A Royal Rift Ended Heartbeat Hawaii

As a nightlife writer, it is always sad to see Honolulu lose an entertainment venue, bar or show.  Heartbeat Hawaii opened at the Royal Hawaiian Center on July 17, 2009 and shut down on Oct. 25. This comes after another huge production, Waikiki Nei, cancelled in 2008 after a run of only two months in the same space. Does anyone else see any red flags here?

On his way out of town, an angry Dennis Law, director and producer of Heartbeat Hawaii, fired off a heated e-mail to local media, blaming the failure of the show on everyone from The Festival of Companies, which manages the Royal Hawaiian Center, all the way up to Kamehameha Schools and the Bishop Estate trustees.

However, Law mainly blames the Royal Hawaiian Center and says that the Center “disallowed a commercial theater to market itself properly” because the Center “believes that publicity via visible signage and street advertising is ‘tacky’ and therefore demeaning to an exclusive retail location.” By not allowing the show to market itself as it should have, he says it was robbed of the “credibility it needs to operate invisibly on the terrace of the obscure Royal Hawaiian Center.” 

I contacted the Royal Hawaiian Center for comment and was referred to McNeil Wilson Communications, a public relations agency, and was then told that “The Festivals Company which manages Royal Hawaiian Center for Kamehameha Schools, has informed us that they are declining comment on the closure of Heartbeat Hawaii and the e-mails issued by Dr. Law.”

I do agree with Law in that the fourth floor of the Royal Hawaiian Center is invisible to tourists. Numerous times, people have asked me, “Where is Level 4?” when they’re already on the third floor of the Center. I also don’t remember seeing any signs that indicated a show could be seen.  On the other hand, I agree with the Royal Hawaiian Center in saying that street advertising is tacky. Have you seen all the vendors trying to sell things on the streets in Waikiki lately?

Hopefully, the Royal Hawaiian Center will be able to resolve this issue before another major production decides to try its luck out in a showroom that two other shows couldn’t fill.  I do believe there is a place for a big production in Waikiki, because as far as its nightly entertainment goes, the pickings are slim. But, for now, the showroom is dark again.