Tuffy Nicholas

Photo from Kimberlee Emig

When Tuffy Nicholas left Maui about a year and a half ago, he still had his love for circus flowing through his veins.

He opened a Cirque Polynesia show in Santa Cruz at Beach Boardwalk for the summer, and at the same time opened three shows in Atlantic City (Great American Family Circus, Cirque Polynesia and an adult circus for casinos).

“I grew up in the circus,” says Nicholas, who was featured on our cover Oct. 13, 2010. “My mom was a bear trainer; she trained polar bears. My dad was the ringmaster of Ringling Bros. Circus.”

And now Nicholas has opened “Aloha Live” at Queen Kapiolani Hotel, so locals and tourists can enjoy the magic of Cirque with a Polynesian twist. In this performance, Cirque meets Polynesia in Waikiki with one part luau, one part circus and two parts fun!

Nicholas was able to secure a three-year contract with the hotel, and the show will run six nights a week.

“It’s more Polynesian than any other show I’ve ever done, and I’m so lucky to have brought in a great hula halau and a great Polynesian choreographer, Tahiti Mana,” Nicholas explains.

The whole experience is nearly three hours long, and during seating there’s pre-show entertainment, cocktails, hula dancing, Tahitian dancing, ukulele performances and tableside magic.

There also will be a balloon artist for keiki, and Vili the Warrior will perform comedy and bring guests on stage.

Nicholas is able to bring different elements of entertainment to the show. “I grew up on tour,” he says. “I did almost every act. A long time ago, I started my own circus, the Moscow State Circus.

“That’s how I wound up in Hawaii the first time. I brought the Moscow circus to the Blaisdell about 10 years ago.”

One would think Nicholas has his hands full with “Aloha Live” (which he does), but he also plans to bring the big top to Hawaii this fall.

“We’re also planning the Modern American Circus … that is going to be touring for 10 weeks in Hawaii,” he says. “And it’s going to be a big show. It’s going to be the first time that I know of that a big modern American circus under the big top has been to Hawaii.”

And those who attend are in for a treat. Nicholas will be the ringmaster. “There’s a phrase in all circuses,” Nicholas begins. “They start the circus with ‘ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, welcome to … the greatest show on earth.’

“My dad coined that phrase, ‘children of all ages.'”

And Nicholas continues to follow in his family’s footsteps by bringing a little circus entertainment wherever he goes.