Maui’s Best Theatrical Performance
The Honolulu Advertiser hailed it as “a feast for the senses…a yardstick by which future productions are measured.” Spirit of Aloha magazine called it “unlike anything that’s ever been presented in Hawaii.” And TravelAge West described it as “perhaps the most stirring theatrical experience in all the islands.”
“It” is Ulalena, an epic musical that explores the unique cultures, traditions and mythical history of Hawaii. Similar to Cirque du Soleil in its visual presentation, the show skillfully weaves lighting, dance, costume and music. The show’s name was derived from the Kumulipo, the Hawaiian creation chant. “Ulalena” refers to a wind associated with upcountry Maui as well as a rain that takes on the color of twilight in Haiku.
Ulalena begins with the first verse of the Kumulipo, which effectively sets the show’s theme. A lone man on a spiritual quest is shown carrying kaai (a woven burial basket used to hold the bones of ancient ruling chiefs) to an unknown place. Taro, a staple food in the Hawaiian culture, emerges from the ground, dancing its first breath of life.
Subsequent scenes highlight the first migrators from Tahiti, who used the stars to navigate their vessels as they pursued their vision of Pele, the goddess of fire; a group of men pounding poi from fresh taro roots in a village; the Makahiki, the annual celebration honoring Lono, the god of agriculture; the arrival of the first European explorers; the Hawaiian monarchy; and much more.
The live musical score is performed by musicians who use a variety of instruments, from brassy percussions to primitive bamboo nose flutes.
Even five years after its debut, Ulalena reigns as one of the state’s hottest entertainment attractions. The 75-minute production features more than 20 professional performers from Hawaii and includes contributions by Island entertainment legends Keola Beamer, Nona Beamer and the late “Auntie” Irmgard Aluli.
Ulalena is staged at the $10-million, 684-seat Maui Myth & Magic Theatre in Lahaina. The venue was built especially for the production. Ulalena is presented five nights a week by Cove Entertainment and ARRA-Maui.