Amy Hanaiali‘i, an 18-time Na Hoku Hanohano Award winner, is celebrating a triumphant return to the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua’s Anuenue Room. She has a brand-new show that takes the audience on an interactive journey through Hawaiian culture from the early 1900s to today.
The Anuenue Room has a special place in Hanaiali‘i’s career, as it was her first professional residence after graduating with a degree in Fine Arts from the School of Performing and Visual Arts in San Diego. The show room hosted Hanaiali‘i five nights a week, and has been closed since she left back in the early ’90s. Now 16 albums and a world’s worth of travel later, Hanaiali‘i is back performing with her full band and 40 feet of holographic screens.
“What I’m most excited about is that it’s something different,” she said. “It’s something I can connect the audience to what we are here in Hawaii. It really helps them understand not only Hawaiian music, but the concept of Aloha, and the concept of living here in Hawaii.”
The hour and a half long show features some amazing covers of classic by Tina Turner and Etta James, as well as a healthy dose of R&B, Christmas favorites, hula dancing, and of course original and traditional Hawaiian songs.
Set up all around the stage, on the walls and roof of the Anuenue Room are visual projections that coordinate with Hanaiali‘i’s songs. Drone footage of Maui waterfalls, and beautiful aerial shots of Ho‘okipa and the Maui country side help Hanaiali‘i tell her story of Maui and the love she has for her island home.
The show also tells the story of her great-grandmother, an inspiration for not only Amy but countless Hawaiian artists and musicians. The late Jennie Napua Hanaiali‘i Woodd was one of the original hula dancers at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki back in the 1930s. The show was such a hit that her entire troupe was asked to come to New York City to help open The Hawaiian Room at the Lexington Hotel, a show that would go on to sell out seven nights a week for 60 years.
“The prohibition had just ended, alcohol was legal again, and all these cultures were ascending throughout the world, through Ellis Island,” said Hanaiali‘i. “Everybody was depressed and missed their homelands, their food and their culture, so where did they go? They went to the Hawaiian Room.”
This melting pot of innovation and cultural expansion is one of the most remembered times in American history. Tiki and hula were more popular than ever before, and a whole new world of class was being brought to the American people. Everyone who was anyone was in the Hawaiian room, including Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando, Etta James and Katherine Hepburn.
Hanaiali‘i’s show pays homage to this and includes some incredible recovered footage of her grandmother’s performances in the Hawaiian Room, as well as some beautiful reimagined Hawaiian covers of classic 1930s and ‘40s tunes.
The show is an intimate experience and Hanaiali‘i and her band laugh and banter with the crowd, teaching some Hawaiian words to the audience, and even requesting audience participation during the chorus of one of Hanaiali‘i’s original Hawaiian songs. Her “kick booty band,” as she calls them, is also an incredible addition to the night that shouldn’t be overlooked. Kamuera Kimokeo, guitarist and Ukulele player, Michael Ruff on the keyboards and grand piano, Kana Pikini on bass and Darryl Pellegrini on the drums.
After Hanaiali‘i’s show ends around 8:30pm, there’s a meet-and-greet and cocktail hour featuring jazz pianist Sal Godinez, Hanaiali‘i’s original piano player during her first shows at the Ritz in the 1990s. It’s a tremendous night of music and visuals that tell the story of overcoming great obstacles, patience and the beauty of the world and Hawaiian culture.
The show takes place every Friday night at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua through Dec. 22. You can buy tickets ($119.95/person) at Lifeisaloha.com or at the hotel concierge desk.
Photo courtesy Amy Hanaiali`i