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

  • June 20-July 14: Christine Toy Johnson to play Bloody Mary in Ogunquit Playhouse’s Production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific

    Posted by Lia Chang

    Christine Toy Johnson, Branch Fields, Jennie Sophia, Christopher Johnstone and Hsin-Yu Liao are set for The Ogunquit Playhouse production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific, June 20 – July 14, 2012. Opening night is June 21, 2012 at 8pm. The Ogunquit Playhouse is located at 10 Main Street, Ogunquit, ME. Performances are Tuesdays-Sundays. Contact the Box Office at 207-646-5511 orhttp://www.ogunquitplayhouse.org for tickets and showtimes.

    Christine Toy Johnson Photo by Bruce Alan Johnson

    Helmed by Shaun Kerrison, this all-new production of South Pacific is based on the lavish and breathtaking 2008 Tony Award winning Lincoln Center Theatre production, and features musical direction by Ken Clifton and choreography by Victor Wisehart. Set on a tropical island during World War II, the musical tells the sweeping romantic story of two couples and how their happiness is threatened by the realities of war and by their own prejudices. Beloved songs include “Some Enchanted Evening,” “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair,” “This Nearly Was Mine” and “There is Nothin’ Like a Dame.” Don’t miss this American classic that critics hailed as “Flawless,” “Simply Wonderful” and “Gorgeous!”

    Christine Toy Johnson, who plays Bloody Mary, is an award-winning actress, playwright and filmmaker. Highlights as a performer include featured roles on Broadway and Off-Broadway in The Music Man, Merrily We Roll Along,Pacific Overtures, Greaseand Falsettoland, the national tours of CATS, Flower Drum Song and Bombay Dreams, and at the New York Shakespeare Festival, Williamstown, the Huntington, Yale Rep, the Ordway, Denver Center Theatre Company, Minnesota Opera and New York City Opera etc. Nearly 100 television appearances include two years as “Lisa West” on “One Life to Live,” “Ugly Betty,” “The Big C,” “Fringe,” “Crossing Jordan,” “Nunsense,” “Nunsense 2,” and many episodes of various Law and Orders.”


  • July 5-13: Thom Sesma, Francis Jue, Robin de Jesus and John Tartaglia set for @The Muny's Aladdin

    Posted by Lia Chang

    The Muny has announced principal casting for the third show of its 94th season, Disney’s Aladdin (July 5-13), directed by Gary Griffin, and choreographed by Alex Sanchez.

    Thom Sesma (Photo by Lia Chang)

    Tony® Nominees Robin De Jesus and John Tartaglia star as Aladdin and the Genie, respectively. Joining them will be Jason Graae as Omar, Curtis Holbrook as Iago, Francis Jue as Kassim, Eddie Korbich as Babkak, Samantha Massell as Jasmine, Ken Page as the Sultan, and Thom Sesma as Jafar.

    Based on the Disney film by the same name,Aladdin features a book by Chad Beguelin, music by Alan Menken, and lyrics by Howard Ashman and Tim Rice, with additional lyrics by Chad Beguelin. The Disney film was written by Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, and directed & produced by Ron Clements& Jon Musker.

    The Muny’s production features scenic design by Michael Anania, sound design by Jason Krueger, lighting design by Seth Jackson, and costume design by Mara Blumenfeld. Greg Anthony serves as the musical director, and the production stage manager is Nevin Hedley.

    Thom Sesma (Jafar) just participated in the all-star Shinsai: Theaters For Japan benefit at Cooper Union’s Great Hall in NYC, in memory of the tragic events of March 2011 and in tribute to the heroic recovery efforts of the Japanese people. In May of this year, he was the keynote speaker at the Library of Congress’ Asian American Pacific Islander Collection honoring Asian-Americans in the performing arts.

    Thom Sesma in the Asian Division Reading Room of the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. on May, 17, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

    In January 2012 he returned to New York from Las Vegas where he played Scar in Disney’s The Lion King for a two and a half year run at The Mandalay Bay Theatre. On Broadway he starred in the Twyla Tharp-Bob Dylan collaboration,The Times They Are A Changin’. Other credits on and off-Broadway and in national tours include leading roles in Miss...

  • June 18-24: Darren Lee, Francis Jue, Tari Kelly, Beth Leavel and Leslie Uggams set for MUNY's Thoroughly Modern Millie

    Posted by Lia Chang

    The Muny’s 94th season kicks off with Thoroughly Modern Millie, directed by Marc Bruni and choreographed by Chris Bailey, and starring Broadway veteran Tari Kelly as Millie Dillmount, Tony Award winner Beth Leavel as Mrs. Meers, and legendary performer Leslie Uggams reprising her Broadway role of Muzzy. Also appearing are Andrew Samonsky as Jimmy, Megan McGinnis as Miss Dorothy, Stephen Buntrock as Trevor Graydon, Francis Jue as Ching Ho, Darren Lee as Bun Foo and Tory Ross as Miss Flannery.

    Darren Lee (Photo by Lia Chang)

    Based on the 1967 film by Richard Morris, Thoroughly Modern Millie has a book by Jeanine Tesori and new lyrics by Dick Scanlan. Millie tells the story of a small-town girl, Millie Dillmount, who comes to New York City to marry for money instead of love – a thoroughly modern aim in 1922, when women were just entering the workforce.

    The production features scenic design by Sam and Steve Gilliam, sound design by Jason Krueger, lighting design by Seth Jackson and costume coordination by Tracy Christensen. Michael Horsley serves as the musical director, and the production stage manager is Peter Hynds.

    Francis Jue © Lia Chang

    Francis Jue (Ching Ho) returns to The Muny, where he has appeared in The Little Mermaid, Damn Yankees, Miss Saigon, Peter Pan, The King & I,and Mame. On Broadway, Francis originated the role of Bun Foo inThoroughly Modern Millie. Other Broadway credits: M. Butterfly andPacific Overtures. Francis won Obie and Lucille Lortel Awards (plus Drama Desk and Drama League nominations) for Yellow Face. Other favorite NYC credits include Love’s Labour’s Lost, Coraline, Falsettoland,A Language of Their Own, No Foreigners Beyond This Point, Hamlet, and King Lear. Francis has won regional theatre awards for In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), Cabaret, Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Into the Woods, The Illusion, Pacific Overtures, Miss Saigon,and Red. TV: “The Good Wife,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Law & Order.”...

  • May 26-June 4: Susan Soon He Stanton’s TAKARAZUKA!!! featuring Jennifer Ikeda, Brooke Ishibashi, Paul Juhn, Glenn Kubota, and Angela Lin kicks off Clubbed Thumb’s 17th annual SUMMERWORKS at Here

    Posted by Lia Chang

    Clubbed Thumb’s 17th annual SUMMERWORKS season of new plays kicks off with Susan Soon He Stanton’s TAKARAZUKA!!!, directed by Lear deBessonet, about the real-life all-female Japanese theatre troupe from May 26-June 4 at HERE Arts Center, 145 6th Ave in New York.

    Angela Lin

    The cast ofTAKARAZUKA!!!includes Jennifer Ikeda (TOP GIRLS, Manhattan Theater Club; TITUS ANDRONICUS, The Public), Brooke Ishibashi (THE INEXPLICABLE REDEMPTION OF AGENT G, Ma-Yi Theater Company in association with Vampire Cowboys Theater Company), Paul Juhn (“30 Rock”), Glenn Kubota (Pan Asian Rep) and Angela Lin (CHINGLISH). For tickets, priced $18, phone (212) 352-3101 or visitHERE.org. HERE Arts Center is located 145 Sixth Ave at Dominick. Showtime is at 8:30, there is no performance on May 30, 2012.

    Part ghost story, part love story, TAKARAZUKA!!! tracks the career sunset of Yuko, the star of a Japanese theater that stages all-female Western style musical extravaganzas. But when you take away her partner, her fans, and her tux, who will she be?

    SUSAN SOON HE STANTON’s plays include AMERICAN PIG PEN, CYGNUS, FURBALL, THE THINGS ARE AGAINST US, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO JOHN BOY KIHANO?, THE UNDERNEATH, THE ART OF PRESERVATION and others. She is a member of The Public Theater’s Emerging Writer’s Group and Ma-Yi Playwrights Lab. Awards include the 2011 Van Lier Fellowship at The Lark, and The Sloan Foundation feature film development grant. MFA: Yale Playwriting. From Honolulu, Susan lives in New York City. This is Susan’s first NYC production.

    LEAR deBESSONET Original works have been produced by Lincoln Center Theatre, the Old Globe Theatre, the Intiman Theatre, Joe’s Pub, and Performance Space 122. She has worked with writers Marcus Gardley, Naomi Iizuka, Todd Almond, Deborah Stein, and Lucy Thurber. She most recently conceived and directed ODYSSEY at the Old Globe, featuring a cast of nearly 200 performers including local choirs, marching bands, and park rangers.


  • 12th Annual New York Indian Film Festival Nominees

    Posted by Lia Chang

    The 12th Annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF), presented by the Indo-American Arts Council (IAAC), which runs from May 23 to 27 at the Tribeca Cinemas in Lower Manhattan, showcases more than 50 features, documentaries, and short films over a span of five days. The festival kicked off with an opening night red carpet screening of Bedabrata Pain’s CHITTAGONG on May 23 at the Paris Theater, followed by a VIP gala dinner at the Essex House Ballroom. Tonight, Rituparno Ghosh’s CHITRANGADA, the centerpiece film will have its world premiere at Tribeca Cinemas. On Sunday, May 27, 2012, Anurag Kashyap’s GANGS OF WASSEYPUR closes the festival at NYU’s Skirball Theater, followed by an awards ceremony and closing night party, sponsored by Wells Fargo.

    “And the nominees for the 12th annual NYIFF are…”BEST FILM AadukalamChitrangadaChittagongGattuShala

    BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM Big in BollywoodInshallah FootballKumareSaving FaceTransgenders: Pakistan’s Open Secret

    BEST SCREENPLAYPooja Desai, Anvita Dutt, Rajesh Narasimhan, Ashish Patil (Mujshe Fraaandship Karoge)Avinash Deshpande (Shala)Rituparno Ghosh (Chitrangada)Vetri Maaran (Aadukalam)Bedabrata Pain, Shonali Bose (Chittagong)

    BEST DIRECTORSujay Dahake (Shala)Rituparno Ghosh (Chitrangada)Vetri Maaran (Aadukalam)Prashant Nair (Delhi in a Day)Bedabrata Pain (Chittagong)

    BEST YOUNG ACTORSihle Dlamini (Lucky)Dilzad Hiwale (Bubble Gum)Dilzad Hiwale (Chittagong)Ashuman Joshi(Shala)Ketaki Mategaonkar (Shala)Mohd Samad (Gattu)

    THE BEST SHORTSAashpordhaBombay SnowDilli DreamsDo PaharSilent Waters

    BEST ACTORManoj Bajpayee (Chittagong)Dhanush (Aadukalam)Ankur Khanna (Abosheshey)Nana Patekar (Shagird)Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Dekh Indian Circus)Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Chittagong)

    BEST ACTRESSJayashree Basavaraj (Lucky)Priyanka Bose (Gangor)Tannishtha Chatterjee (Dekh Indian Circus)Anjali Patil (Delhi in a Day)Lipica Shah (Let’s Be Out, The Sun Is Shining)

    The independent jury who votes for their favorite nominees...