Best Floorshow - 2001
Mai-Kai Polynesian Restaurant
With its rum-voiced narrator nattily attired in white à la Fantasy Island's Ricardo Montalban, the nation's longest-running Polynesian floorshow could easily be played as a joke. But while the enormous restaurant trades on fantasy, it is refreshingly free of irony. Opened in 1957, the Mai-Kai hails from a time when exotic meant chic, fondue was fun, and women dressed for dinner with gardenias in their hair. This was pre-postcolonialism, of course, but even so, the feel of Mai-Kai lies somewhere between dated and timeless. The beautiful, long-haired dancers (male and female) are in fact trained by Mai-Kai owner-choreographer Mirielle Thornton, a native Polynesian. So while they evoke South Seas signifiers, the dancers never stoop to cruise-ship camp. Instead they perform a storytelling medley that's fun -- and funny only when it's meant to be.