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Entertainment // Art & Stage
Rasa Fournier

Prepare To Be Wowed

I turn a jaded eye when I hear there’s a new show in Waikiki. Dancers, acrobats, aerial artists, contortionists ― we’ve seen it all. The shows come and go, dying with nary a whimper because they never made enough of a mark in the first place. But then CabaRAE (referencing “random acts of entertainment”) thundered into town, leaving audiences in spontaneous fits of screaming, so that I don’t know how anyone still has their voice by the end of the show.

Guests are greeted by Brobdingnagian host Manuela Horn, a seven-foot Austrian who is a show unto herself, cracking jokes, whips and engaging in side-splitting interactions with the audience, or should we say, her dwarfed minions. Co-host Peter Pitofsky ambles through the crowd, and you just never know what this rubber-man is going to do ― with his face, body or with your iPhone. Or you might catch him poking some good-natured fun at the unsuspecting folks next to you.

In a dramatic blitz of music, smoke and lights, we’re introduced to acts, each so riveting that by the second half of the show, the room simultaneously rose to our feet in standing ovations at the end of each number. The intimacy of the Hilton ballroom paired with entertainers who exude the “IT factor” and are top world-talent make for an evening of pure WOW. It wasn’t until intermission that I sucked in a deep breath and realized that in the roller coaster frenzy of excitement, I had forgotten to breathe.

Among the routines are a trapeze duo who are veterans of Cirque du Soleil and there’s a woman who lifts, bends and swirls her finely muscled body while dancing vertically along a pole. The acts are appropriate for all ages, with some tantalizing oomph for adults. There’s a hand-balancing acrobat, a sizzling partner dance (that exhibits a stunning combo of athletic grace, finesse and sensuality), a jaw-droppingly unforgettable roller-skating duo and a hula hoop artist who boasts three Guinness World records. I’ve seen folks doing suspended feats, but I’ve never seen anyone strap-dancing … until now. Ryan James’ sheer strength and ease of flight while swinging from a strap, with one arm, are downright simian (in the best sense of the term!)

Physical stunts, comic timing and audience interaction like you’ve never seen guarantee a hyperbolically outrageous evening that is equal parts terrifying, sexy and hilarious. The award-winning artists come from around the globe and additional acts are in the works, as is a move next month to Hilton’s showroom, currently undergoing a multimillion-dollar transformation.

the TICKET stub
CabaRAE

When: Preview shows are 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, through August
Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village, Tapa Ballroom
Cost: $30-$60
More Info: 354-0629, cabarae.com

ALSO SHOWING
Pookela Pride

I’m surprised by how many people aren’t aware that Hawaii has its own version of the Tonys. The Pookela Awards (coming up Aug. 11) are Hawaii State Theatre Council’s annual celebration of theatrical excellence, and make for a star-studded night of entertainment.

The award selection process has morphed over the years since it was founded in ’83, with none other than Jack Lord as emcee, notes Pookela historian Vanita Rae Smith. The first adjudicators were newspaper columnists Pierre Bowman, Vikki Viotti and Joseph Rozmiarek.

Once upon a time a winner was chosen from a list of top contenders. Today, three volunteer adjudicators have the daunting task of watching every play that 11 participating theaters put out over the course of the year, and then selecting up to two nominees in 23 different categories (including director, choreographer, costume, sound, set, light, hair and make-up, and lead, feature and ensemble actors in plays and musicals). The result is two (if all three vote for the same honorees) to six honorees (if their votes are all different) per category, with no final “winner.”

“This method gives more people acknowledgement for their work in the theater versus there’s a winner and you’re better than everyone else,” says HSTC president Linda Johnson, who is also founder of Mid-Pacific Institute School of the Arts, an acting teacher at the school and head of the school’s theater department. “The Pookelas are a celebration of community theater in Hawaii, because the artists don’t get paid, or get paid very little, and they’re giving up a lot of their time to direct, perform and be involved.”

In addition to hosting the Pookelas, HSTC, which is made up of community-theater representatives, meets four times a year to lend support to one another regarding any theater issues. Johnson is also the adjudicator liaison, arranging an info sheet on each play and collecting theater schedules, which often overlap, to help adjudicators map out their year.

The final result is a glamorous gathering of dedicated actors and theater supporters in a gala evening of ono food, sparkling glasses and laughter at the base of the Koolaus. Awards are handed out, with intermittent live musical solo and group numbers from the season’s shows.

“It’s a wonderful event where theater companies come together to celebrate the love and passion we share for theater,” says Pookela spokeswoman Terri Madden.

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