Starting this month, we’ll be highlighting our favorite Big Island entertainment venues and cover things you need to know about them, as well as some advice on what to know before, during, and after the show. This is Know Before You Show: The Kahilu Theatre edition.
The Kahilu Theatre, a 490-seat venue in Kamuela (Waimea), has been around since 1980. The Theatre came into being through the generosity of its millionaire benefactor and Parker Ranch owner Richard Smart. Like his stewardship of the Ranch, Smart built the Theatre with a vision of a place where the performing arts could flourish, a place that would truly serve the community. Today it’s a thriving multidisciplinary arts center on Hawaii Island.
Since I arrived in 2015, I’ve seen multiple seasons, and the Kahilu is easily one of my favorite venues on the Big Island. The lighting and audio tech crew (the folks behind the scenes) are the best in the biz, and their hard work delivers a great entertainment experience you’ll fondly remember.
Some of the top performers who have appeared at the Theatre over the years include Taj Mahal, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Robert Cazimero, Pink Martini and Jack Johnson. Their 39th season kicked off in September and featured Hawaiian music icon Keali’i Reichel.
The Theatre has also asked several performers to play gigs at the new Mike Luce Studio. It’s a cozier club-style experience with a small stage, and this season they are offering an unplugged series of shows. Gotta dance? Watch for the Theatre’s special dance nights. They take the main stage and link with the Mike Luce Studio so there’s plenty of room to dance – they even offer snacks and beverages!
Free parking is available at the Parker Ranch Center and the lot across the street (next to the post office).
Lobby doors open one hour before the show, and the auditorium doors open 30 minutes before showtime. There’s plenty of time to get a refreshment or snack before you are seated.
Food & Beverage
Need a snack or beverage before the show or at intermission? Their bar offers coffee, sparkling flavored water, Kona Brew Beer and a selection of white and red wines. There’s also candy bars, salted nuts and cookies. For particular events they occasionally work with local bakeries or sweet shops to set up a special something in the lobby. Keep an eye out for treats from Coco Lea, Sandwich Isle Bread Co. and Mauna Kea Confections. Yum!
Still got a little time to kill before the show… The Theatre has two gallery spaces that flank the lobby and auditorium. The Simperman Gallery is named for the generous sponsors who donated funds for the gallery space.
What Are Concertgoers Saying?
Don’t be surprised if you get a post-concert email asking about your Kahilu Theatre experience. They like to keep things running smoothly and appreciate your feedback. “We have patrons from all walks of life and some of the most reaffirming comments come from those who are used to seeing shows on Broadway and still think that what we do at the Kahilu is on par or even better. Many community members are extremely grateful to have a theatre space with professional staff that help them realize their dream or their show.” – Kahilu Theatre
Occasionally after a concert I might want to recap the show with friends and family over a light meal and tasty beverage. Both the Parker Center and the Waimea Center have restaurants available within walking distance of the Theatre as well as several more within a five-minute drive. Some options include Merriman’s, Red Water Cafe, Village Burger, Fish & the Hog, Noodle Club, and my fav Luna’s. In a rush? There are two fast-food joints: Burger King and McDonald’s.
Need a Ticket?
Box Office hours are from 12-5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, and one hour before all Kahilu performances. You can also give them a call at 808-885-6868, or online at: http://kahilutheatre.org. Big Island Music Magazine also posts show preview articles (with videos) and interviews with performers who will be appearing at the venue. You’ll get a sneak preview of what to expect, and some background on the headliner. Just check our front page or subscribe to our Big Island Music Newsletter for more info.
Community Education Programs
You might not realize it, but the Theatre sponsors several Performances for Young Audiences each year where Season artists perform for Elementary and Middle school students. This includes both students coming to the Kahilu as well as Kahilu presenting artists in the schools. They offer after-school programs like “Acting the Song” and “Kahilu Arts” and also partner with the Prince Dance Institute and other arts educators to fill out a wide variety of performing arts classes and camps year round for students of all ages.
Photos: Ric Noyle
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– Steve Roby, Editor