Feelin’ Blue for Old Hawaii

There’s a moment when the grand display of Tahitian dancers, hula girls, surfers and a canoe are shimmying, gliding and otherwise parading across the stage at Legends in Waikiki, that you’re going “Cool, I’m in Las Vegas. Wait, I’m in Hawaii. Hold on, I’m watching a Vegas show that makes me feel like I’m in Hawaii, but lucky me, I really am in Hawaii!”

With a show called “Rock-A-Hula” that features tribute artists (impersonations of legendary entertainers), I expected some corniness. Comes with the territory, right? But…WOW. By the grand finale, everyone in the room had morphed into feverishly screaming fans – of Elvis, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson, of the whole delirious experience.

Johnny Fortuno

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Johnny Fortuno as Elvis arrives by canoe. Photo courtesy of Legends in Concert Waikiki

The opening number featuring Wahiawa’s Johnny Fortuno as “young Elvis” is a show unto itself with an eruption of Hawaiiana bursting onto the stage. The action is supplemented by images of Elvis and Hawaii on giant screens. The background curtain is imbedded with thousands of LED twinkling lights that set the mood with changing colors and patterns. The stage’s Emmy Award-winning light rigging alone cost $1.7 million.

There’s such a constant frenzy of action playing out that some of the performers have up to 16 costume changes, and it’s noteworthy that all of the dancers and band members (minus one) are from Hawaii. In this tribute to Hawaii, the artists being represented were chosen because of their strong ties to the state. After watching the show, I went home and watched Elvis’ Blue Hawaii for the first time and appreciated Legends all the more. It invokes Elvis and a sense of old Hawaii. BTW, if you haven’t seen Blue Hawaii, there are glimpses of Kalakaua Avenue in 1961, a pristine Hanauma Bay, views of an almost unrecognizably undeveloped Waikiki coastline viewed from Tantalus, and some of Elvis’ top hits including Rock-A-Hula Baby, the show’s inspiration. Elvis also hops over to Kauai to the beautiful and inviting Coco Palms Resort in its heyday.

As far as some of the other artists and their connection to Hawaii, Elton John is a regular at the Blaisdell, and some may not know that Michael’s last U.S. concert was in Honolulu in 1997. When the lights went down at Legends and a spotlight revealed the silhouette of the faux MJ, a wave of chickenskin passed over the room. It’s unreal how spot-on the performers act/look/sing. No wonder when the older Elvis made his rounds through the audience with a final, charming croon, folks turned hysterical, screaming and groping, refusing to let go.

“The audiences have been great,” says Fortuno, Elvis-the-younger, winner of the Ultimate Elvis contest in Las Vegas last year. “It’s great to see the locals making it out to the shows – they’re always so full of aloha and energetic!”

the TICKET stub

When: Tuesday-Sunday at 8:15 p.m. (reception times vary by package)

Where: Royal Hawaiian Theater (Royal Hawaiian Center, 4th floor)

Cost: $30-$180 (includes packages with cocktail and dining options; ask for kamaaina rates)

More Info: 629-7469

Picture This

If you’re titillated by f-stops and manual focus, and you dream of using a lens to capture all that thrills you about Hawaii, visit the Canon Photo Gallery (210 Ward Ave., Suite 200, free admission) and dream on…

Canon had the enviable, and indeed challenging, job of choosing the most eye-catching and unique images of our vibrant Islands from among 1,000 submissions to its 16th annual Amateur Photo Contest, “Snapshots of Hawaii.” The 22 honorable mentions and three winners are on display at the Ward Avenue gallery through April 27 (Mon.-Fri., 9 a.m.-5 p.m.).

Each photograph either stirs up intimate memories of iconic Island landmarks or invites you into a world you yearn to experience. A fiery caldron glows under the star-lit midnight sky in the first-place image of a volcanic crater. It’s summer time at Waimea in the second-place offering of jumpers leaping and backflipping off of the Bay’s mammoth rock. Third place captures a hiker on top of the world – feels that way at the peak of Koko Crater – leaping from one rail rung to the next. The honorable mentions capture the essence of Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival at Magic Island, the Seven Sacred Pools in Hana. There’s a dizzying roller coaster view of Stairway to Heaven, high-rising spray off the surf fronting a line of Waikiki condos, lightning spidering across stormy Pali skies, the swirling excitement of Punahou Carnival, an epic day at Aloha Stadium – in these renderings even commonplace sights become fantastical. Looking at these pictures is a lot like falling in love, where the ordinary turns extraordinary, at once dreamy and yet vividly real.