Life Really Is A Circus Sometimes

Cornell ‘Tuffy’ Nicholas | Photo by Nancy Bernal

For Cornell “Tuffy” Nicholas, there’s no business like show business. As a longtime entrepreneur, Nicholas has been producing shows for about 30 years with the philosophy to entertain people of all ages and backgrounds with quality production at an affordable price.

In 2005, Nicholas produced a show entitled “Cirque Hawaii” at the old Imax Waikiki Theater, before later opening “Cirque Polynesia” in Maui. After a three-year run, “Cirque Polynesia” closed and Nicholas pursued opportunities on the Mainland.

Now he’s back in the Islands, overseeing “Aloha Live Show” at the beautifully remodeled Queen Kapiolani Hotel.

“The concept of ‘Aloha Live’ is Cirque meets Polynesia. I wanted to tie two different aspects of entertainment and blend it together to make one fun show,” he says. “Our goal is to entertain local residents and visitors alike, capturing both the spirit and history of Polynesia with the joy and talent that I have experienced my entire life through the circus.”

Nicholas’ father, “Count Nicholas,” was the lead ringmaster extraordinaire of a traveling circus. His mother worked as a bear trainer. In fact, Nicholas was born on the Sarasota, Fla., stop of the Ringling Brothers Traveling Circus and spent much of his life on the road, making his first appearance as an honorary ringmaster on a parade float alongside his father at the age of 3. Throughout his career, Nicholas has produced and managed more than 5,000 shows in the U.S. and around the world.

“Like most businesses, there are always hurdles and obstacles to overcome,” he states. “We employ performers from all over the world, including incredible Chinese acrobats who do not speak English, yet it is still necessary to communicate with them and all the other artists to produce a quality performance.

“In producing a show, there are many aspects to consider, in addition to the performance itself. We must promote and market ourselves through the travel agents, have excellent customer service from reservations to wait staff, and make sure the food is the best quality. There are many different pieces to the puzzle, but when they are correctly put together, we get a phenomenal show that leaves the audience filled with joy. It’s challenging to build a business – be honest, hardworking and take risks.”

According to Nicholas, “Aloha Live Show” is the only show of its kind in Hawaii. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. seating for the surf-and-turf dinner show and 6:30 p.m. seating for the show only) on the third-floor pool deck of Queen Kapiolani Hotel, spectators can expect to marvel at the talents of mind-blowing Cirque aerialists, balancing acts, contortionists, jugglers, Chinese acrobats, Tahitian dancers, Samoan fire knife dancers, Vili the Warrior and story narration by Al Waterson. Hawaii’s first American Idol finalist, Jordan Segundo, also is performing in the show for a limited engagement.

“‘Aloha Live’ is continuously growing and becoming more popular as the word gets out about our unique show,” Nicholas says. “We are currently in the process of opening a new touring show called ‘Modern American Circus,’ starting mid-September, that will run for 10 weeks beginning on Oahu and traveling to the Neighbor Islands.

“The satisfaction knowing that you have created something that is not only successful but also brings happiness to people from all around the world is very rewarding,” he adds.

For more information on Nicholas and “Aloha Live Show,” and to make reservations, call 931-3328 or visit and Kamaaina rates are available with a valid ID, and guests are encouraged to take advantage of validated valet parking at the hotel.