‘CabaRAE’ delivers with strength, grace

Jul. 25, 2014 | 0 Comments In the Star-Advertiser Friday Print Edition

REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / jberger@staradvertiser.com

Hawaii has been waiting a long time for something big and new and different in Waikiki showroom entertainment. “CabaRAE,” currently presenting “sneak-peek” performances in the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Ballroom before the opening of its custom-built CabaRAE showroom downstairs, embodies all three.

Ludivine Furnon showed an example of pole dancing as gymnastic art during a sneak preview of CabaRAE. (Cindy Ellen Russell / crussell@staradvertiser.com)

‘CABARAE’

» Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village, Tapa Ballroom
» When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday (Doors open at 7:30 p.m.)
» Cost: $43-$63
» Info: www.CabaRAE.com or 354-0629

“CabaRAE” gives Waikiki a distinct third option in mainstream showroom entertainment to the tried-and-true Magic of Polynesia and Legends in Concert Waikiki.

John Hirokawa and Magic of Polynesia offers big-scale illusions with Hollywood Polynesian decor. Legends in Concert Waikiki presents headliner tribute artists (Elvis, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga), Polynesian dances and one of the fastest young fireknife dancers in the business. CabaRAE is a high-tech musical revue.

THE SHOW includes 10 spectacular acts, representing among them Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia and the United States. And onstage, each act seems more spectacular than the last.

Each brings with it a “Wow!” factor that holds the eye, stirs emotion and earns applause.

Feats of physical strength and athletic grace are largely on display. The Ssens Duo goes aerial in dramatic style on trapeze. Hand balancer Melanie Chy’s routine mirrors the rigors and the beauty of Olympic-caliber gymnastics. Ludivine Furnon takes pole dancing out of its dubious gentlemen’s club context and defines it as gymnastic art, while Jean-Pierre Poissonnet serenades the audience with “One More for the Road.”

The Duo Mantenant – Adagio (Furnon dancing with Nicolas Besnard) combine choreographed movement with gymnastics in breathtaking style.

And there’s the Skating Willers (Wanda and Jean-Pierre), whose high-intensity acrobatic roller skating might well be introduced with a warning: “These people are trained professionals. Do not try this at home!”

Aerial strap artist Ryan James, yet another hardbody showstopper in a demanding specialty, should have an endorsement deal from Jack Daniel’s. He brings a bottle of the iconic Kentucky bourbon out with him and uses it in his performance.

Viewed from down front — sit up close for this theater-in-the-round production, if you can — the intensity of the stage artists’ work is fully appreciated. Being only a few feet away from the Skating Willers as Jean-Pierre has Wanda flying out over the edge of the stage is an awe-inspiring experience.

The layout is based on the classic three-ring circus. Most of the show is presented on an elevated stage in the middle of the room. The aerial acts perform over a second ring. Entertainers also use a third “ring” closer to the door.

Comedian Peter Pitofsky provides laughs through a variety of pratfalls, slapstick and physical comedy in CabaRAE in the Tapa Ballroom of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. (Cindy Ellen Russell / crussell@staradvertiser.com)

Comedian Peter Pitofsky provides laughs through a variety of pratfalls, slapstick and physical comedy in CabaRAE in the Tapa Ballroom of the Hilton Hawaiian Village. (Cindy Ellen Russell / crussell@staradvertiser.com)

Comedy is provided by Peter Pitofsky — big, bald, rotund and a master of physical comedy, pratfalls and slapstick. Pitofsky also does impressions of Bruce Willis, Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone that hit the mark with solid comic impact.

Manuela Horn brings a touch of classic Weimar-era Berlin cabaret to the show with her performance as a stereotypical, albeit G-rated, Germanic dominatrix/comedian. Horn enlists two audience volunteers to assist with the first part of her act; three other lucky men get to help with the finale.

Audience participation is essential, and audience members need not fear participating. “CabaRAE” artists treated their opening night volunteers with respect.

The show opens with “Cabaret,” the title song of the 1966 Broadway musical and 1972 film. It folds back on itself with female impersonator Richard DeFonzo’s portrayal of Liza Minnelli, who starred in the film.

Just when it seems that “CabaRAE” can’t go any further over the top in terms of amazing talent, out comes Craig Reid aka “The Incredible Hula Boy.” Reid looks like a very flamboyant Elvis impersonator in his Elvis-style white jumpsuit, and he does ever-more difficult stunts with hula hoops — one, two, three, four and then many, many more. In terms of “amazing,” Reid is off the chart.

And his act is one that kids of all ages can safely try at home.

Hawaii has been enjoying “Cirque”-style acts here for almost 20 years at the Hawaii Theatre, Blaisdell Concert Hall, the Blaisdell Arena and in various locations in Waikiki. Fans of this genre of extreme entertainment will find “CabaRAE” well worth the trip — and sooner rather than later.

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