Ali Ewoldt takes stage as first Asian-American female lead in Broadway’s ‘Phantom’

NBC News:

Broadway‘s “The Phantom of the Opera” will get its first Asian-American Christine when its new principle cast takes stage on June 13.

Ali Ewoldt, whose mother is from the Philippines, will play the female lead in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. Ewoldt previously starred in Broadway’s “Les Miserables,” and in national tours of “The King And I” and “West Side Story.”

Phantom,” the longest-running musical on Broadway, will also see its first African-American Raoul: actor Jordan Donica, who will also begin performing on the 13.

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Tony Award-winning Broadway star Lea Salonga to guest star on CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” finale

Broadway World:

Lea Salonga broke the news on Facebook that she would be appearing in the season finale of the CW‘s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. And of course, how could a Tony Award-winner join a musical show without singing? Don’t worry- her musical talents will be utilized.

Salonga wrote, “I guess the news is out!!! I’ll be appearing on the season finale of the CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend! And singing, too! How fun is that?!

No word yet on which role Salonga will be playing.

Miss Saigon’s Kwang-Ho Hong performs title song from Frank Wildhorn’s Broadway musical adaptation of DEATH NOTE manga series

Broadway composer Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde, Bonnie & Clyde) is currently working on turning Japanese manga series DEATH NOTE into a musical. Below, check out a Korean music video featuring the title song from the musical, performed by Kwang-Ho Hong (Miss Saigon UK, Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll & Hyde, Don Quixote)!

George Takei to star in Broadway musical about interned Japanese-Americans

NY Times: 

Allegiance,” a musical about Japanese-Americans in United States internment camps during World War II, will begin performances on Broadway in October at a Shubert Theater to be announced later, the show’s producers said Thursday. The musical, which will cost a relatively hefty $13 million to mount, will star George Takei, who is best known as Mr. Sulu in the original “Star Trek” television series, and whose personal experiences in internment camps in Arkansas and California inspired “Allegiance.”

Mr. Takei, in a telephone interview, described the show as “very, very personal” and a tribute to his parents as well as the tens of thousands of people of Japanese ancestry – the majority of whom were American citizens – who were forcibly relocated to camps from 1942 to 1946 under an order by President Roosevelt. Mr. Takei said that he had invested a “substantial” amount of his own money in the musical, and that it features characters drawn from his family and life, including a grandfather character that Mr. Takei will portray in his Broadway debut.

I consider this my legacy project,” said Mr. Takei, who is 77 and spent about four years of his childhood in two camps. “This is the first time that this dark chapter of American history will be done on the Broadway stage.”

Mindful that theatergoers often skip Broadway musicals that are tagged (however unfairly) as ruminations on history, like “The Scottsboro Boys” and “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson,” Mr. Takei highlighted the romantic subplots and centrality of baseball in “Allegiance,” as well as the overarching theme of family unity.

The show’s backdrop is the imprisonment of innocent Americans simply because we looked like the people who bombed Pearl Harbor, but the story is universal – people falling in love, getting married, having a family,” Mr. Takei said. “The musical will find an audience because whether you are white, black, Latino, young or old, people can identify with the idea of family and the stresses put on a family, which in this case were enormous.”

Allegiance” had its world premiere in 2012 at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego, receiving mixed reviews but drawing large and ethnically diverse audiences. Since then, Mr. Takei said, some scenes and dialogue have been tweaked but the show is essentially the same. The Old Globe cast included the Tony Award winner Lea Salonga (“Miss Saigon”) and Telly Leung (the 2011 Broadway revival of “Godspell”). Mr. Takei said Ms. Salonga and Mr. Leung were in negotiations to do “Allegiance” on Broadway but no casting beyond his was confirmed at this point.

The musical’s producers, Lorenzo Thione and Andrew Treagus, have been waiting for an available Broadway theater for about two years, but other shows – some more evidently commercial than “Allegiance,” and some flops – landed them first. “Allegiance” will arrive during a period of increasingly steady opportunities for Asian-American theater actors in New York: a Broadway revival of “The King & I” is set to open this spring, while the hit London revival of “Miss Saigon” looks likely to arrive on Broadway at some point, though probably not before the 2016-17 theater season.

Allegiance,” which has a book by Marc Acito and music and lyrics by Jay Kuo, will be directed by Stafford Arima (Off Broadway’s “Carrie,” “Altar Boyz”). Preview performances are scheduled to begin Oct. 6, with an opening night of Nov. 8.

The musical grew out of a chance encounter several years ago that Mr. Takei and his husband, Brad, had with Mr. Thione and Mr. Kuo at back-to-back theater outings in New York, after which Mr. Takei shared his childhood memories of the camps over dinner.

We talked for a long time about my childhood imprisonment, about my father’s anguish at being challenged over his loyalty to America – my dad was born in San Francisco and played baseball, my mother was born in Sacramento,” Mr. Takei said. “I’m a weeper, and when Jay emailed me a song after that, about my father and the idea of allegiance, I just gushed. I knew I had to do this.”

Karen David stars as Princess Isabella in the ABC musical comedy series ‘Galavant’ 

Audrey Magazine:

Karen David has come a long way since her childhood days of being awkward and bullied. You’d never know it now, but her golden complexion was once blanketed with acne. She excelled in school, but her demeanor was reticent. And her ethnic ambiguity invited peer derision. It may well be that these growing pains of youth served as her motivating fuel, and now it is her work ethic, beauty and, yes, even her ethnic “versatility” that may be her most valued assets.

Born in India and raised in Canada, David had already determined at an early age that she wanted to act and sing. She earned a scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and then later continued her studies at the Guildford School of Acting in London. Her first acting role was on a London West End stage, as part of the original cast of Mamma Mia! Being a part of that led to her working with iconic Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman on another musical, Bombay Dreams. While performing in the theater, David also had been singing in a studio. She signed a record deal with BMG Europe, and her single “It’s Me (You’re Talking To)” became a hit in several European countries.

Despite these musical successes, it was her presence on British television that garnered the most eyes and accolades. In 2010, she joined the cast of the BBC drama Waterloo Road, in which she played a sexy teacher who falls in love with a student. This storyline generated plenty of controversy, as well as an ever-increasing fandom for the actress. Guest appearances on American series such as Touch and Castle soon followed.

Now American audiences can witness David’s complete set of talents, as she gets to combine her dream of singing and acting for the new ABC miniseries Galavant. Created by filmmaker Dan Fogelman (whose credits include Crazy, Stupid, Love and Tangled), who teamed up with musical legend Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast), Galavant is a medieval musical comedy. But don’t let that faze you, says David. “What makes Galavant so special is that there is something in it for everyone. It appeals to the big kid in all of us and will give you a good laugh. Watch out! By the end of each episode, the songs will be stuck in your head!”

Audrey spoke with David about her new role and her journey to get there.

Karen david


Audrey Magazine: Galavant is being heralded as Monty Python meets Princess Bride. Can you tell me about how you got the role, a little about your character, Princess Isabella, and how you did your homework?

Karen David: That’s funny that you mention homework. I have a mish-mosh in my heritage. I have Chinese, Indian and a sliver of Jewish. With the Asian influences, there is an immigrant mentality that you have to work triple hard. My parents said that even if I wasn’t going to be an accountant or lawyer, I had to put in the homework. It’s all about being the best that you can be and always working at your craft.

I loved Galavant when my agents sent me the script. Then my heart stopped when I read the bit where [Princess Isabella] is described as Jennifer Lawrence. So I went into this casting process feeling like the underdog and just having fun with it.

But after I went to meet Dan [Fogelman] for the second meeting, Dan turned to everyone and said, “That’s my Isabella. That’s my brown Jennifer Lawrence.”

 

AM: Tell me a little about Princess Isabella. How does she match your personality? She was obviously scripted to look different.

KD: She is the people’s princess with a big heart. There is nothing she wouldn’t do for her family and her kingdom. There is something so human about her and approachable, which I find refreshing.

I was born near the Himalayas, in a matriarchal society where the women are mighty. I was brought up with this kind of strength, and I wanted to celebrate that with Isabella.

 

AM: You have dedicated years honing your craft in anticipation of a big break. It can be an intimidating and unforgiving business. What kept you persevering?

KD: I’m really blessed to have parents who weren’t traditional in the sense of what their children should be. My mom says that I always wanted to sing and dance, and I listened to whatever my [older] sister was listening to. When I was 6, my sister was watching Xanadu. I remember that moment so clearly — and it’s what I hold on to when I get faced with rejection. I was so taken with everything Olivia Newton-John. I went to my parents and told them I wanted to do that — to sing and to act.

My parents have always been a huge source of inspiration — guiding me with wisdom and humility. They immigrated [to Canada] with two daughters and $20. They took the leap of faith, and that has been a source of inspiration for me. They taught me to be quietly ambitious — meaning, don’t talk about it. Just let the actions speak.

Also, I was very studious and steadfast with my studies. I had to have straight A’s. If I excelled in my studies, then [my parents] would pay for my acting and music lessons.

I dealt with rejections early on, since I was doing auditions as a kid. But you end up building thick skin. At the end of the day, this is what I love, and I can’t give it up.

 

AM: You are inundated with filming, traveling and press junkets. What do you do outside of that?

KD: Kundalini yoga, pilates and meditation. It clears the mind and gives me spiritual strength. And I love traveling. Also, my husband and I love to cook. It’s all about experiencing life with your family and friends, creating memories and life experiences. These are the things that count the most. It’s stuff like that that makes you a better actor.

 

Galavant premieres January 4, 2015, on ABC.

 

Story by Elaine Sir
Photo by Ilza Kitshoff

This story was originally published in Audrey Magazine’s Winter 2014-15 issue. Get your copy here. 

James Shigeta, top Asian-American actor of early ’60s and ‘Die Hard’ co-star, dies at 81

He starred in such films as “The Crimson Kimono,” “Flower Drum Song,” “Cry for Happy,” “Bridge to the Sun” and, later, as a terrorized executive in the Bruce Willis movie.

James Shigeta, a top Asian-American actor of the early 1960s who starred in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song, died Monday in Los Angeles, publicist Jeffrey Leavitt announced. He was 81.

The handsome Hawaiian, who later appeared as the ill-fated chief executive of the Nakatomi corporation in the Bruce Willis action film Die Hard (1988), had a great two-year run in Hollywood starting in the late 1950s.

Shigeta made his feature debut in Sam Fuller’s Los Angeles-set noir The Crimson Kimono (1959), playing a young detective, and followed that by portraying a young Chinese man in the American Old West who battles a freight line operator (Jack Lord) over a woman in James Clavell’s Walk Like a Dragon (1960).

Shigeta then starred with Glenn Ford and Donald O’Connor as American Navy men billeted in a Tokyo geisha house in director George Marshall’s Cry for Happy (1961). And in Bridge to the Sun, he portrayed a Japanese diplomat who is married to an American (Carroll Baker) at the time of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

In Flower Drum Song (1961), set in San Francisco and directed by Henry Koster, Shigeta plays Wang Ta, who’s dazzled by a showgirl (Nancy Kwan) before he realizes an immigrant from China (Miyoshi Umeki) is really the one for him. A natural baritone, Shigeta did all his singing in the film.

The Golden Globes in 1960 named him (along with Barry Coe, Troy Donahue and George Hamilton) as “most promising male newcomer.”

Shigeta later had recurring roles on the 1969-72 CBS drama Medical Center and appeared on episodes of Ben Casey, Lord’s Hawaii Five-OEllery QueenLittle House on the PrairieFantasy IslandT.J. HookerThe Love BoatMagnum, P.I.Simon & SimonJake and the Fatman and Murder, She Wrote.

His film résumé includes Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) with Elvis PresleyNobody’s Perfect(1968), Lost Horizon (1973), Midway (1976), Cage (1989) and the animated Mulan (1998).

Born in Honolulu of Japanese ancestry on June 17, 1933, Shigeta moved to New York and studied at New York University, then joined the U.S. Marine Corps and fought during the Korean War.

He relocated to Japan and became a star on radio and television in that country, then returned to the U.S. to sing on The Dinah Shore Show in 1959. Also that year, he starred with Shirley MacLaine in a production of Holiday in Japan in Las Vegas.