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Yaling and I were lucky enough to have the opportunity to take in the CabaRAE variety show at the Hilton Hawaiian Village recently and, simply put, it was awesome. Its official opening in the Tapa Ballroom happened in November of last year, but CabaRAE held a series of sneak previews in the weeks preceding November’s Grand Opening.
The “RAE” in the name stands for “Random Acts of Entertainment,” but the timing and precision of the show, that runs a full two hours, is anything but random. CabaRAE’s Creative Producer is Alan Goldberg, who directed Cirque du Soleil’s “O” Show in Las Vegas for years. That influence is evident, but not imitated, in the CabaRAE show.
The showroom itself, a multi-million dollar hall designed and built specifically for the show, is intimate on a grand scale. It’s designed in a Spiegeltent style, which was developed in the late 19th century to house performance art using mirrors and colored glass to enhance the spectating experience. At about 10,000 square feet, the room seats 400 people. It’s theater-in-the-round setup puts the action in the center of the room, so there’s really not a bad seat in the house (although the VIP section to the right of the entrance offered the best view of the show and most interaction with the performers).
CabaRAE opened as a 14-act show with a dozen performers. I lost track of how many actual “acts” there were in the show, but each of them were captivating. Yaling and I especially enjoyed the comical “magician” part of the show. The bumbling old prestidigitator fumbled with his props to roars of laughter without doing any actual magic tricks. It was a performance worthy of the Vaudeville tradition of old, but somehow sly and modern at the same time.
There was also an Elvis impersonator who managed to get what seemed like 50 hula hoops moving in a mesmerizing, serpentine dance that I thought must have been an illusion. It wasn’t.
Acrobatics and aerial daredevilry are also a major part of the CabaRAE show, all of it stunning and up-close. But it was the audience interaction that really made the show enjoyable. It seemed as though the cast engaged with every member of the audience by the time the performance ended. The lovely assistant to the magician greeted me with a magnetic smile and a baffling illusion of a trained butterfly that fluttered from her hand to her head on cue. I was dumbstruck.
Despite the circus tent design, CabaRAE is nothing like the sawdust and popcorn cliché that the circus embodies. It’s a modern, sophisticated showcase of phenomenal talent. It’s the refined artistic vision of cabaret and variety show genius. New talents and routines are being brought in regularly, keeping each performance fresh and full of surprises.
CabaRAE offers several ticket/seating options. We were fortunate to get the VIP package and we would definitely recommend it, but there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. The showroom has two full bars and excellent service. The show has been billed as rated “PG-13,” but children’s tickets are available and the content is appropriate for even delicate sensibilities.
As far as showroom entertainment goes, CabaRAE is the newest, and most innovative and captivating, that Waikiki has to offer.