Review: ‘CabaRAE’ big, new and different
REVIEW BY JOHN BERGER / firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s been a long time since Hawaii got something big and new and different in Waikiki showroom entertainment.
Sneak preview of upcoming Waikiki production
» Where: Tapa Ballroom, Hilton Hawaiian Village
“CabaRAE,” currently presenting sneak-peek performances in the Hilton Hawaiian Village Tapa Ballroom prior to the opening of its custom-built showroom downstairs, embodies all three. “CabaRAE” gives Waikiki a distinct third option to the tried-and-true Magic of Polynesia and Legends in Concert Waikiki in mainstream showroom entertainment.
John Hirokawa and Magic of Polynesia offers big scale illusions with Hollywood Polynesian decor. Legends in Concert Waikiki presents headliner tribute artists (Elvis, Michael, Lady Gaga), Polynesian dances and one of the fastest young fire/knife dancers in the business.
“CabaRAE” is a high-tech musical revue of 10 spectacular acts who represent between them the variety show traditions of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia and the United States. Their random acts of entertainment” each have a “Wow!” factor that holds the eye, stirs emotion and earns applause. Each seems more spectacular than the other.
Most of them entertain with feats of physical strength and athletic grace. 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 its dubious gentlemen’s club context and redefines it as pure gymnastic art.
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 the warning: “These people are trained professionals. Do not try this at home!”
Aerial strap artist Ryan James, yet another hardbody show-stopper in a demanding speciality, 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 — get front row seats 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 also 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 and occasionally go out into the audience.
Comedy is provided first and foremost by Peter Pitofsky — a big, bald, and rotund guy who is a master of physical comedy, pratt falls 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/comedienne. 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 several times and audience members need not fear participating. Some Waikiki shows of the past — the short-lived Lani Misalucha Show at the Waikiki Beachcomber, for example — exploited audience members and made them objects of ridicule. “CabaRAE” artists treated their opening night volunteers on Thursday with respect (Furnon and Besnard discretely checked with their female volunteer to make sure that her garments were suitable for the stunt she’d be participating in).
“CabaRAE” opens with “Cabaret,” the title song of the 1966 Broadway musical and 1972 film. It returns to that theme 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 farther 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 out at home.
Hawaii has enjoyed “Cirque”-style acts for almost 20 years with various productions at the Hawaii Theatre, Blaisdell Concert Hall, Blaisdell Arena and in various locations in Waikiki. Fans of this genre of extreme entertainment will find “CabaRAE” well worth the trip into Waikiki — and should do so sooner rather than later.
John Berger has been a mainstay in the local entertainment scene for more than 40 years. Contact him via email at email@example.com.