Hula, danced beachside while tiki torches are lit by an athletic Hawaiian boy and a tenor sings Lovely Hula Hands at sunset. Galleries filled with carved tiki figures and predictable watercolor paintings of reef fish or plumeria blossoms. Think this is all you can expect from the arts in Hawaii? If so, you have a real treat in store. What Honolulu and the other islands have to offer is a thriving, exciting, and diverse arts community. There is something for everyone and many things that are totally unexpected.
The inaugural “Hawaii Arts Season” has been set for February 27 to May 2, 2004. But, in reality the “arts season” in the islands is year round. The 2004 “Season,” supported by the Hawaii Tourism Authority and promoted by the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, is a tenweek period packed with a diverse selection of art and cultural events. The goal is to etch Hawaii Opera Theatre, the Honolulu Symphony, world-class art museums, multi-ethnic cultural festivals, Broadway-quality productions, internationally acclaimed film festivals, and the many hidden gems firmly into the minds of lovers of the arts. Sun, sand, surf in Hawaii are the best. Add the arts and you have a truly cosmopolitan destination.
As Diamond Head Theatre heads into its 90th year of continuous operation (Swing!), Army Community Theater (Kiss Me Kate) has another great season, and Manoa Valley Theater (Copacabana) also continues sold out shows, it is a sure bet that you can catch great musicals, comedies and drama on one Honolulu stage or another, any weekend. The lure of warmth and sunshine brings many Broadway performers and directors to do shows in the islands. Other theater companies, like Honolulu Theater For Youth, The Actors Group at the Yellow Brick Studio and TShirt Theatre, produce high quality, innovative, original and traditional shows. In addition to the regular theater locations, productions are frequently offered in art galleries and museums, college stages, churches, schools and even outdoor street venues. A do not-miss is The Arts at Marks Garage, right in the heart of Honolulu China Town, where performance art and fine art are a regular combination. The 40-page TGIF section of the Friday newspaper has complete listings for all shows, including numerous free public performances. Each neighbor island has one or more theater companies.
The “official” Arts Season opens, February 27, with the Hawaii Opera Theatre’s “Merry Widow.” In March the Honolulu Symphonys Masters Series hosts master flutist Sir James Galway. In April, at the Polynesian Cultural Center Amphitheater, audiences will be enthralled by the Whakataetae Maori Song and Dance Competition. On May First, “Lei Day” in the islands, the Waikiki Shell blossoms with the annual lei making competition and the 25th-plus year performance of the Brothers Cazimero classic Hawaiian music concert.
Every Sunday, at 2 p.m. Na Mea Hawaii at Ward Warehouse offers a showcase of traditional and contemporary Hawaiian entertainers in a free concert. Another great spot for entertaiment are the Sunday concerts at the Kapiolani Park Bandstand at the base of Diamond Head in Waikiki. The hundred-plus year old Royal Hawaiian Band plays and hula groups dance, often ollowed by a variety of multiethnic cultural performances.
With exceptional performance venues like the Waikiki Shell, the Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall, the historic Hawaii Theatre in Honolulu, and the Maui Arts and Cultural Center available, the entire state hosts productions by some of the worlds best performing arts companies and performers. Grammy Award-winning classical guitarist Sharon Isbin, the African world music legend Baaba Maal, the Colorado String Quartet, Les Ballet Jazz de Montreal, and the CHI Chinese Circus are on the calendar for spring of 2004.