Eighty years ago, the Historic Iao Theater was the epicenter of variety entertainment on Maui. A weekend's worth of shows might include a theatrical performance by the Little Maui Theater (a local actor's troupe which began performing at the Iao in 1928), concert performances that ranged from Hawaiian music to chamber orchestra, plus hula performances happened almost every weekend before the screening of the latest hit film.
Additional novelties included 10-cent raffle tickets that could win you a four-piece place setting of dinnerware. The creator of these novelty nights was William Ledward, manager of the Iao from 1928 to 1935. On opening night, the bill featured two screenings of the romantic comedy, "Sporting Goods," each preceded by a live program.
A "Professor Baklig and his orchestra" as reported by The Maui News in 1928, "presented a program featuring a violin and xylophone solo by the multi-talented Baklig, and Bert Carlson sang his own original composition, 'Maalaea Bay.' " Admission was a quarter. On most evenings, Maui Amusement Company manager, Manuel G. Paschoal, would welcome patrons with a hand shake and a smile. Paschoal offered up a cash prize of $25 (about $300 today) to whomever came up with the best name for the new theater. The Iao was chosen, and the prize money was split between Foster Robinson and Wentworth Kinney, who both entered the same name.
The UltraViolets (pictured), along with Maui’s Kit Kat Club Cabaret and Oahu’s Cherry Blossom Cabaret, will perform Saturday at the Historic Iao Theater.
JACK GRACE photo
Nine decades removed, and it still doesn't get more eclectic than the mix of poetry, music, comedy, film and burlesque happening over the next few nights at the now-named Historic Iao Theater, each event presented by local independent production companies and nonprofit organizations.
Kicking things off Friday night, in conjunction with the Wailuku First Friday festivities, is "Solo & Together," a benefit for Mana'o Radio and Maui Onstage. Produced and hosted by musician and Mana'o Radio personality Randall Rospond, the concert will showcase many of Maui's finest musicians, both solo and together, offering more than three hours of music, spoken word and comedy.
Performers will include Rospond, Mana'o Radio founder Kathy Collins, Elaine Ryan, Steve Grimes, Tom Conway, Klaus Simmer, Bill Best and Chino LaForge. As First Friday winds down, the concert will conclude with an anything-can-happen jam session finale featuring the Legendary Unknown.
"Be prepared for some very special guests and surprises," says Rospond.
* Catch "Solo & Together" from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $10, available at the door or in advance at the Historic Iao Theater box office or by calling 242-6969.
Body painter, producer and multi-talented performer, Rachel Deboer, will be offering face and body painting under the Iao marquee during this week's Wailuku First Friday festivities, all the while promoting her own extravaganza, "Where in the World Are the UltraViolets?" happening on Saturday at the Historic Iao Theater.
The latter event will feature tassel twirling, sexy striptease moves, flirty song and dance acts, and black light performance art in this never before seen burlesque showcase featuring the Hawaii Superstars of Burlesque, which includes Kit Kat Club Cabaret and the UltraViolets from Maui, plus Oahu's Cherry Blossom Cabaret.
The event will be hosted by Hunter Down, and the production will also serve as a fundraiser for the UltraViolets as they embark on their first west coast tour of the United States and Canada.
The tour is headed to Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, Eugene, San Francisco, Oakland and Las Vegas, then finishing up just outside of Reno at Burning Man, says Deboer.
"I've never done a tour before, so I asked everyone I knew about possible venues, made a lot of cold calls, and created the tour from scratch," she says.
In addition to burlesque, Deboer has been active in body painting for many years, competing twice at the World Body Painting Festival in Austria. In 2008, she took third place in the Semi-Pro Brush and Sponge category, and in 2012 finished fifth in the world with the UltraViolets in the black light category.
So what unites the three troupes?
"It's just a love of performance and a desire to entertain," says Oahu's Violetta Beretta.
"I think it's the variety," added Ellen Peterson of the Kit Kat Club Cabaret. "It's a true variety cabaret, like vaudeville. We all have a different style, but there's also a sisterhood to it all as well. We're more theatrical, rooted in musical theater."
Deboer explained, "We're the most clowny of the three - you could even say ridiculous. Cherry Blossom is the most traditional. They're 1940s style burlesque."
Deboer says their regular fan base can expect something different this time around.
"The format is different," she says. "It's not just one number after the other, and were more integrated now as opposed to three separate sets by each troupe."
"About 80 percent of the numbers in this show are new," adds Peterson.
Both KKCC and CBC will present dance and music from around the world as they search for the UltraViolets.
"We'll be doing several French numbers, very Moulin Rougey," said Peterson. "French Riviera, French pop-music numbers and a surreal French circus act."
CBC, the Honolulu based cabaret, has influences ranging from vaudeville to B-grade horror flicks, film noir and kitsch, but all framed by the traditional art of tease made famous by artists like Lili St. Cir and Gypsy Rose Lee.
"We're showcasing dance from Hawaii, Spain, France and more," says Beretta. Fellow CBC dancer Lola Love will be offering traditional Samba from Brazil. The dancers of Cherry Blossom will also be in performance at the "Hawaii Burlesque Festival" on June 14 at the Honolulu Academy of Art, Doris Duke Theater.
* The Hawaii Superstars of Burlesque will present "Where in the World Are the UltraViolets?" on Saturday at the Historic Iao Theater. Doors open at 7 p.m.; show begins at 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices range from $15 to $40 (plus applicable fees). Reserved seating tickets are available online at www.mauionstage.com or by calling the box office at 242-6969.
On Sunday, the Historic Iao Theater will host the third annual Huliau Youth Environmental Film Festival, featuring 11 student films made by students from 13 Maui schools. Highlights from this year's line up include documentaries on sea turtles, seabirds, and coqui frogs, an animated talking corn debating the pros and cons of GMOs, a fantasy short called "Plastic Girl," a music video and a reality film following the experience of seven Maui teens eating only food from Maui for four days.
* Maui Huliau Foundation presents the Huliau Youth Environmental Film Festival on June 9 at the Historic Iao Theater. Tickets are $10 general, $5 for youth (younger than 18) if purchased in advance or $15 at the door. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m.; screenings begin at 7 p.m.. Advance tickets are available online at www.huliaufoundation.org or at Native Intelligence in Wailuku.
Finally, on Monday, slam poetry returns to the Historic Iao Theater with "Maui Slammers United," hosted by Shawn Naone-Burger. This event will be in conjunction with Maui OnStage's monthly free theater series, and admission is free. The evening of spoken word artistry and poetry will feature poets of all ages, but may not be appropriate for children. The readers for the Monday night Slam have been pre-set, but if you arrive early, there may be room to add additional poets to the line up. The free ONO! performances are 6:30 p.m. every second Monday of the month at the Historic Iao Theater.
Catch "The Cotton Club Musical Revue," written and directed by Ayin Adams and Gwyn Gorg at the Historic Iao Theater. The most famous nightclub during the 1920s and 1930s returns for a night of entertainment, pupu, music and fun on June 15.
Performers will include Ayin Adams, Nara Boone, Kelly Covington, Rob Digman, Jayna Fleming, Sal Godinez, Galyn Gorg, Gentry Gorg, Gwyn Gorg, Sunny Gorg, Sandra Shawhan and Randall Gray, the Gene Argel Band and Bobby Ingram.
* Reserved seating tickets are $30 (plus applicable fees). For tickets or more information, call 242-6969 or purchase reserved seats at wwmauionstage.com. Pre- and post-show cocktails and dining are available next door at Old Wailuku Grill. For dinner reservations, call 986-0444.