Don’t Miss the Hawaiian Cirque du Soleil — “‘Auana” — Coming to the OUTRIGGER Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel

Don’t Miss the Hawaiian Cirque du Soleil — “‘Auana” — Coming to the OUTRIGGER Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel

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Before its 19-year run ended in 2018, a show called ‘Ulalena mesmerized audiences in Maui with its theatrical, occasionally acrobatic retelling of Hawaiian lore, leading many to compare it to internationally acclaimed Cirque du Soleil. Now tickets have gone on sale for an actual production based both in and on Hawai‘i — a Hawaiian Cirque du Soleil. Described as “a new dawn in live entertainment,” ‘Auana  will mark a full circle for the 40-year-old Cirque du Soleil when it debuts this December at OUTRIGGER Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel.

“The inception of Cirque du Soleil was inspired right here by the majestic sunsets of Hawaii, illuminating Cirque’s founder’s vision for a revolutionary form of entertainment,” explained Dr. Aaron J. Salā, the show’s cultural creative producer, in an introductory video. The name of the Canadian company’s first resident production in Hawai‘i means “to wander, to adventure off the beaten path… which captures this spirit of exploration or awe,” Salā added. “Our team crafts stories that bridge the wonder of Cirque and the heritage of our own Hawai‘i.”

According to director Neil Dorward, featured in the same video, ‘Auana is “not just a show… it’s an invitation to connect with the spirit and tradition of Hawai‘i through a spectacular tapestry of performances.” Among the weavers of the tapestry are several esteemed Hawaiian cultural practitioners and island-based performing artists among the international cast of acrobats, comedians, musicians and dancers, including costume designer Manaola Yap, a fashion designer and hula dancer who grew up on Hawai‘i Island and in 2017 became the first Native Hawaiian designer to present his collection on a New York Fashion Week runway. ‘Auana choreographer Hiwa Vaughan is the kumu hula (hula master) of Hālau Hula Ka Lehua Tuahine, founded in 2006,  and one of only five women to have held hula’s top two titles, Miss Keiki Hula (1985) and the Merrie Monarch’s Miss Aloha Hula ( 1995).

Their shared vision  for ‘Auana, still under development, “faithfully connects us all to the islands of Hawai‘i through innovative and engaging storytelling, using hula dance, music, comedy and incredible acrobatic performances,” Dorward said. “It is my hope that our audiences will be transported into a world where stories can live unconstrained by reality, honoring the land and the people of this place.”

Two performers on roller skates execute a daring lift on a circular wooden platform, with the man holding the woman horizontally as she extends her body. In the background, musicians and a dancer enhance the vibrant stage atmosphere, reminiscent of an ‘Auana performance in Cirque du Soleil Hawaii.
Photo courtesy of: Erik Kabik

Those mo‘olelo, or stories, will come to life in a new, custom-designed theater seating 784 guests at OUTRIGGER Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel. At a press conference at the hotel in May, Jeff Wagoner, president and CEO of Outrigger Hospitality, said the collaboration “will deliver a one-of-a-kind experience that is extraordinary. It’s going to show the talents of our islands, and it’s offering residents and visitors alike an authentic view into the rich culture of Hawai‘i.”

Speaking at the same event, Mike Newquist, president of Cirque du Soleil’ s resident show division, said the production “honors Cirque du Soleil’s evolution into a global phenomenon while paying tribute to Hawai‘i, the landscape, the narratives and the culture.”

Cirque du Soleil Artists
Photo courtesy of: Erik Kabik

Tickets for ‘Auana are on sale now at www.cirquedusoleil.com/hawaii for performances that begin Dec. 15, 2024 and take place  Wednesday through Sunday at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Ticket prices start at $69 plus taxes and fees with a special discount of 30 percent available for kama‘āina (Hawai‘i residents.) Room and show packages with discounted rates at  OUTRIGGER Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel, OUTRIGGER Reef Waikiki Beach Resort, OUTRIGGER Waikiki Beach Resort and OHANA Waikiki East by OUTRIGGER are also on sale now, for stays beginning Dec. 15.

“This is world-class entertainment and it speaks to the legacy of Waikiki and it creates for us a future right now that we all can get excited about, and we deserve that,” Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi said at the Waikiki press conference. “We deserve that on the map and in the world to have the best of the best be right here.”

Cirque du Soleil Hula Dancer
Photo courtesy of: Erik Kabik

Those wanting to experience a traditional hula show, or are simply traveling to Waikiki before December, can also check out the Kilohana Hula Show, a free hour of hula performances at the Waikiki Shell every Sunday through Wednesday starting at 9:30 a.m. The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement has brought back what was once known as the Kodak Hula Show, but this time infusing it with more authentic storytelling and dance. One of the producers is Roy Tokujo, known for presenting shows with Don Ho as well as Maui’s ‘Ulalena, which in 2008 spawned a short-lived Waikiki version called Waikiki Nei at the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center.

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