Making Magic In Waikiki

By Chuck Lee
Wednesday - January 16, 2008
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By Chuck Lee
General Manager, Magic of Polynesia

How has the Magic of Polynesia thrived in Waikiki against all the competition?

By incorporating the same elements that catapulted the UH Warriors football team to a WAC Championship season in 2007 - most notably, a great work ethic and teamwork.

At times I feel like a quarterback as I am constantly orchestrating multiple tasks each night so our entire operation runs smoothly. I have to coordinate the show and its cast, food service, culinary crew and box office/reservations simultaneously.

As general manager of the $7.5-million Magic of Polynesia showroom, I encourage my staff to ensure that our audience leaves the showroom with unforgettable memories of amazing costumes and dancing, mystifying illusions and a stunning erupting volcano.

We also want our audience - made up of visitors from around the world and Hawaii residents - to remember the great service and hospitality. I’m always proud to watch my staff members mature into their positions and perform better for the operation.

Robin Ligsay and Taira Gaison appear in front of the Magic of Polynesia poster
Robin Ligsay and Taira Gaison appear in front of the Magic of Polynesia poster

Our staff takes a lot of pride knowing that we have the best show in Hawaii. It’s an honor for me to be working with John Hirokawa, master illusionist and star of the show. John is a real entertainer, often keeping the audience roaring with laughter.

The Magic of Polynesia is a nightly dinner show at the Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber Hotel that gives guests a unique experience that can only be found here in Hawaii. One of my main goals is to make the evening special for every guest who walks into the showroom. For example, I try to have guests recognized by name when they are celebrating a birthday, anniversary or special occasion. My satisfaction comes from the smiles and amazed looks on the guests’ faces.

From washing dishes back in the 1970s to today being the general manager of the Magic of Polynesia showroom has been a dream come true for me.

After graduating from Saint Louis High School, I completed my business degree in travel industry management at the University of Hawaii. While I was in college, I washed dishes at the old Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour and, after graduation, I worked as a manager for the Spencecliff restaurant chain in Hawaii for 10 years. My career in the food service/hotel and hospitality industry continued on Kauai at the Coco Palms Resort, then at the former Sheraton Coconut Beach in Kapaa. After five years on Kauai, I returned to Honolulu to manage the Ainahau Showroom, which featured Tihati Productions, at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel for 12 years.

In 2002, I joined Roberts Hawaii as general manager for the Magic of Polynesia, and it continues to be a very exciting journey!

The Magic of Polynesia is a genuine product of Hawaii. It is the only type of show in the entire world that mixes magic and Polynesian song and dance. We’re locally owned and produced by Roberts Hawaii. John Hirokawa and most of our talented stagehands, tech crew and fabulous dancers were born and raised in the Islands.

This past year has been a trying one for all of us in the visitor industry. Higher fuel surcharges have caused the cutback in flights from Japan, and there is a smaller inventory of hotel rooms in Waikiki due to renovations and conversion of some hotels into timeshares. We have to work even harder to stay ahead of the competition. Roberts has been very supportive of John’s constant efforts to keep the show itself innovative and on the cutting edge.

At the Magic of Polynesia, as with a great football program, we have a robust collaborative team that really respects and listens to each other and works well together.

And that’s how we’ve kept the magic alive in Waikiki for more than 18 years.


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