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

  • Exclusive video interviews with Hold These Truths Playwright Jeanne Sakata, Star Joel de la Fuente and Director Lisa Rothe

    Posted by Lia Chang

    (Photo by Lia Chang) In the dressing room with Joel de la Fuente, who stars as Gordon Hirabayashi in Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York through November 25, 2012. 

    (Photo below by Lia Chang) In the dressing room with Joel de la Fuente, who stars as Gordon Hirabayashi in Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York on November 24, 2012. Joel is holding a photo of Esther Schmoe and Gordon Hirabayashi on their wedding day, August 05, 1944. 

    By Lia Chang

    As Gordon Hirabayashi, Joel de la Fuente is a revelation in his nuanced tour-de-force portrayal of Gordon, seamlessly transforming into 30+ other characters throughout the course of The Epic Theatre Ensemble’s New York premiere of Jeanne Sakata’s critically-acclaimed solo play Hold These Truths (formerly known as Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi), directed by Lisa Rothe, which recently played an extended run at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y in New York.   (Click on the blue link above or here for the full feature and videos.)

    Playwright Jeanne Sakata was inspired by a true story to write Hold These Truths, which is set in Seattle during World War II, where University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi is agonizing over U.S. government orders to forcibly remove and mass incarcerate all people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast. As he fights to reconcile his country’s betrayal with his passionate belief in the U.S. Constitution, Hirabayashi journeys toward a greater understanding of America’s triumphs — and a confrontation with its failures.

    President Obama posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Gordon Hirabayashi (1918-2012), the nation’s highest civilian honor, in April 2012.

    (Photo by Lia Chang) Joel de la Fuente, Jeanne Sakata and Daniel Dae Kim. 

    Check out the Rave Reviews. THE NEW YORKER

    “One of the stunning things about Joel de la Fuente’s...

  • Playing Lady Thiang in the Harbor Lights’ Production of The King and I is a dream come true for Christine Toy Johnson

    Posted by Lia Chang

    For Christine Toy Johnson, playing Lady Thiang opposite Mel Sagrado Maghuyop as The King and Tamara Jenkins as Anna, in the Harbor Lights Theater Company’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, is a dream come true.

    Christine Toy Johnson Photo by Bruce Alan Johnson

    “I’ve been so lucky to have had a chance to play so many of my dream roles: “Maria” in West Side Story, “Julie” in Carousel, “Cunegonde” in Candide, “Amalia” in She Loves Me — and now, to finally get to play “Lady Thiang” after chasing her for so many years really feels like a dream come true,” said Johnson, an award-winning actor, playwright, filmmaker and advocate for inclusion in the arts. “I’m so glad it’s here and now, with this company, at this time.”

    As a performer, she has been featured extensively on Broadway, off-Broadway, in regional theatres across the country, in film, television, and concerts worldwide. Highlights include the New York revivals of The Music Man, Merrily We Roll Along, Pacific Overtures, and Falsettoland, the national tours of Cats,Flower Drum Song and Bombay Dreams, and leading roles at some of the most well-respected theatres across the country including the Huntington Theatre Company, Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Berkshire Theatre Festival, Indiana Rep, Missouri Rep, Paper Mill Playhouse, Denver Center Theatre Company, Minnesota Opera, California Musical Theatre, the Ogunquit Playhouse, the Weston Playhouse and the Hangar Theatre. Nearly 100 television appearances include two years as “Lisa West” on “One Life To Live,” “Ugly Betty,” “The Big C, “Fringe,” “Royal Pains,” “Crossing Jordan,” “Nunsense,” “Nunsense 2” and many episodes of various Law and Orders.” Recent guest starring spots on TV include “30 ROCK” in an episode called “Plan B”, and as Vanessa Williams’ friend “Julie” in “666 Park Ave.”

    The King and I director Alan Muraoka and...

  • Q & A with Mel Sagrado Maghuyop, The King in Harbor Lights’ Production of The King and I

    Posted by Lia Chang

    Mel Sagrado Maghuyop recently played “The King” in the Walnut Street Theater’s production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, and this month, he will appear as “The King” again, opposite Tamara Jenkins, Founding Artistic Director of Harbor Lights (Chicago, Les Miserables, Cats), who portrays Anna, in the final show of Harbor Lights’ third season as Staten Island’s only professional Equity theater company.

    Tamara Jenkins as Anna and Mel Sagrado Maghuyop as The King in the Harbor Lights Theater Company’s production of The King and I. Photo credit: Bittenbyazebra

    Ron Domingo as The Kralahome, Mel Sagrado Maghuyop as The King and Tamara Jenkins as Anna in rehearsal for the Harbor Lights Theater Company’s production of The King and I on October 27, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

    The King and I director Alan Muraoka and choreographer Andrew Sakaguchi. Photo by Lia Chang

    The King and I is helmed by Broadway Veteran and long-time “Sesame Street” cast member Alan Muraoka, who appeared in the 1996 revival of the show on Broadway, with Andrew Sakaguchi expertly re-constructing Jerome Robbins’ legendary choreography.

    Dancers rehearsing a number from The King and I. Photo by Lia Chang

    Dancers rehearsing a number from The King and I. Photo by Lia Chang

    The King and I runs from November 8th through the 18th at the Music Hall at Historic Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Gardens.

    The Music Hall at Historic Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Gardens on Staten Island. Photo by Lia Chang

    Christine Toy Johnson as Lady Thiang and Tamara Jenkins as Anna, in The King and I. Photo by Lia Chang

    The King and I was inspired by the memoirs of Anna Harriet Leonowens, the real author and teacher. Anna was hired by King Mongkut of Siam to teach his 67 children at his royal palace in Bangkok. She stayed for several years, leaving Bangkok during the 1860’s and settling in Staten Island. She lived on Tompkins...

  • Manu Narayan Dazzles as Richard Roma in La Jolla Playhouse’s Revival of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross

    Posted by Lia Chang

    Manu Narayan stars as Richard Roa in Glengarry Glen Ross at the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre Photo by Lia Chang

    Manu Narayan is taking no prisoners as Richard Roma, the smooth talking, ruthless, sleazy, dishonest, immoral top salesman, in La Jolla Playhouse’s critically-acclaimed revival of Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning lacerating play about a group of desperate salesmen in a Chicago real estate office, currently playing to packed houses in the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre through October 21, 2012.

    Manu Narayan as Richard Roma, in the dressing room of the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre in La Jolla, CA. on September 30, 2012. Photo by Lia Chang

    Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley is at the helm of Glengarry Glen Ross, and has assembled a seasoned multi-cultural cast featuring Narayan, Peter Maloney (Broadway’s West Side Story, Six Degrees of Separation) as Shelly Levene, James Sutorius (Broadway’s The Farnsworth Invention) as Dave Moss, Ray Anthony Thomas (Broadway’sRace) as George Aaronow, Jeff Marlow (Colony Theatre’s Around the World in 80 Days) as James Lingk, Matt MacNelly (NY Fringe Festival’sFourteen Flights) as Baylen, and Johnny Wu (Playhouse’s Peter and the Starcatchers, Broadway’s Chinglish) as John Williamson, who are at the top of their game in the lyrical language of “Mametspeak.”

    Set designer Todd Rosenthal, lighting designer David Lander and sound designer David Corsello set the scene for the depressing tone ofGlengarry Glen Ross, in the first act with the worn down Chinese restaurant, complete with goldfish in a fish tank, where the salesmen ply their trade. When a contest is announced to earn the new sales leads, it results in a feeding frenzy as the salesmen resort to manipulation, bribery and even theft to keep their jobs. Toni Leslie James has nailed each of her men – Richard Roma’s suits are tailored for his success, complete with steel toe cowboy boots; the struggling salesmen in rumpled suits, and office manager John Williamson, looking very much the corporate company...

  • Nov. 15: Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor Hosts 1st Annual Varli Culinary Awards with Co-hosts Manu Narayan and Pooja Kumar in New York

    Posted by Lia Chang

    Manu Narayan Photo by Lia Chang

    After much-acclaimed success with Varli Magazine, the Varli Food Festival, and the Varli Cook-Off, the Varli brand continues to expand its reach with the first annual Varli Culinary Awards on November 15, 2012, at The Altman Building, 135 W. 18th St. in New York.

    The evening will be hosted by internationally acclaimed Master Chef Sanjeev Kapoor, along with Bombay Dream star Manu Narayan (The Love Guru), fresh from his electrifying turn as Richard Roma in La Jolla Playhouse’s revival of Glengarry Glen Ross, and Pooja Kumar (Vishwaroop, Man on A Ledge).

    Vikas Khanna (Photo by Lia Chang)

    The highly esteemed panel of judges includes celebrity judges, renowned food correspondents, and culinary experts such as Vikas Khanna, Jehangir Mehta, Monica Bhide, Rajesh Bhardwaj, Prasad Chirnomula, Hari Nayak.

    This revolutionary concept will be the first global awards event honoring the best culinary talent in an array of categories related to Indian cuisine. “It was time to give credit where credit’s due. We really wanted to recognize and applaud the contributions and amazing achievements of Indian chefs, restaurateurs, and key influencers on the international culinary stage,” says Varli Singh, founder of the Varli brand.

    In continuation of Varli’s mission to universally promote Indian cuisine, contestants spaning the U.S., India, Middle East, and Europe will compete in numerous categories including “Best Chef of the Year”, “Best Cookbook”, and “Best Restaurant”. Awards are divided into three different types based on the complexity of judging, and competitiveness of the contestant pool: “People’s Choice” categories (voting began on July 04, 2012), categories determined by a ‘Live Competition and/or a “Panel of Judges” and “Varli’s Choice”. There will also be a ‘Public Recipe Competition’ where amateur cooks from around the world can submit any original rice-based recipe (as a tribute to the...