Review: ‘Legends of Kualoa’ shares history

Jul. 17, 2012 | 1 Comment
<em>Hula is an integral part of "The Legends of Kualoa." (Star-Advertiser photo by FL Morris)</em>

Hula is an integral part of "The Legends of Kualoa." (Star-Advertiser photo by FL Morris)


One of the many things visitors discover when they come to Hawaii is that commercial lu‘au shows devote much more time to the cultures of the South Pacific than Hawaii. Not that’s anything inherently wrong with that — Samoa, New Zealand and Tahiti have all made dramatic contributions to visitor industry entertainment — but the emphasis on Southern Polynesia in most commercial lu‘au shows puts Mamoli‘i Productions’ new show, “The Legends of Kualoa,” in a category all its own.

‘The Legends of Kualoa’

Presented by Momoli’i Productions and Kualoa Ranch

» Where: Kualoa Ranch, 49-560 Kamehameha Hwy
» When: 5:30 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays; activity tours start at 3:30 p.m.
» Cost: $49 general admission and $43 for children 13 and older (dinner and show); $89 and $55 (dinner plus choice of two Hawaiian experience tours); $139 and $79 (dinner plus choice of one Hawaiian experience tour and one 1-hour ATV or horseback tour); discounts available for Hawaii residents w/ID
» Info: 237-7321 or

“The Legends of Kualoa” is 100% Hawaiian.

The emcee announces at the beginning of the show that there’ll be no fire-knife dancing because fire-knife dancing comes from Samoa. There’ll be no Maori haka because haka comes from New Zealand. There’ll be no Tahitian dancing because, well, Tahitian dancing comes from Tahiti and “Legends” is about the traditional culture of Hawaii. The chants are Hawaiian, the dancing is Hawaiian, and when music accompanies the chanters it is played on traditional pre-Contact instruments.

In short, this show is about pre-Contact hula kahiko, and Hawaii as it was before Captain Cook “discovered” it. The male dances wear traditional malos as is appropriate when dancing hula kahiko. The women opt for modern post-missionary attire.

The all-Hawaiian content is not the only thing that distinguishes “Legends” from conventional tourist lu‘au shows. “Legends” also takes a fresh and welcome approach to audience participation. A standard part of many commercial lu‘au shows over the years has been bringing male members of the audience up on stage, creating a situation when the unwitting men are encouraged to attempt dancing like Tahitian women — and making them objects of ridicule. “Legends” replaces that type of nastiness with a real hula lesson. Volunteers are taught the first three moves in a hula about the Hokule‘a voyaging canoe while everyone else learns the appropriate lines of the chant.

<em>Audience participation is a part of each performance of "The Legends of Kualoa." (Star-Advertiser photo by FL Morris)</em>

Audience participation is a part of each performance of "The Legends of Kualoa." (Star-Advertiser photo by FL Morris)

It is much more in keeping with Hawaiian traditions of hospitality to share something with visitors rather than make fools of them.

Male volunteers are also invited up to play bit parts as the wives of a legendary Hawaiian character but the “wives” bit stops well short of humiliating them.

There is also a lengthy and somewhat risky segment where the cast demonstrates several makahiki games and then invites members of the audience to play the games with them. This is remarkable for at least two reasons. First, because makahiki games have not been standard fare for Polynesian revues. Second, because whenever performers interact one-on-one with members of the audience the results can be unpredictable (One of the female dancers held her own in a hand-slapping game against a larger and more muscular male opponent last Thursday).

Other parts of the show give visitors insights into the cultural importance of the Kualoa area and the role of the Hokule‘a in reviving interest in traditional Polynesian navigation techniques.

In short, this is a show that Hawaii residents can share with out-of-town guests with pride rather than potential embarrassment.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for nearly 40 years. Contact him via email at

  • Anonymous

    I am so pleased to learn about a program that is so true to the culture. My historical novel Wai-nani, High Chiefess of Hawaii attempts to do the same. It is inspired by the powerful chiefess Ka’ahumanu and follows the rise of Kamehameha the Great and ends with the burning of the gods. (1750-1819). You might enjoy reading my celebration of the people of old.