Review: Hula extravaganza from sacred to profane

Patrick Makuakane, founder-director of the 22-year-old hula troupe Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu (“The many feathered wreaths at the summit, held in high esteem”), is an amazingly multi-talented man. Every one of the previous Na Lei shows he produced, directed, cast, choreographed, MC'd, sang and danced in have encompassed deep spiritual feelings, elements of the contemporary hotel-lounge hula, high good humor, and music well beyond the confines of the Island State.

One of the most memorable shows from Na Lei came in 2003, when Makuakane used the music of the Beatles and an aria from Leo Delibes' “Lakmé,” commingling British pop, Polynesian dance and French opera in a grand, affecting show. The cross-cultural approach made even more sense with the portrait of Hawaii's opera-loving King Kalakaua looking down on the stage.

This year's edition — at the Palace of Fine Arts last and next weekend — is very much in the Na Lei tradition of presenting a wide range of genres, appealing to the audience with authentic respect for Hawaii's spiritual heritage, but tickling funny-bones the next minute, then putting on a glitzy Las Vegas showstopper act.

The focus this year in “O'ahu: Confessions of an Island,” is the Islands' commercial/population center, taken for granted, while locals and tourists are searching for the “exotic” on the other islands. Makuakane is militantly Oahu-centric, putting the spotlight on such little-known gems of the island as Kaena Point, where souls of the recently departed are supposed to migrate into the spiritual realm of Po; a wonderful, remote beach near Hanauma Bay, Halona Cove; and, in central Oahu, Kukaniloko, the ancient birth site for chiefs of the highest lineage.

Each of these places, and many more, are portrayed and saluted in song and dance. Ensemble performances this year are more crisp and precise than ever. How some three dozen dancers from the Bay Area community can perform with such brilliant authenticity and professionalism is a puzzle, the solution for which must be their deep dedication to the cause and Makuakane' guiding hand.

The emotional range of the show is awesome. Narration and dance honoring Hawaii's last princess, the beautiful, tragic Kaiulani, move many in the audience to tears, but soon enough, Matthew Martin's grand travesty turn in the number about Waikiki's famed gay bar, Hula's, has everyone in stitches, “she” dancing the hula in a super tight dress, with 4-inch heels.

“Shores of Haleiwa,” “The Dark Cliffs of the Koolau,” and number after number in the two-hour-long show keep peaking, but the “Surfing Hula” near the end is as impressive and stirring a performance as you're likely to see anywhere from the War Memorial to major touring dance companies with admission in the multiples of Na Lei's moderate ticket prices.

IF YOU GO

O'ahu: Confessions of an Island

Presented by: Na Lei Hulu I Ka Wekiu

Where: Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, Bay and Lyon streets, San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Oct. 26-27; 3 p.m. Oct. 28

Tickets: $30 to $35

Contact: (415) 392-4400; www.cityboxoffice.com

artsentertainmentOther Arts

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A screenshot from SFPD body worn camera
New videos show police shooting man armed with knife, frying pan

Police say Antonio Estrada set fire to apartment building before shooting

Dr. Grant Colfax, director of the Department of Public Health, said he expected San Francisco to enter the purple tier within days.
Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner
SF still in the red but expects move into purple tier ‘some time soon’

Four more counties moved into highest COVID-19 risk category by state

The area near the Castro Muni Metro Station is expected to be affected by construction work on the Twin Peaks Tunnel, with lane closures on Market Street and some loss of parking. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Construction on Twin Peaks Tunnel to begin November 30

Area around Castro Muni Station will see greatest impacts including lane closures on Market Street

Cal Junior Quarterback Chase Garbers completed 28 of 42 passes 315 yards and three touchdowns and two interceptions in his last game against Oregon State. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
The Big Game: Stanford at Cal

What: The 123rd Big Game When: Friday, 1:30 p.m. Where: Memorial Stadium,… Continue reading

Most Read