There’s something about a circus all the mystique and marvels
prompting even the most skeptical observer to ooh and aah like a
child. Cirque Hawaii is no exception. What sets this Waikiki
theatrical thriller apart, however, is its unorthodox style.
Designed as an alternative rather than a competitor to Hawaii’s
Polynesian pulse, Cirque Hawaii is an entity unto itself.
“We designed it to complement Hawaii’s cultural diversity,”
explained Barry Schmoyer, director of operations and marketing.
As I cozied into my seat at the former IMAX Theatre, Schmoyer’s
words rang true. This was no Hawaiian-style, three-ring affair not
by a long shot.
Small in scale compared to other Cirque venues, the theater has
optimized its performance area through creative design. With 478
seats in an intimate stadium-style set up, the space is fitted with
70-foot-high aerial apparatus and opposing sets of three
performance tiers. Even the air above the audience became a staging
zone. Everything was up close and personal.
The show’s start was subtle, as a feisty French juggler
encouraged us to join his act. Playing catch, we were definitely
short on arm and aim. With ample applause and laughter, we warmed
up for what waited in the wings.
From the first act, it was clear that the Hawaii half of
Cirque’s moniker merely referred to its location. Bringing new
flavor to a Polynesian spectrum, Cirque Hawaii proved to be more a
collision of dreams and reality.
At the center of the storyline was Josephine, a gentle giant
leading her traveling troupe of acrobats and contortionists through
nine wow-evoking acts. Hawaiiana was definitely understated.
With the greatest of ease, the 30-plus cast of global performers
mesmerized with fluid motion, stunning athleticism and
Energized bungee jumpers sprang so high I thought they would rip
the rafters. Another trio twined through spinning rings swirling so
swiftly it made me dizzy just watching.
Leaping into the action, tumblers catapulted sky high off
teeterboards and Russian bars. Capping wild aerial stunts with
human pyramids and narrow beams as landing strips, these agile
athletes nailed countless twists, turns and somersaults on the
A child next to me squealed as his mother gasped. That’s the
clincher with this show: It elicited a variety of reactions
amusement, escape, imagination and awe.
The most mind-boggling act involved a contortionist, whose spine
was surely rubber, balancing on a single hand or perhaps a leg hard
to tell with all the freakish, pretzel-like posturing.
For me, however, the trapeze artists stole the show. With
nerve-racking precision based on pure athleticism and trust, this
smooth-swinging duo soared and stunted to the point my palms were
sweating. Better mine than theirs, I thought.
Others delighted as turbocharged rope skippers took the
schoolyard game to hyper heights. With two acrobats aboard his
back, one pumped-up player jumped push-up style as upbeat Calypso
music set the pace. No doubt, this was a major crowd pleaser.
Perhaps most mystifying, the spotlight act shined with the
show’s silk-supported star gliding above the audience cradled in
cloth. In effortless form, he twirled as a companion grasped his
neck. Harmonic and synchronized, the dual motion generated the most
applause due to sheer agility, beauty and strength.
What stood out to me was how comedic and sideshow antics masked
scene changes. There was no break in the action. The fumbling
Frenchman weaved between scenes, as did dancers, transitionists and
Alan Goldberg, Cirque Hawaii’s artistic director, described that
continuity as the critical difference.
“Our imbedded storyline carries a train of thought through the
show instead of disconnecting from one act to another, as in a
He linked Josephine’s journey to a visitor experience.
“She’s a traveler who winds up in Hawaii,” he said. “So
Josephine’s story ties in with what the audience is actually doing.
It’s a positive, fun experience.”
Exiting the show, we had the opportunity to meet several
performers. Adults and kids clamored to question the magic.
“That people don’t really understand what they’ve seen is the
magic of Cirque Hawaii. That’s the dream,” Goldberg noted.
Like so many others, I left awed but amused.
Location: Cirque Hawaii Theatre (formerly IMAX
Theatre), 325 Seaside Ave., Waikiki
Performances: 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., nightly,
Show Prices: $55 adults, $42 children
Dinner packages: $99 adults, $74 children
Commission: Varies. Contact Kala Mia,