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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Theater: “Banana Boys” at the Factory Theatre Toronto (review)

Nina Lee Aquino gets great performances out of her cast in Factory Theatre's latest production of Banana Boys, writes Richard Ouzounian.

The Star (by Richard Ouzounian):

There are at least 10 reasons you ought to go see the new production of Banana Boys that opened at the Factory Theatre Studio Theatre on Thursday night. Since the venue is small (100 seats) and the run short (until Nov. 22), I suggest you plan to see it right away. Here’s why:

The Script

Leon Aureus’s adaptation of the game-changing Terry Woo novel about the lives of five Asian Canadians still has all the punch it ever did. Maybe even more so, as people today assimilate externally while their internal workings remain truer to their origins than ever. The end of each act may still seem a bit repetitious, but the overall effect is powerful.

The Direction

I’ve been pretty tough on Nina Lee Aquino in recent years, but her direction of Banana Boys shows her at her best. She’s totally connected to the material, gets great performances out of her cast and stages it in a really imaginative way. It looks very 2015, which is just the right idea.

Darrel Gamotin

He plays Sheldon Kwan, the guy who’s says he’s willing to give up everything for the right girl but proves better at dumping them than keeping them. Warm-hearted, but kind of soft-headed, Gamotin has all the right feelings but all the wrong moves. A really touching job.

Matthew Gin

Gin has one of the toughest jobs, playing the author surrogate who grudgingly goes into medicine to keep his parents happy when he’d rather be an author. He looks like the preppiest of all the guys, but there’s some truly dark stuff bubbling underneath. He’s a multi-level performer.

Oliver Koomsatira

The character of Dave Lowe is the hardest to take in the play: sexist, racist, horribly violent and always in your face. Here’s the surprise, Koomsatira makes us understand and empathize with him without softening any of the hard edges. Frightening but magnetic.

Simu Liu

It’s Rick Wong’s funeral that frames the play. No spoiler here, you see his body as soon as you enter the theatre. Wong is the most seemingly successful one but driven by unspeakable demons. Liu lets us see the man’s power as well as his pain. A great juggling act.

Philip Nozuka

Luke Yeung is one of those Peter Pan boys who never commit and never grow up. Nozuka is perfect in the role, as charmingly playful as a puppy, but just as mischievous as well. Nozuka delivers all that with style but lifts the curtain to let us see the emptiness inside as well. He’s a fine young actor.

The Production

This is part of the “Naked Season” at Factory, where physical trappings aren’t supposed to matter a lot. It may not work on some shows, but it’s perfect here. The uncredited costumes are perfect (especially Nozuka’s Power Rangers T-shirt), the simple set is versatile and Jennifer Lennon’s lighting is flashy or subtle as needed.

The Anger

This is a very funny show and very touching as well, but you’re going to walk away remembering the anger. Every one of the cast has at least one major eruption of long-hidden rage, all related to issues of racism that have been ignored or repressed. It’s a powerful and frightening message.

The Audience

I attended the final preview, which was packed, enthusiastic and heavily weighted toward the under-30 crowd. Those qualities are so seldom visible in Toronto theatres that you have to cheer when you see it happening. If you feel like you don’t belong at most plays in the city, try this one out.


By Leon Aureus. Directed by Nina Lee Aquino. Until Nov. 22 at the Factory Theatre Studio, 125 Bathurst St. or 416-504-9971

Tony Award winning playwright David Henry Hwang wins Distinguished Artist Award

David Henry Hwang

AsAm News: 

Tony Award winning playwright David Henry Hwang will receive the 2015 Distinguished Artist Award from the International Society of Performing Arts.

Hwang will join a list of previous award winners including such legends as Helen Hayes, Herb Albert, Cab Callaway, Cameron MacKintosh, Ravi Shankar, and Regina Carter.

Hwang is best known for winning a Tony Award for best play for M. Butterfly. He is a three-time OBIE Award winner and a two-time finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

The award will be presented at the 2015 New York Congress. Dynamic Leadership, Creating The Future conference next week in New York City.

A-Squared Theater Workshop (Chicago) presents “Ching Chong Chinaman”

Angry Asian Man:

Hey, Chicago. From now until October 19, you can watch a performance of Lauren Yee‘s Ching Chong Chinaman, a satire of Asian American identity that explores what happens when a Chinese American family loses all sense of their cultural heritage.

Performances will be held at the Raven Theater Complex.

Here’s some more info:

Ching Chong Chinaman

by Lauren Yee

Directed by Giau Minh Truong
Produced by A-Squared Theatre Workshop

Named by Time Out Chicago as one of “17 theater shows to see this fall” in Chicago, Ching Chong Chinaman by Lauren Yee satirizes the Asian American identity and explores what happens when a Chinese American family loses all sense of their cultural heritage. The ultra-assimilated Wong family is living the American dream, but not all is perfect. Upton, the Wongs’ youngest child, dreams of becoming a World of Warcraft champion and the only things that stand in his way are his daily chores and homework. Desdemona, the Wongs’ daughter, has goals of attending Princeton, but her math grades are not up to par. Upton comes up with an idea to solve both their problem by acquiring Jinqiang, a Chinese indentured servant who envisions an American dream of his own.

September 27 – October 19*
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 pm
Sundays at 3:30 pm
(Preview: Friday, September 26 at 8 pm)

*The Friday, October 3rd performance will be a “Chinese Community Night” performance and reception organized by the Chinese-American Museum of Chicago with proceeds benefitting A-Squared Theatre Workshop.

All performances will be held at:
The West Stage of The Raven Theatre Complex
6157 North Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois 60660

For tickets, visit
$30 for general admission
$20 for students and seniors (with valid ID)
$75 for “Chinese Community Night” fundraiser performance and reception on Friday, October 3

For more information: 773.231.0832 or

For more information, visit the A-Squared Theatre Workshop website.

To purchase tickets, go here.

Boston theatre puts on play about Astro Boy and Tezuka



Osamu Tezuka‘s Astro Boy, in addition to being a historically important piece of entertainment, is also widely beloved around the world. And now, some sixty-plus years after its first inception as a manga, it’s been granted additional life on the stage, thanks to the efforts of playwright and director Natsu Onoda Power, and the folks at the Company One theater company.

Titled Astro Boy and the God of Comics, this production is running every Wednesday thru Sunday at the Boston Center for the Arts‘ Plaza Theatre until August 16.

From the website:

Astro Boy – a crime-fighting, sweet-faced robot – and his creator, Osamu Tezuka – the real-life Father of Manga and “Walt Disney of Japan” – explore the intersections of science, art, and family.






Power, an assistant professor in theater at Georgetown University, is also the author of God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga. Those eager in learning more about her interest in Tezuka, live animation, and theater can check out this interview in the theater company’s curriculum guide for the Astro Boy play.

This production marks the New England premiere of Astro Boy and the God of Comics. For ticketing information, check out the official website.




Opera remembers the tragedy of Asian-American soldier Army Pvt. Danny Chen


About two years ago, playwright David Henry Hwang turned down an offer to write a play about the brief life and suicide of Army Pvt. Danny Chen.

But an opera? He couldn’t refuse.

This is a story with big emotions, big primary colors in a way, and big plot events,” says Hwang, who wrote the libretto for An American Soldier, a new hourlong opera commissioned by Washington National Opera.

Set to premiere on Friday at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the production is based on news accounts of Chen’s life and the investigation into his death. The American-born son of Chinese immigrants, Chen was raised in New York City’s Chinatown and enrolled in the Army after high school.

During his six weeks in Afghanistan, his superiors showered him with racial slurs almost daily and once hurled rocks at him. Just months after he enlisted, the 19-year-old soldier was found dead in a guard tower at his base with a self-inflicted gunshot.

The opera focuses on a fictional court-martial of one of Chen’s superiors. In real life, eight soldiers, including one officer, were charged in connection with his death. All were either demoted or dismissed from the Army, and most received brief prison sentences. To better understand the story, Hwang says he consulted with members of the military.

Most of them feel that it’s understandable that this could happen, particularly in a battlefield in Afghanistan, where all of a sudden there’s no checks and balances,” he says.


Treated ‘Like You’re A Foreigner’

Chen’s death helped drive legislation signed by President Obama last year that required new reviews of the military’s response to hazing.

But for tenor Andrew Stenson, who plays Chen in the opera, this story isn’t just about bullying in the military.

Danny and I are different people, but we’re young Asian-Americans in the United States,” Stenson says. “Even though you were born here or raised here, some people are still going to treat you like you’re a foreigner.”

Almost three years since Chen’s death, his parents continue to grapple with the loss of their only child, who enlisted against his mother’s wishes. At a recent street co-naming ceremony honoring Chen in New York City’s Chinatown, his mother, Su Zhen Chen, offered a tearful thanks to supporters.

I hope that from now on even more people will know what happened to my Danny,” Su Zhen Chen said in Toisanese at the unveiling of a new street sign for a portion of New York’s Elizabeth Street, which is now co-named “Pvt. Danny Chen Way.”


Learning From A ‘Very Sad’ Story

Composer Huang Ruo, who wrote the music for An American Soldier, admits his latest project focuses on a “very sad” story.

But as a society, we need to come together to learn from it,” he adds.

For the opera’s last scene, Huang wrote a simple, haunting melody to accompany Hwang’s lyrics for a lullaby. “Sleep now, little one. Do not fear. Do not cry,” sings the character Mother Chen to help soothe her departed son. “Like the stars above, I’ll watch over you.”

When it’s sung in the mezzo-soprano voice, it’s magical,” Huang says.


That mezzo-soprano voice comes from Guang Yang, who plays Chen’s mother in the opera. Yang says the opera is a tribute to Su Zhen Chen’s commitment to keeping her son’s story alive.

The heart of the opera is the relationship between mother and son,” Yang explains. “Because the mother is fighting, keeps fighting, never stops seeking this justice for her son, that’s how we got here.”

Danny Chen’s mother and father are planning to travel to Washington to see Saturday’s performance. Before taking his own life, Chen left a message for them in black ink on his forearm: “Tell my parents I’m sorry.”


Check out this link:

Opera remembers the tragedy of Asian-American soldier Army Pvt. Danny Chen



COMME des GARÇONS PLAY 2014 Spring/Summer Collection

Image of COMME des GARÇONS PLAY 2014 Spring/Summer Collection
COMME des GARCONS presents its Spring/Summer 2014 “Play” collection. The lineup applies its trademark Filip Pagowski-designed iconography over a range of cardigans, T-shirts and button-ups. Sticking with a simple selection of colors, the items appear in largely neutral tones though use of navy and burgundy add some somber hints of contrast to the collection. Look for the entire collection now through select outlets including HAVEN.
Check out this link:
Image of COMME des GARÇONS PLAY 2014 Spring/Summer CollectionImage of COMME des GARÇONS PLAY 2014 Spring/Summer CollectionImage of COMME des GARÇONS PLAY 2014 Spring/Summer CollectionImage of COMME des GARÇONS PLAY 2014 Spring/Summer CollectionImage of COMME des GARÇONS PLAY 2014 Spring/Summer CollectionImage of COMME des GARÇONS PLAY 2014 Spring/Summer CollectionImage of COMME des GARÇONS PLAY 2014 Spring/Summer Collection

“So You Think You Can Dance” star Cole Horibe embodies kung fu superstar Bruce Lee

So You Think You Can Dance contestant Cole Horibe is more than just a pretty face (who can dance). He’s also a black belt, a junior Olympic silver medalist, and a trained actor. Incredibly, Horibe will have the chance to put all his skills to work at once when he plays kung fu legend Bruce Lee in the upcoming premiere of Pulitzer Price finalist David Henry Hwang‘s Kung Fu.


Vietnamese American actor makes choice not to run anymore from Miss Saigon


Miss Saigon, the tragic, musical love story set in war-torn Vietnam, has been at the top of Vi Tran’s blacklist since as long as he can remember.

It was the “I’ll never, ever do that show” show.

Tran, then a young Missouri-based actor, would not be typecast, he proclaimed.

I avoided the show like the plague,” Tran said. “When you’re a young actor, especially one who’s ethnic, you want to prove to yourself that you belong. You don’t want to run to ‘Miss Saigon’ just because you’re a Vietnamese actor.”

Vi Tran was born in Vinh, Vietnam, a “tiny little village” 90 minutes northwest of Saigon. He began life on the run — a sometimes refugee, sometimes prisoner.

I was a refugee baby, like the little kid that the plot of ‘Miss Saigon’ revolves around,” Tran said. “His mom wants a better life for him and my parents lived that journey.”

Tran’s parents, with two kids in tow, escaped Vietnam when he was a year old. Over the next two years, the family lived in limbo, first in Khmer Rouge-controlled Cambodia before reaching a neutral zone in Thailand.

In Cambodia we were captured by the Khmer Rouge and were in a prison camp for a time until the Red Cross was able to smuggle us out,” Tran said.

After years on the move, the family landed in Garden City, Kansas, in the early 1980s, with $10 and the clothes on their backs. Tran’s parents immigrated into Kansas during the height of a meat-packing boom in the state. Like a lot of Southeast Asian and Mexican immigrants, Tran’s parents both took factory jobs where the language learning curve wasn’t a significant barrier to employment.

They worked 70-hour weeks “so that I may not know how impoverished we were,” Tran said.

Today, Tran thinks of the Vietnamese actors who “had the chops to perform this show” on Broadway when it debuted in 1989, “but like my parents, they were working doing practical things so that their kids might choose for themselves.”

Tran’s “never-ever” attitude toward the Miss Saigon story began to shift after a while.

I think of them when I finally made the leap to join in telling this story, the ‘Miss Saigon’ story,” Tran said. “I now see it as part of my responsibility to become part of that dialogue.”

Check out this link for the full interview:

Vietnamese American actor makes choice not to run anymore from Miss Saigon



“So You Think You Can Dance” star Cole Horibe to channel Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang’s “Kung Fu”


So You Think You Can Dance contestant Cole Horibe will embody legendary martial arts star Bruce Lee in the world premiere of David Henry Hwang’s new play Kung Fu. Directed by Leigh Silverman, performances will begin February 4, 2014, with an official opening night set for February 24 at the Irene Diamond Stage in the Pershing Square Signature Center. Kung Fu is slated to play a limited engagement through March 16. Horibe will reunite with So You Think You Can Dance’s Sonya Tayeh, who will choreograph the production. Additional casting will be announced shortly.

Obviously, a huge challenge inherent in Kung Fu was finding an actor who could credibly portray martial arts icon Bruce Lee,” Hwang said in a statement. “Cole’s electrifying martial arts and dance performances immediately riveted me. He shared Bruce’s charisma and even resembled him physically. Later, in his auditions for Kung Fu, he brought the same raw talent to his acting that he’d shown so brilliantly in his dance. We feel incredibly blessed to have found in Cole a star who can bring a legend to life.”

Horibe will make his off-Broadway debut in Kung Fu. He appeared as a contestant on the ninth season of TV’s So You Think You Can Dance, in the category of martial arts fusion.

Kung Fu tells the story of international icon Bruce Lee’s journey from troubled Hong Kong youth to martial arts legend. The new play blends dance, Chinese opera, martial arts and drama into a new theatrical form. The production follows Lee in America as he struggles to prove himself as a fighter, a husband, a father and a man. The production will feature specialty choreography by Dou Dou Huang, scenic design by David Zinn, costume design by Anita Yavich, lighting design by Ben Stanton, sound design by Darron L. West, projection design by Darrel Maloney and music by Du Yun.

Check out this link:

So You Think You Can Dance star Cole Horibe to channel Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang’s “Kung Fu”