Archives for posts with tag: Miss Saigon

The Fairy Princess, continuing in her quest to bring you bring you all things ALLEGIANCE, as it heads to it’s big Broadway Opening on November 8th, has a very special treat for you now, Hunties….that’s right…five minutes with Ms. Lea Salonga!

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Lest you have been living under a rock since the 1990’s, let’s break it down for you – she is the Original KIM in MISS SAIGON in both the West End and Broadway productions, for which she won THE OLIVIER AWARD and THE TONY AWARD,

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she is the singing voice of Disney’s MULAN and Jasmine in ALADDIN,

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she has appeared as both Eponine and Fantine in LES MISERABLES,

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she headlined the Broadway revival of FLOWER DRUM SONG with the new book by David Henry Hwang,

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she’s done concerts worldwide, been an mentor on THE VOICE in The Philippines, recordings, films, countless stage shows –  it’s probably too endless to type out – and YET…and YET…with all of that, she still was kind enough to take a photo for TFP holding up a “Hi ____” sign, for one of TFP‘s students…in short…fancy – and nice.

So here we go –

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TFP: We are sitting here with Ms. Lea Salonga to talk about ALLEGIANCE – don’t worry, the questions will be fun.

LS: Ok. (smiles)

TFP: Well, hopefully – where were you when you first heard ALLEGIANCE was going to Broadway?

LS: Crud, I can’t remember. I think I was in Manila, probably doing The Voice.

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TFP: (silently giggling that Lea Salonga said “crud”) What were your thoughts when you heard the news – immediate reaction?

LS: “OH…FINALLY!”

TFP: Right? No kidding. Who was the first person you told?

LS: (smiles) The Husband.

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TFP: What is the thing, as an Asian performer, that you want the audience to take away from this show the most?

LS: There’s a lot to take away from this show – there are so many things we ‘hit’. The Japanese American Internment was such a dark part of American history. I’m hoping what people can take away from it (is) that, despite the darkness that happens, despite the rifts that take place within families, it is never too late to get a second chance at finding closure and finding happiness again.

TFP: What is the first big gift you bought yourself with your Broadway ALLEGIANCE money?

LS: The first rehearsal check I just put in the bank.

TFP: Oh, you are so Asian.

LS: (laughs) It goes into the bank, I didn’t splurge on anything. I’m waiting for big occasions like Opening Night.

TFP: I get that.

LS: I’m giving myself a video game console, probably, because there are all these cool games coming out!

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LS: I want to play the new Assassin’s Creed so bad!

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TFP: I did not see that coming.

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LS: Then for Christmas, we’ll probably get more gadgets because…we’re Asian. (laughs)

TFP: You are totally Asian, I don’t know if you know that, but wow, yes you are!

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TFP: Last question…it’s not about ALLEGIANCE per se, but it led up to ALLEGIANCE, so..it’s about MISS SAIGON…

LS: (raises eyebrow)

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TFP: You know that with recent productions of MISS SAIGON, there have been protestors, there are petitions, and the are starting to get a reaction in some spots. Myself, I’m not for the protesting -my thoughts are, in theater, if you don’t want to see something, no one is forcing you to see it, don’t go.

I think if you are looking at MISS SAIGON and only see prostitution, you are completely missing the point.

LS: You are missing the point.

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TFP: So I wanted to ask YOU, because no one has asked you what your thoughts are…

LS: The pickets and the demonstrations and all of the rallies taking place, that’s not anything new. I mean, I remember being in Previews at The Broadway Theater and there were demonstrators that blasted into the mezzanine, and while we were doing scenes from the show -happened to be doing DREAMLAND – which is the opening of the show, where all of the girls are in their skimpiest and we could hear people screaming from the mezz and screaming at us.

I looked up and went “What the hell is going on, I’m trying to do my job here!”

The thing is that the portrayal of the prostitutes is such a small part of the musical – it’s there to set a scene. We don’t see prostitutes for the two hours and twenty minutes that the show is going on. We see where this girl comes from, we see where this guy comes from. And then we have to be invested in what happens to these two – that’s really it. Yes, there are prostitutes but they are there for what, 10 min?

TFP: I agree, and the fact is, we do not see German people out protesting CABARET, we do not see French people out protesting LES MISERABLES, or GIGI, or English people out protesting OLIVER…

LS: Right. You see “Lovely Ladies” (from LES MISERABLES) and what do you think they are? Just because they happen to be Asian Prostitutes? You’re protesting? If you are going to protest prostitution, then you have to protest things like THE LIFE.

TFP: YES! That is what I said!

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LS: You have to protest other shows that portray that – ummm SWEET CHARITY. You have to keep going…so if you are going to protest one, you have to protest everything else… If it’s a generalizing this ‘looking down on the portrayal of women‘, then you have to go to each and every show that portrays prostitution then and protest that.

Because if you are focusing on the Asian prostitutes, ok – what makes the Asian prostitutes different from the Western?

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The oldest profession is the oldest profession, no matter where it is performed.

TFP: Exactly.

LS: You have to see the forest for the trees, and some people just don’t.

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TFP: Thank you, Ms. Lea Salonga – and there you have it!

Library is closed, we can all go home now – Break Legs on Opening Night and here is to a long and successful run.

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The Fairy Princess is shaking her head – and Taylor Swift is not even playing. She is shaking her head because the CEO of The Ordway Theater in St. Paul, MN has caved to a small group of protestors and agreed, publicly, to never produce MISS SAIGON, the musical, again during her tenure.

Sorry, what?

Ok here is the backstory -( this is what The Fairy Princess wrote at the time)  a year ago, (this is what Playbill.com wrote) a small group of protesters formed a group and decided they did not like MISS SAIGON the musical because they did not like the depiction of Asian women in the show. Admittedly, most of them had not seen it – they just did not like the idea of it.

The idea.

Because theater is not supposed to deal with ideas? Ideas that make you think? Ideas that make you uncomfortable?

Not, apparently in St. Paul.

They do not like to be uncomfortable there, they do not like to think. You see, the “Protestors‘, such as they are, are a rag taggle group of Artists – some visual (none from musical theater), and regular folks, who have very high standards. In fact, they admitted in several interviews that many of them had not even gone to see MISS SAIGON, because their standards ARE so high and even though they were invited by the Producers to see it and have a talk back with the Artistic Staff, they refused.

The Fairy Princess supposes, they were afraid that their brain would grow two sizes too big.

Oh wait, that is a heart - well, the protestors do not seem to have that either

Oh wait, that is a heart – well, the protestors do not seem to have that either

The Fairy Princess supposes, they were concerned that once they saw it, they might…well…like it.

Let’s face it, some of those tunes are catchy.

They might have enjoyed how an entire stage filled with singing and dancing Asian Americans – Asian Americans who are on the forefront of representing Asian Americans because they spend their lives on the stage – would make them feel.

They might have felt….proud.

They might have felt….humbled.

They might have felt….inspired.

And if one is an “Artist’, one cannot feel any of those things? If you are an “Artist’ protesting a show that you have refused to see, or saw a different production of twenty years ago when, yes, the depiction by a Caucasian man OF an Eurasian man sent many of us reeling, of COURSE you do not want to see growth or advancement.

That would be expanding your mind….and what Artist wants to do that.

You just want to get your name in the papers and harass people into proclaiming, in print, that you have a voice.

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Ok. You have a voice. And you managed to harass one white lady until she caved.

Well, The Fairy Princess has seen many things, but she has never seen a CEO of a large Arts House become a coward.

Until now.

Patricia Mitchell, CEO of The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

Patricia Mitchell, CEO of The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts

The Fairy Princess thought they were made of sterner stuff out there in St. Paul.

Wait, it could not be all about the Protestors…because the Ordway dealt with them before, so what other factor could have led to this ‘agreement’?

A third party.

It seems that this  ‘agreement’ came from commissioning a dance piece with an Annaya Dance Company for the opening of their concert hall in March.

This seems so odd – a dance group makes it a condition to never have other dancers in the space owned by the Company? Was it prompted by competition? It seems odd.

Because dancers usually have a sense of community – and it seems in this case, these dancers used their power to take away options from other dancers because they did not like the dancing they were doing.

 

 

Perhaps you should take up a discussion on dance with Lainie Sakakura, Broadway Dancer extraordinare about Musical Theater dancing, she’s the professional. She knew Gwen Verdon. If one wanted to have a cultural exchange amongst dancers, Lainie is the first person that TFP would recommend talking to.

But it seems the talking is done and the Annaya Dance Theater has spoken.

Since Musical Theater dance is not your area, what hat is it you do again?

Ah – The Annaya Dance Theater is, to quote it’s website, the leading creator of contemporary Indian dance”.

The Fairy Princess is confused.

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MISS SAIGON does not depict a war in India, nor India bar girls, nor a love story between an Indian Mom and her half Indian child.

It depicts a war in Vietnam. While, yes, there have been many South Asian Americans in MISS SAIGON –

That is Manu Narayan leading the cast of LES MISERABLES at The MUNY, he has also appeared as Thuy in MISS SAIGON earlier in his career

That is Manu Narayan leading the cast of LES MISERABLES at The MUNY, he has also appeared as Thuy in MISS SAIGON earlier in his career

It does not, in fact, depict an Indian story.

So what the Annaya Dance Theater is saying, is that though they are ‘expert’ in one area, and represent proudly one area of dance that has South Asian heritage, they are going to leapfrog and become the clearing house for all Asian Americans who dance, and we now have to run it by them.

Ah.

The Annaya Dance Theater also says that they ‘invoke the work and dreams of women of color, and reframe the ground on which we dance…”

Oh, they are going to ‘reframe the ground’, which means they are going to ban certain works from being performed. How did they do that? Because that is censorship, and here in America, we have laws banning censorship.

How did they do it?  Hold please, The Fairy Princess needs to go back and check their website….

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Oh, they played the ‘Women of Color” card.

They played it well, actually. They got what they wanted.

So let me get this straight – an Indian dance company (it does not, btw, say Indian American or even South East Asian dance company, it says Indian)  who choreographs – now this is all in response to their website statements – they choreograph in response to global issues to spark chemistry, has decided that what they can throw their weight and activism behind is…taking jobs from other Asian American dancers?

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They have decided, this one group of dancers, that they can choreograph and speak for all Women of Color, and that because they are sparking ‘chemistry’ with their dancing, we should all go along with it.

We, the Women of Color of America and the World. Well, the Women of Color and one Caucasian lady who has been bullied in St. Paul.

There are no other global issues they could throw their attention to? Like for example...honor killings, rape, education? Things that, as an Indian Dance Company would, it seems, be more important than banning a production that once every few years, arrives in St. Paul?

No, they are worried about a musical.

A MUSICAL THAT IS NOT NOR NEVER WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A FACTUAL DEPICTION OF VIETNAM.

So they pushed and yelled and coerced and bullied and they got their way.

Yes, The Fairy Princess said bullied – because that is what coercion is. Bullying is what small, mean people do. Bullying is manipulation, and yelling, and saying “I know better than you, I will always know better than you because I represent all Women of Color.”

Well, The Fairy Princess also happens to be a “Woman of Color”

Look at that, a color photo of a Eurasian Dual Citizen! Defacto - a woman of color

Look at that, a color photo of a Eurasian Dual Citizen! Defacto – a woman of color

 

She has an opinion about MISS SAIGON, and it is different than theirs – but hers does not count, is that the takeaway?

She now to understand that this Indian Dance Company, is now…ummmm, “the boss of us”?

The “Boss” of her?

 

Ruh- Roh

Ruh- Roh

 

No.

The Fairy Princess says no.

The Annaya Dance Theater does not, and will never, get to decide for her, what she can and cannot do as an Artist in America.

Never.

Because that is the anti-thesis of what BEING an Artist is supposed to be.

Joseph Anthony Foronda as The Engineer , Ken Shim as Tam, and Jacqueline Nguyen in MISS SAIGON at La Mirada

Joseph Anthony Foronda as The Engineer , Ken Shim as Tam, and Jacqueline Nguyen as Kim

Yes, we can ‘agree to disagree’ and decide not to go see a show, we can decide to not read an article, or decide that we do not like musicals, or that we do not like musicals where there are prostitutes – which, honestly would take out half the Musical Theater canon and most of the best songs – but WE do not have one mind.

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WE do not get to decide what is/is not allowed.

WE live in the United States, and even though this Mid-term election will, yes, slow any progress that is being attempted, it will not stop it.

Because WE do not have one mind  – not as Artists, not people of Asian heritage, and NOT as Americans.

 

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You know what, Ordway and Annaya and Protestors….The Fairy Princess thinks you are missing the point of MISS SAIGON. You are all swept away in the bikinis and depictions of prostitutes and you are missing what is one of the most devastating songs in the musical theater canon – Bui Doi.

Orville Mendoza as The Engineer

Orville Mendoza as The Engineer

A song that deals with America taking responsibility for it’s Eurasian children, children that should be American citizens – or French or wherever their Fathers were from – children that should have had all the rights and freedoms and privileges of growing up in America, but they were denied that.

The point of MISS SAIGON is this:

 

“They are the living reminder of all the good we failed to do, we can’t forget, never forget, that they are all our children too”

(That is Ramin Karimloo, Stephen Rahman-Huges & Lee Mead in concert in Glasgow in 2012)

Look, if you want to look at MISS SAIGON and see evil, you are going to see evil – but ultimately, it is a love story about a Mother and her son, and what she will do to give him a better life.

It’s not evil – and neither are the women and men who so brilliantly perform the show.

You cannot call yourself an Artist or a Producer of Art if you limit people’s ability to decide for themselves – not only as performers, but audience as well. If you are an Artist – create Art – do not ban others because you do not like their Art. If you are a Producer – produce it and let the audience decide – they vote with tickets.

In other words – have open dialogue, but no way is one group or one theater to be Judge and Jury for what we, as Asian American performers are ‘allowed’ to do.

Let me quote an earlier blog in case you are missing the point:

Let me tell you something- and this is as straight as I can say it – Asian American Actors can take ANY part they choose. Period. The End. Asian American Actors are under NO obligation to make Asian America ‘comfortable’ with their personal choices. We do not stand over your shoulder at your job and tell you that you cannot do it, merely because it is our opinion that it should not be done.

Re-read that sentence, it’s accurate, but it’s kind of insane.

We are Actors.  First and FOREMOST we are Actors and WE tell stories. We do not have a group check in to get Asian American Community approval, and we do not have to have it. Because this is AMERICA.

Asian American Actors can use accents. Asian American Actors can play Pimps, Doctors, Prostitutes, Deli Owners, Thieves, Kings, and whatever else there is out there. We audition and people hire us. And if we can perform, on Broadway, or on a Television show, or in a Feature film, where it is so competitive even to get a a callback – then YOU, Mr. Joe Protestor, are not allowed to rob us of our right to do it to the highest possible level we can.

THAT is what Equality means TO US. That our choices are unlimited.

This is just sad, really, and so misguided, and hate filled – The Fairy Princess is disgusted both with the decision, The Ordway, The Aanaya Dance Theater and of course, the protestors.

10 Wacks with the Wand for all of you, and frankly, and she has rarely meant this more –

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The Fairy Princess wanted to take a brief moment and congratulate the British East Artists on their award of Nee Hao Magazine’s Man and Woman of the Year Award.

The fight for recognition in theater or for those in the UK, theatre, is so very complicated and exhausting, that it is truly, truly a wonderful thing to see their work recognized in a way that the US Asian Americans have yet to be, though AAPAC is doing great work under the leadership of Pun Bandhu.

Here is the article from Nee Hao and as part of the “international support’ team, I am absolutely thrilled.

NEE HAO’S MAN AND WOMAN OF 2012: BRITISH EAST ASIAN ARTISTS

February 5, 2013 8:03 pm

After much deliberation from the judges in reviewing a pool of impressive candidates, a decision was made. On February 9, the winner of the first-ever Nee Hao’s Man and Woman of the Year Award is to be received by the British East Asian Artists (BEAA), a collation of amazing men and women from diverse professions involved in directing, acting, writing, broadcasting and filmmaking. Normally the award should go to an individual man and woman, but this year an exception is to be made because of the special achievement of this group. A full list of the other finalists will be in articles to follow.

The Judges’ Decision

BEAA was selected by a stellar line of judges comprising of:

  • Dr. Catherine Xiang In charge of Mandarin section at LSE; responsible for Asian Languages, liaison for Confucius Institute Business, London

  • Raymond Wong MBE, the Honorary Chairman of the Bristol Chinese Association

  • Dee Lo, presenter and co-producer of BBC Radio Chinatown in Manchester

  • GK Tang, the founder and entrepreneur behind OrientalUK.com based in the North East

  • Ben Donn, Entrepreneur and founder of V Town Events based in Manchester.

Editor of Nee Hao Magazine Steven Ip, who was not part of the judging panel, had this to say: “Their courage in breaking barriers to incorporate more East Asians into the arts and cultural sectors is truly inspirational. Fighting racism, prejudice and underrepresentation, the BEAA truly deserves universal recognition; I am proud that Nee Hao has played a small part in recognising their contributions”.

Gathering together in 2012, the BEAA campaigned against the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) adaptation of the Chinese play “Orphan of Zhao”. The RSC only cast three British East Asian actors in the play, reflecting a lack of the organisation’s dedication to equal opportunities-casting. The pressure exerted on the RSC through BEAA’s efforts in rallying up online support resulted in a written statement by the RSC to review their policies. Although it is impossible to recount all the individuals involved in the initiative, notable mentions have been made regarding Daniel York, Anna Chen, Dr. Broderick D.V. Chow, Kathryn Golding, Paul Hyu, Michelle Lee, Chowee Leow, Hi Ching, Jennifer Lim, Lucy Sheen, and Amanda Rogers.

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Victor Wong, Executive Director of the Chinese Canadian National Council, who co-nominated the group stated:

“Through their efforts, the BEAA successfully challenged the racist assumptions and stereotyping of the theatre industry. Their efforts to break the glass ceiling of “invisibility” in the UK also benefits the British Chinese and East Asian communities in general, and especially for young people at the beginning of their careers. The BEAA were able to attract international support and also engaged with important allies including Equity representatives, media, funders and political representatives”.

Yinsey Wang, contributing editor of Nee Hao, who also supported the nomination of BEAA, stated of the Nee Hao’s Man and Woman of the Year project:

“We wanted this award to support what we feel is lacking in the British East Asian community: unity. The BEAA has shown dedication to a truly unified cause and enchanted the imagination of the British East Asian. As a British East Asian, I feel empowered to know that together we can make substantial differences in Britain, and can even engage the serious problems that affect the heart of the international community, such as racism, underrepresentation and misunderstanding”.

BEAA continues to create extensive ripples in the arts and culture of Britain, providing a forum for creatives to share and develop their work. Nee Hao is proud to celebrate this year’s men and women from the BEAA that have outlined 2012 as an important step forward for all British East Asians.

For more information about BEAA, visit britisheastaa.wix.com. To read their 30 October 2012 statement, click here.

A statement by BEAA is to be made at the awards ceremony and shall be reported on after the festivities of Nee Hao Magazine’s Chinese New Year Show in London, which includes a fashion show, performances, a charity raffle in support of Chinese orphaned and abandoned children, and delightful culinary creations.

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The Fairy Princess also wanted to take a moment, and recognize the passing of a true Artist and Pioneer for API performers, particularly those of us who fall into the even smaller category of “Eurasian’ aka “Hapa” aka “Mixed Race” performers – Kevin Gray, known for his work in Miss Saigon, The King and I, Phantom of the Opera, The Lion King, and many more – died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 55.

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(If you click on the names of the shows, you will find articles from Playbill.com on his many successes)

Here is an interview of Kevin when he was doing The King and I at The MUNY

When I looked at my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I was staggered by how many of my friends had worked with him – friends of all different backgrounds and so many different kinds of shows – he touched them all through his work and his friendship. He was a pioneer simply because he was a wonderful performer and his talent was second to none.

This is not an obituary of Kevin, it is simply a thank you – I am not qualified to write one for him, but Theatermania and Playbill have done so, and if you click the words there, you will see them.

The Fairy Princess wanted to acknowledge that though we are all still fighting for recognition on our world stages, there was a brilliant warrior fighting that same fight, simply by being a standout in all he did.

Rest in Peace Kevin Gray – many thoughts and prayers to your Wife and Family.

And, Thank you.