Entertainment Spotlight

  • Catching Up: Santana, Taj Mahal and a déjà vu ‘Blue Christmas’

    Posted by Ben Fong-Torres

    Catching Up: Santana, Taj Mahal and a déjà vu ‘Blue Christmas’
    By Ben Fong-Torres It’s short shrift time. I have a life that’s ripe (and slightly wrinkled) for blogs and tweeting; for facebooking and updating. I’m just no good at it. My last column here on AsianConnections was about the memorial in late July for my sister Shirley. My last posting on the authors’ site, Redroom, was about a radio promo tour I did (20 stops, all on the phone...

Backstage Pass Articles

  • Dian Kobayashi, Emily Kuroda and Jeanne Sakata set for Daniel Akiyama’s A Cage of Fireflies at 2012 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab

    Posted by Lia Chang

    A Cage of Fireflies cast at the babbling brook. L to r: Emily Kuroda, Jeanne Sakata, Dian Kobayashi.

    Dian Kobayashi, Emily Kuroda and Jeanne Sakata are at the idyllic Sundance Resort in Utah, rehearsing A Cage of Fireflies, a new play by Honolulu-based playwright Daniel Akiyama, which has been selected as one of the eight projects out of nearly 900 submitted to be developed at the 2012 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab, July 9-29, 2012. It was simultaneously a finalist for this summer’s Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference.

    Jeanne Sakata, Emily Kuroda, and Dian Kobayashi in rehearsal for playwright Daniel Akiyama’s A Cage of Fireflies at the 2012 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab at the Sundance Resort in Utah.

    The play tells the story of three elderly sisters of the kibei generation – sent as children to be raised in Okinawa, then returned to live and work in Hawai‘i. Two of the sisters confine themselves to their small Honolulu apartment, enacting the rituals of daily life as they cling to a dream of returning to Okinawa. The third, charged with running the family’s orchid nursery, has inherited a title that is not hers. As long-hidden hopes and regrets surface, the sisters discover what is both selfish and selfless in their love for each other.

    Daniel Akiyama

    Akiyama, a graduate of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, began writing the play in response to an assignment in a playwriting class. He has worked with many of Honolulu’s theatres and states that “after being consumed by the study of dramatic writing most of my adult life, observing others at various stages in their own playwriting journeys, I now find myself in the midst of my own journey – my first full-length play.”

    Of the Sundance opportunity, he writes “This play has always been about small, private gestures, about rituals enacted quietly and with precision. The play is rooted in specific references to Okinawan and Hawaiian culture, history, and...

  • July 25-Aug.5: Daniel Hsia’s Shanghai Calling, Simon Yin’s Supercapitalist & Michael Kang’s Knots to Screen at 35th annual Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) in New York

    Posted by Lia Chang

    SHANGHAI CALLING (USA/China), directed and written by Daniel Hsia with renowned producer Janet Yang, is the Opening Presentation film at the 35th annual Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF), presented by Asian CineVision (ACV), on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at Asia Society and Museum (725 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021). Numerous guests from the cast and crew including Daniel Henney and Eliza Coupe will attend the Opening Night Gala hosted at Asia Society. The Centerpiece Presentation, SUPERCAPITALIST (USA/Hong Kong), will be shown on Saturday, July 28, with director Simon Yin and lead actor-writer Derek Ting in attendance. The festivities end on Sunday, August 5 with the Closing Night Presentation of KNOTS (USA), with director Michael Kang and lead actress-writer Kimberly-Rose Wolter in attendance. The Festival runs July 25 through August 5, with screenings at Clearview Cinemas (260 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011) and Asia Society and Museum (725 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10021).

    This year the Asian American International Film Festival features 50 New York premieres-narrative and documentary features, and shorts-of all genres from The Philippines, Taiwan, China, Japan, Korea, UK, Canada and across the Asian Diaspora.

    Opening Night Presentation:SHANGHAI CALLING – Dir. Daniel Hsia | Starring Daniel Henney, Eliza Coupe | USA/ChinaShanghai Calling narrates the story of Sam (Daniel Henney), a promising New York attorney, who is dispatched overnight by his bosses to open the firm’s new satellite office in the metropolis of Shanghai, where he meets Amanda (Eliza Coupe), the lovely relocation specialist. Sam proves to be capable at his new job by landing a huge deal just hours after arriving at the airport; however, the deal goes mysteriously awry, and Sam finds his career in serious jeopardy. He must trust those who know Shanghai best to lead him through the city.

    Centerpiece Presentation:SUPERCAPITALIST – Dir. Simon Yin | Starring Derek...

  • July 20-28: NYMF: Prison Dancer starring Jose Llana, Jeigh Madjus, Marc delaCruz, Catherine Ricafort, Moses Villarama, Cosmo Clemens, Enrico Rodriguez, Albert Guerzon, Andrew Eisenman and Nathan Ramos at Theatre at St. Clement’s

    Posted by Lia Chang

    New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) and PRISON DANCER LIVE presents Romeo Candido and Carmen De Jesus’ Prison Dancer The Musical, helmed by Jenn Rapp, with music supervision by Alexander Rovang, at Off-Broadway’s Theatre at St. Clement’s, 423 West 46th Street in New York, Friday, July 20-Saturday, July 28, 2012.

    Jose Llana

    The cast features Jose Llana (Bdwy: Wonderland, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Flower Drum Song, Martin Guerre) as Christian Bagets, Jeigh Madjus (US Tour 2011 Le Cage Aux Folles) as Lola, Marc delaCruz (1st National Tour: Disney’s High School Musical) as Hookaps, Catherine Ricafort (Bdwy:Mamma Mia) as Cherish, Moses Villarama (Romeo & Juliet, National Theatre Cons.; King Lear, Denver Theatre Co.) as Shakespeare, Cosmo Clemens (Regional: 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, McLeod Summer Playhouse, Carbondale, IL; )as Oo Oo, Enrico Rodriguez (Off Bdwy: Fame on 42nd Street, Zanna, Don’t!) as Nana, Albert Guerzon (Bdwy: Ghost the Musical, Mamma Mia!) as Tondo, Andrew Eisenman (Twelfth Night, Leviathan Lab; Mother Courage, Ma-Yi Theatre Company) as Warden, and Nathan Ramos (Fever/Dream, Cleveland Public Theatre) as Swing/Prison Guard.

    The lives of eight Filipino maximum-security prisoners are changed forever when a video of their dance-based rehabilitation program becomes a viral Internet sensation on YouTube. As the dark prison suddenly finds itself in the worldwide spotlight, these hardcore criminals are given a second chance to find love and happiness in the most challenging circumstances. A modern inspired-by-a-true-story about how fears can hold us captive – and dreams can set us free to dance!

    With scenic design by Josh Zangen, costume design by Sky Switser, lighting design by Betsy Adams, sound design by Jon Weston. Rick Sorderlet is the fight director and Travis Brendle is the production stage manager.

    PRISON DANCER Schedule:Friday, Jul 20th, 2012 at 8:00 pmSunday, Jul 22nd, 2012 at 3:00 pmSunday,...

  • Three Year Swim Club, Encounter, TEA, Christmas in Hanoi and Chess set for East West Players 47th Anniversary Season

    Posted by Lia Chang

    East West Players (EWP), the nation’s largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work and the longest-running professional theatre of color in the country, kicks off its 47th Anniversary Season with the return of Lee Tonouchi’s Three Year Swim Club, a Los Angeles TimesCritic’s Choice and LA Weekly Pick, back by popular demand.

    Set on the island of Maui in the 1930′s, Three Year Swim Club becomes transcendent as the art of hula becomes the metaphor for competitive swimming. Inspired by the true life story of Soichi Sakamoto, who trained the youth of Maui to swim in the plantation irrigation ditches on their path to becoming Olympic champions. Directed and choreographed by Keo Woolford. Three Year Swim Club has performances, July 27-August 19, 2012, at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the UnionCenter for the Arts at 120 Judge John Aiso St. in Los Angeles, CA. For tickets and more information, check out the www.EastWestPlayers.org website or call 213-625-7000.This season, themed Spirited Away, includes the multidisciplinaryEncounter by S.M. Raju and Aparna Sindhoor, the newly-reimagined TEAby Velina Hasu Houston, the world premiere of Christmas in Hanoi by Eddie Borey, and the Broadway musical CHESS, music by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus Ulvaeus & lyrics by Tim Rice.

    “As East West Players enters its 47th season, we celebrate and explore the notion of spirit,” says Tim Dang, EWP’s Producing Artistic Director. “From ghosts tohuman perseverance, these stories delve into the essence of spirit within the human mind and body – as our emotions conjure the multiple definitions of the word spirit.”

    September 6-October 7, 2012Encounter explores different confrontations – with the Divine, the Self, Bob Marley, Love, and the Military. In association with Navarasa Dance Theater in Massachusetts, Encounter mesmerized audiences during the National Asian American Theater Festival. It is now brought in its full version, continuing to...

  • Disney’s Aladdin at The Muny with Thom Sesma, Francis Jue, Robin De Jesus, John Tartaglia, Jason Graae, Curtis Holbrook, Eddie Korbich, Samantha Massell and Ken Page

    Posted by Lia Chang

    Lia Chang with the camels of Disney's Aladdin at The Muny in St. Louis. Photo by Larry D. Pry

    Last Saturday, I was in the mood for a little Arabian adventure, so I caught a two hour flight via United from New York to St. Louis, to see the new stage musical of Disney’s Aladdin, currently playing through July 13th at The Muny, the nation’s oldest outdoor musical amphitheatre.

    It was 108 degrees when I arrived at the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. A short ride on the air conditioned Metrolink to the Forest Park Station, with a transfer to the #3 Trolley, conveniently delivered me to the front door of The Muny in less than half an hour. Celebrating its 94th season this year, The Muny, located in Forest Park, St. Louis, Missouri, seats 11,000, of which 1,500 free seats in the last nine rows are available on a first come, first served basis for each performance.

    The Muny has 11,000 seats. Photo by Lia Chang

    More than 10,000 people came out to see Aladdin, the only children’s show of The Muny’s seven show season. Attending a musical theater production at The Muny is unlike any I have experienced before. There were flashes of lightening and rumbles of thunder as I settled into my box seat in section K next to a woman who had been coming here for 50 years, and was accompanied by her granddaughter. As the orchestra began to play the national anthem, the entire audience rose to face the flag and sing.

    The national anthem is sung before each performance at The Muny. Photo by Lia Chang


    Samantha Massell, Francis Jue, Thom Sesma and Robin de Jesus. Photo by Lia Chang

    The two-hour and 15-minute stage adaptation incorporates the Academy Award-winning songs from the 1992 film, penned by composer Alan Menken (Sister Act, Leap of Faith, Newsies) and lyricists Howard Ashman (Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid) and Tim Rice (Evita, Jesus Christ Superstar), with a new book by Chad Beguelin (The Wedding Singer), who has also penned new...