had scoured Hawaii searching for the right location for about two years. The team looked at the showroom at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, which has been the home of theatrical productions such as "Aloha" and "Legends."
"We looked at that initially," Nicholas said. "It was a nice location, but it was not tall enough for our aerial requirements."
Cirque's advertising campaign kicks off Dec. 1 but it is not just aimed at publications likely to be seen by high-spending visitors.
"Locals are a big part of our target (audience)," Nicholas said.
Cirque Hawaii is not connected with Cirque du Soleil, but should a ticket buyer get a mental picture of the type of show they might see and have that expectation either met or exceeded, that would be gravy, right?
Laughing, Nicholas said "I know where you're going with this."
"Cirque just means 'circus' in French."
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Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org