Since its Hawaiʻi launch six years ago, Rock-A-Hula has evolved from a big stage concert experience to a unique fusion of Las Vegas sparkle and Polynesian culture. Now, in an effort to integrate more Hawaiian elements into the existing show, Rock-A-Hula has announced that local talent will join its already dazzling lineup, starting with internationally acclaimed Hirie. This Week Hawaii recently had the pleasure of attending an exclusive media event, where we were treated to a delicious lūʻau buffet, gracious service and a memorable show in the heart of Waikīkī.
While Rock-A-Hula is already one of my favorite live shows in Hawaiʻi, the integration of local artists elevates the show to a whole new level. More than just your average Vegas concert, Rock-A-Hula plays to the uniqueness of Hawaiian and Pacific Rim history and culture, incorporating distinctly Polynesian elements such as fire knife dancing, hula performances and authentic Hawaiian garb. Capping off the revamped show elements is the addition of Hirie, who wows the crowd with original songs as well as covers of Hawaiian favorites.
The Rock-A-Hula lūʻau experience begins with a refreshing welcome E Komo Mai Tai, traditional Hawaiian greeting and hula show directly facing the theatre entrance, just the start of the festive Hawaiian entertainment to come. Following a warm welcome from Rock-A-Hula Production Manager Gavin and Entertainment Director Becky, we eagerly made our way to the buffet line, where we were greeted by the most delectable display!
On the Lūʻau Buffet menu is a medley of Hawaiian favorites, including Whole Roasted Luau Local Pig, USDA Choice Top Round Grade Roast Beef, Hulihuli Chicken, Big Island Sweet Potato and Tofu Poke with Ogo, just to name a few. My favorite among the lavish spread was the Pacific White Fish with Coconut Curry Sauce—the fish was tender and flaky, and the sauce had a nice sweet-and-spicy kick to it.
The best part about a buffet? Going back for seconds! But we still saved room for dessert: Chocolate Coconut Cake, Macadamia Nut Cookies and a refreshing Rainbow Sorbet by IL Gelato.
At the close of dinner under the cabanas, we were ushered into the theatre and directed to some of the best seats in the house—the mezzanine. From here we had a panoramic view of center stage, where the Rock-A-Hula logo glowed across the translucent curtain.
Although I’ve been a fan of Rock-A-Hula for years, I was nonetheless thrilled to see Hawaiʻi talent given a larger role in this new show. It seems fitting, then, that the new show should begin with Hirie, who took the stage first. This Hawaiʻi-based performer is known for her distinctive blend of reggae, pop and roots, which melds seamlessly with Rock-A-Hula’s shift toward a more Hawaiian-infused show. As show opener, Hirie dazzled the audience with her pitch-perfect voice and energetic dance moves before introducing Hawaiʻi’s favorite—Elvis Presley (performed by Johnny Fortuno)!
As the longest-standing performer at Rock-A-Hula in Hawaiʻi, Fortuno is no stranger to the spotlight, and delivers every performance with the style and attitude of the original King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. He lights up the stage with renditions of Elvis Presley classics including “Hound Dog,” “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and, of course, “Rock-A-Hula Baby” before inviting Hirie back onto the stage.
Hirie performs throughout the show, and her charming, effervescent personality keeps everyone engaged as she belts beloved covers like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as well as her own original tunes like “You Won’t Be Alone.” Even if you’re someone like me and not completely sold on reggae, you’re sure to become a fan of Hirie after the show.
But the fun doesn’t stop with Hirie and Elvis—the second half of the evening features even more sparkle with Michael Jackson (performed by Jason Jarrett). Like Hirie, Jarrett is a new addition to the tribute artist lineup, and was previously performing as the King of Pop for the production show Legends in Concert before moving to Hawaiʻi. While I’d enjoyed the performances by the past MJ tribute artists, I have to say that Jarrett surprised me. He’s not only got the vocal chops to channel Michael Jackson, but he’s also certainly got the moves. Jarrett is a true entertainer, and he kept us grooving to classics like “Billie Jean” and “Thriller.”
But that’s not all: the new Rock-A-Hula show also showcases authentic hula performances as well as a fire knife dance that ignites the whole theatre. A time-honored Samoan tradition, fire knife dancing involves the acrobatic twirling of the burning nifo oti (warknife), an arform that’s passed down from generation to generation. Rock-A-Hula’s fireknife dancer is one of the best on the island, and rounds out an already hot evening!
Featuring the largest concert cast in Waikīkī, Rock-A-Hula is a memorable evening of live music and pulsing entertainment by Hirie, Fortuno and Jarrett. And while Hirie’s run is only scheduled for the next few weeks, we can’t wait to see the other homegrown talent that will follow in her impressive footsteps!
To celebrate the rockin’ new lineup, Rock-A-Hula is offering special Kamaʻaina Weekend pricing for the Saturday and Sunday shows from now through May 13, with a Buy One Get One on the Rockin’ Show package (retail value of $69) with valid Hawaiʻi ID. Book your show today by calling (808) 629-7469!