Archives for posts with tag: musicals

The Fairy Princess was doing just fine and recovering from a wicked cold – she was just fine -until she was asked to audition for this:

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 5.53.35 PM

An “All Asian American Version of Show Boat”?


You mean…this Show Boat?


You mean…this Show Boat?


Seriously, this Show Boat?

Do you mean to tell us that during BLACK HISTORY MONTH, an Asian American Theater company has chosen to do SHOW BOAT, the quintessential musical about the racial divides in this country post Civil War in the Deep South, and they want to remove African Americans from the show, even though this show reflects their story within America?



TFP was asked to audition for the part of Queenie. If you look in that second video, you will note that the part of Queenie is supposed to be played by an African American woman, in the video and in the Broadway revival by Hal Prince, it was played by Gretha Boston.

Who won a TONY.

Congratulations Ms. Boston.

TFP turned down the audition to play Queenie, because TFP does not believe that it would be right for an Asian American woman to play an African American one.

She believes doing that is more like…well….


In fact, after a quick poll of her Broadway friends, she cannot find one – Asian American or African American who thinks that this is a ‘good’ idea – and she has had to charge her phone three times since this was announced, she has had so many texts and emails about it.


The only people who seem to think that this is a good idea are the Director:

Director of Show Boat - TOMMY TUNE

Director of Show Boat – TOMMY TUNE

The Executive Artistic Director….

Baayork Lee, Executive Artistic Director of NAAP (National Asian Artists Project)

Baayork Lee, Executive Artistic Director of NAAP (National Asian Artists Project)

And the Casting Director

Casting Director Michael Cassara

Casting Director Michael Cassara

Those are the only ones who seem to be ‘down’ with this All Asian American Show Boat.

The idea of which makes TFP want to do THIS:


Now, to be perfectly honest, when TFP first saw this announcement, and then when her Agent called with an appointment for it, she was sick to her stomach – because National Asian American Project does do good work. They are active in the community, they promote Asian American composers, performers, and education, and community outreach to children. They are known for doing All Asian American versions of shows, musicals, specifically, and those do need to be done.

Here is why – the dearth of Asian Americans on stage in the New York Theater community and elsewhere does limit the amount of stage time necessary to work on ones craft, and if Asian American performers are to maintain their skills at the highest level, it is necessary to perform in all kinds of shows, and “All API” productions do give performers that stage time that they may not get elsewhere.

Actor/Producer Pun Bandhu at the RepresentAsian Conference

Actor/Producer Pun Bandhu at the RepresentAsian Conference

One should not be always limited to performing roles in the few shows that are ‘designated’ Asian American (aka: King and I, Flower Drum Song, Miss Saigon, Pacific Overtures). Of course APIs should sing Sondheim and Kern, and Jason Robert Brown, and Tom Kitt, and any other composer in the Musical Theater canon.

 TFP understands that this mission of access and showcasing Asian American performers that NAAP and other organizations do is necessary, and is a huge ‘lift’ to the community. In the past they have chosen all sorts of shows that can be done as “All Asian American’ where race is, truly, not a factor – Oliver!, Hello Dolly! Carousel…. the list goes on.

However, this time, TFP thinks that they have not chosen wisely and it made her…

The Scream by Edvard Munch

The Scream by Edvard Munch

and she would ask them, nay, beg them, to change their (Tommy) tune, and pick another show for a few reasons.

1. This show is a show about the great racial divides within the Deep South – divides that are, without question, Black and White.

It does not matter that Asian Americans were in the United States at this time, we were not ‘toting that barge‘ or ‘lifting that bale‘. Asian Americans were not recovering from being ripped from their homeland and bound in chains due to the color of their skin.

It is not ‘our’ story to tell. Ever. Nor is Ragtime, or Hairspray, or Memphis, or The Color Purple and so forth and so on.



SHOW BOAT has historical context. It was written that way as a novel, and it was written that way as a musical.

2. AAPAC, and TFP and individuals, have spent the last several years, arguing to the greater theatrical community, that when they are casting stories that have historical context where APIs would be intrinsically necessary, to please cast Asian American Performers.

This show will undo all the work that everyone has put forward in raising the ability of people to see that yes, Asians should play Asian. Because, they will say, “Well, if APIs think they can play Black – why can’t we play Asian? Why can’t anyone play Asian?

Which will be the correct response.

And then away will go Asians playing Asians….it will take us years and years to rebuild our platform, if it is ever able to be rebuilt.

3. This is co-option of the Black Experience.

We freak out when there is a Caucasian playing The King – what do you think African Americans are going to think when every role that is designated as a person of Black ancestry is eliminated from a show that is written about their struggle?

4. Non- Traditional Casting is not to take Minority Actors and have them play other minority experiences.  Non-Traditional Casting is supposed to open the door to talent that has previously not been heard from and give them a chance to play roles where race does not matter.




TFP did not want to write this piece.


She respects the work of NAAP and all that they have been working for. She respects Ms. Baayork Lee, Steven Eng, and Zoie Lam, and yes, Tommy Tune – but she believes this show will do a grave injustice to Asian American performers.

She had to write this piece because….she has held other theater companies accountable for doing the exact same thing.


She thought long and hard about not writing this piece, but she felt to do that, simply because she is a member of the group who is making a mistake, would be wrong. It would be unjust.

There should be equality in blogging about Diversity.

No one is ‘off limits’.


She has worked diligently to raise the profile of Asian Americans in theater and give people a sense of the absurd, so that they too, would question why The King in King and I would be Caucasian, when it could so easily and beautifully look like this:

Christiane Noll and Paul Nakauchi as Anna & The King

Christiane Noll and Paul Nakauchi as Anna & The King

But she must equally question an “All Asian American Show Boat’, when, so beautifully, NAAP could do another show that would perhaps, utilize the talents of Tommy Tune to greater advantage.

Why not an API Grand Hotel?


Why not an API My One And Only?


Why not:

Closer Than Ever, Last Five Years, Lady In the Dark, Wicked, Guys and Dolls, Anyone Can Whistle, Barnum, Grease, Bells Are Ringing, Bye Bye Birdie, Call Me Madam, Children of Eden, Company, Crazy for You, Follies, The Full Monty, Godspell, Grey Gardens, Gypsy, High Society, Kiss Me Kate, La Cage Aux Folles, A Light In The Piazza, Next To Normal, RENT, Man of La Mancha, Into The Woods, Nice Work If You Can Get It, The Producers, Rock Of Ages, The Secret Garden, Sweet Charity, Tick Tick Boom!, Threepenny Opera, Urinetown, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Pajama Game…

TFP could go on…and on…and on….oh hey – why not BABY?




What do you think, RuPaul, about no African Americans in a show that is about African Americans and their experiences in this country to be announced during BLACK HISTORY MONTH?


Look, TFP is writing this and it could be heard like this by NAAP –


But she hopes it’s not.

What she hopes is, upon the reading of this, you will take the time to send NAAP an email at: and let them know what YOU think of Asian Americans playing roles that represent a journey of African Americans which has historical context.

She wants you, if you are reading this – and not only if you are Asian American, but if you are concerned about Co-opting African American history and erasing African Americans from it, to SAY SOMETHING.

She thinks that if we all SAY SOMETHING, that things will change.

PLEASE go to their Facebook page

Or write them a letter expressing your feelings at:

National Asian Artists Project

10 West 66th street, 23C

New York, NY 10023

TFP’s hope is that greater minds than hers will come together, realize that this is a mistake, and choose another show which will not divide our Theatrical Community, and announce that they have decided to make a change.

She also realizes that she is taking a step here that may not be forgiven, it is ok.


Stuff happens.


We do not all have to like one another.

But we do have to listen to one another and build together.

For choosing to do a show which co-opts the African American experience in a grossly misguided way, ignoring historic racial divides which was included in both the original novel and the musical as written, The Fairy Princess sentences NAAP to 50 whacks with the wand.

Come on, Folks –







The Fairy Princess has been writing about diversity in theater for close to two years now – and the message had been heard around the Globe – except, apparently by Opera Australia.

Luckily though, after reading this blog by Diva Knows Best, she knew that all was not completely lost – it just feels that way sometimes.

This is what was puzzling – Director Christopher Renshaw won the Tony Award for directing The King & I on Broadway, and as the King, he cast Lou Diamond Phillips, who is of Asian Heritage.


The Fairy Princess had several friends in that production, which was beautiful and award winning, and who inhabited the Small Musical of Rogers and Hammerstein with their usual professionalism, grace, and ability.

It is to their credit that the production was so well thought of, that Lincoln Center is planning another revival of it in 2015, which has not been announced officially, but which everyone knows is coming.

Even – who, no, has still not issued an amendment to their Twitter Contest to ‘name the next King” when they egregiously overlooked the fact that they published 4 Caucasian choices as potential Kings. (All talented men, all not of Asian Heritage).

The Fairy Princess is waiting, for that new article she suggested. Ahem. Seriously, where is it?

Anyhow, The Fairy Princess was troubled to see that though Director Renshaw had worked with talented Asian American leading men, when casting the new Australian National Tour with Opera Australia, he…ummmm…forgot?

It seems that everyone forgot that the King of Siam was a real person and this is what the King of Siam looked like:

Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha Mongkut Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua (Thai: พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรเมนทรมหามงกุฎ พระจอมเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว), or Rama IV, known in English-speaking countries as King Mongkut (18 October 1804 – 1 October 1868), was the fourth monarch of Siam (Thailand) under the House of Chakri, ruling from 1851–1868. He was one of the most revered monarchs of the country.

Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramenthra Maha Mongkut Phra Chom Klao Chao Yu Hua (Thai: พระบาทสมเด็จพระปรเมนทรมหามงกุฎ พระจอมเกล้าเจ้าอยู่หัว), or Rama IV, known in English-speaking countries as King Mongkut (18 October 1804 – 1 October 1868), was the fourth monarch of Siam (Thailand) under the House of Chakri, ruling from 1851–1868. He was one of the most revered monarchs of the country.


How do you work on a musical that once won you one of the highest honors in your profession, and forget who you worked with and why the show ‘worked’ in the first place?

Seems odd.

Because here is who Opera Australia chose to go with for The King, and of course, they insist it had nothing to do with the fact that he is dating the woman who is currently playing Mrs. Anna:

Teddy Tahu Rhodes is The King...of????

Teddy Tahu Rhodes

He looks more like he would be the King in some kingdom we have not reached yet on Game of Thrones because we are trying to read the books in conjunction with the television show so that we do not ‘spoil’ it for ourselves.

He does not look like this:

King Mongkut of Siam, now Thailand

King Mongkut of Siam, now Thailand


The Fairy Princess was upset, not only because she knows this is a huge cultural mis-step – but because…wait for it…The Fairy Princess is an Aussie.


In Cairns, with my Grandma

In Cairns, with my Grandma, I am the baby.

Oy vey, oy vey, oy vey.

Yes, and my Chinese Australian Family has been part of the Australian Cultural Landscape since the 1870’s.

Yes, I said the 1870’s. We have all sorts of fun folks in the Family – War Heroes, Artists, Business People  – people who have helped shape Australia, so it seems odd to me that in all of Australia – which, I know personally, has been diversifying since, well, the late 1800’s, that they could not find ONE person of Asian descent to play The King.

Not one?

But they found a Tuptim (Jenny Liu), a Lady Thiang (Sh-Cheen Yu), and a Lun Tha (Adrian Li Donni) ?

Just no King.

In all of Australia, with all the Asians, and Eurasians, and Asian influx….not one? Really?

Ruh- Roh

Ruh- Roh

Dear Opera Australia, I guess you missed my speech last year.


And just between us, Opera Australia – The Fairy Princess could have informally polled her rellies, quite honestly, and found someone. Her Grandmother was one of 13 – she has hundreds of relations. Tons of musicians.

However, I will say this for Opera Australia – they had a bit of a backlash when they announced Mr. Rhodes as their King – (and by the way, this is not an indictment of Mr. Rhodes or his abilities, no performer hires themselves after all) and they listened to it – because people spoke up!

Way to go Oz!


The Fairy Princess is going to imagine that they did not understand that by hiring Mr. Rhodes they were doing this:

Why yes, they ARE all Caucasian Actors in bad makeup and NO, they do not look Asian AT ALL

Why NO, they do not look Asian AT ALL

Perhaps they did not understand that Diversity = Dollars.

Which means, that quite a lot of people, theater bloggers and so forth, loudly stated that the casting of Mr. Rhodes was not something they were eager to see.

So when it dawned on Opera Australia that they were being ‘culturally insensitive’ and more importantly, that it would cost them money – they very quickly did this thing that they should have done in the first place when they decided that no one in Australia would ‘suit’.

They sent an email.

Isn’t technology amazing?

And they hired this guy:


Jason Scott Lee.

Beginning the tour in Melbourne.

He was in Hawaii.  The Fairy Princess can tell you from  many flights from the USA to OZ and back – Hawaii is actually a fairly reasonable flight Down Under- once we were in Hawaii, we were halfway there.

Right on, Opera Australia! (You should have done it in the first place, but…at least you paid attention)

So you see, my fellow Thespians – there is always hope. If people speak up, if people write, if people stand up for things that are simply right (diverse casting, freedom from captivity for cetaceans, no child trafficking), things CAN change.

My Friend, Anderson Jones always used to say “If they knew better, they would do better” and The Fairy Princess would like to acknowledge that Opera Australia and Director Christopher Renshaw have demonstrated that while, yes, it is too late to change the first leg of the tour, they can adapt to our more modern sensibilities about Casting.

As The King himself sings “Every day I do my best for one more day’

So, break a leg, Jason Scott Lee – we are all pulling for you, and that flight from Hawaii is not so bad…maybe you’ll get to fly over with these guys…




The Fairy Princess has had a terrible bout of food poisoning, shared by her toddler. Recommendations include never, ever eating again at a mall in Glendale. Even if you have successfully eaten there in the past.

The Fairy Princess is recommending to just say no, or if you are, as an actor, going to eat at a mall in Glendale, do it before Pilot Season because then you will be almost the exact rate beloved by television execs everywhere, which is about 30 per cent under the recommended daily weight for your personal height.

The Fairy Princess vows to not eat at a mall in Glendale till next January at least. And then she hopes to book a series regular. Other than that, this bout of food poisoning is totally wasted on me.

Although, I must say, my collar bone looks fantastic right now.

A singer who moves well, after several days of food poisoning....just LOOK at my collar bone! IT. IS. GORGEOUS!

A singer who moves well, after several days of food poisoning….just LOOK at my collar bone! IT. IS. GORGEOUS!

So to say she was feeling a bit ill, was, honestly, gilding the lily at this point – but I should have suspected that it would not be long before I was feeling like I was witnessing gilding the TIGER LILY, because then I read an article from on who should be the next King in the as yet, not officially announced, (but every Asian American Actor knows it’s been coming since War Horse was going to move), production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s The King and I. At Lincoln Center.

Who doesn’t love The King & I?

Ummm, from what I hear tell, people from Siam. (Now Thailand). The film was banned because it was disrespectful. And likely, people from Burma. (and you have to hiss when you say Burrrrma, because that is how it is done in the show) (Burma is now Myanmar).

Of course there are all sorts of reasons for that, but the musical is based on a book by Anna Leonowens (who was, actually Eurasian of mixed Angl0/Indian descent born in India) which posits Anna as the great white savior-ess of the poor, befuddled, savage-adjacent King of Siam. So already, you know you are in for a bit of white-washing, ahem. There are all sorts of historical errors in the book, but you know, it was a ‘memoir’ technically, so if that’s what she remembered…?

Did you know that Tuptim was later reported to have actually married Chulalongkorn, who had 36 wives, so…no death by beating? History is so tricky, right?

But people in the United States love The King and I, and truly, The Fairy Princess loves The King and I because it was my first big ‘gig’, playing Lady Thiang, first wife, opposite Debby Boone as Mrs. Anna. (I had very good quotes, even though we tend to say we do not read reviews, actors love good quotes about the work)

With Debby Boone & Julie Garnye @ Jim Caruso's Cast Party

With Debby Boone & Julie Garnye @ Jim Caruso’s Cast Party

But this is what is made me thing my food poisoning was making it’s return: playfully tweeted “who should be The King and tweet us your answers‘, and people of the general public gleefully avoided ‘nominating’ anyone that was Asian American!




EXCEPT for Asian American Musical Theater Actors who actually took the question seriously and gave real answers based on both star power and those who had played the role before, some several times.

So LET’S SEE who the General Public picked which was PUBLISHED by as viable choices that should potentially be considered to play The King in the next up and at ’em production of The King and I:

Hugh Pannaro - who starred as both Raul and The Phantom on Broadway was chosen by a Twitter Fan

Hugh Pannaro – who starred as both Raul and The Phantom on Broadway was chosen by a Twitter Fan


Three Twits chose Michael Cerveris from The Who's Tommy and Titanic - possibly because of the hair?

Three Twits chose Michael Cerveris from The Who’s Tommy and Titanic – possibly because of the hair?


And a Twit chose Raul Esparza who is currently on NBC's Hannibal, but who also starred on Bway in a number of shows including Company and Leap of Faith

And a Twit chose Raul Esparza who is currently on NBC’s Hannibal, but who also starred on Bway in a number of shows including Company and Leap of Faith


Paulo Szot who earned a TONY Nomination for 2008 's South Pacific

Paulo Szot who earned a TONY Nomination for 2008 ‘s South Pacific


These four gentlemen are, yes, all brilliantly talented.

The Fairy Princess has seen each and every one of them live and in digital form, and they are Musical Theater Masters, each in their own way. So, to a certain extent, she does understand the General Public ignoring one glaring fact about any of them taking the iconic role of The King, because they are Broadway Superfans and fans tend to, you know, be FANS, and ignore things like –


Which, in this day and age, does make them ineligible to play The King of Siam. On Broadway.

Because we of ‘The Broadway’ do not find this:

Syracuse Opera


The Fairy Princess was dismayed, to say the very least, that an esteemed theatrical news outlet like would actually publish Caucasian faces as ‘potential’ Kings for The King & I. The reason she is so dismayed is because has been covering the change, in the last two years, of the way ‘yellowface’ is regarded in the Industry.

Change you say? Oh yes, The Fairy Princess gave a speech about it at LA Stage Day has, actually, been covering the changing attitudes in Casting, and doing a very good job of it, for the past two years. For example: They covered the uproar   at La Jolla Playhouse over “The Nightingale, they covered the protests at the last Miss Saigon tour, they have even quoted The Fairy Princess!

(Which, btw, I was very moved by, because I read it all the time)

As one can see it is not as if was unaware that Caucasians playing Asian is, thankfully, turning into a big ‘no no’.

So, they are familiar with me, and let’s face it, It is not like I have ever refrained from saying this:


So if you are aware,, of the changing attitudes why publish this list as you did?

Wouldn’t it be a stronger editorial choice to say “look, yes, there are superfans that tweeted names that are not Asian American, and that is all well and good, but  let’s concentrate on promoting and sharing potential Kings who have both the resume and the heritage to make this ‘tweet contest’ a list that Casting could look at seriously.”

Because if, say, there were going to be a revival of, oh, I don’t know, an August Wilson play, and someone tweeted you a photo of Tom Hanks – would you publish it?

Would you,

The Fairy Princess is being serious.

Because of all publications, is in the best position, better than almost any, to know the percentage of Asian Americans on Broadway, and to know how rare it is to have a show that can encompass a mostly API Cast, and what potential that has for us, as a group.

With all the coverage when there is a bi-lingual West Side Story, or of All The Way, which focuses on Civil Rights, or After Midnight, which so gorgeously highlights the music of an era and a people, why, when it is Asian American, is it ‘ok’ to publish a list that includes Caucasian faces?

The Fairy Princess doubts that you would do that to any of those shows,

The Fairy Princess is willing to bet that this was a light-hearted attempt to get everyone excited about a revival of a show that is a Musical Theater staple, as most Twitter things are, but there needs to be editorial responsibility.

While The Fairy Princess is grateful for the coverage that has given to Asian American representation on Broadway, and the various Casting issues that have arisen over the last two years, she does think that in this case, they could have done better. They could have drawn a line in the editorial sand and said “we are going to stand with Asian American performers because it is the right thing to do’.

Because Asian American Performers who are delighted that they may get a chance to audition or be in the new cast of The King & I did not need to flip through that list, and see that General Viewing Public would be just as glad to see this revival if there were no Asian American faces in it.

We did not need to see that.

We see that every day.

We read all the time, and we rejoice for any and every friend and acquaintance that has mention, and we get delighted for any and all coverage on musicals because we love them so much – but we did not need to see one of ‘our’ industry ‘papers’, ‘zines’, etc, etc, etc, throw up NINE potential “Kings’, with FOUR of them being Caucasian.

C’mon – you published it. Which is…kind of endorsing it, doncha think?

We did not need to see that.

We see that every day.

The Fairy Princess does not want to get into a hashtag war with – there is no point to it, they do good work, and she is sure that there is a way to fix this.

In fact, she has thought of one:

The Fairy Princess thinks there should be a ‘revised’ list by reporters – who take into account the last time the show was in The West End, on Broadway, Regionally, who amongst API Actors started in Musicals and perhaps have gone on to popular television shows, things of that nature. They should compile this list and publish it.

Publish THAT list.

The Fairy Princess thinks that should lead the way in enlightening the General Musical Theater Going Public as to HOW MANY Asian American candidates there are for The King – and if there are 10, or 20, all the better.

The Fairy Princess is not going to debate who, now, should be the once and future King in the revival in 2015. Mainly because she knows most of them, and no matter what order they are put in, or how they are listed, she will hurt someone’s feelings.

She is going to trust that Casting, the real Casting Directors, will do their job wonderfully well, and put together a new and inspiring production of this show.

She wishes all of the potential Kings well – may the odds be ever in your favor.

Look, to quote the show, “Every day I do my best for one more day” – so come on, let’s just do a bit better

because if not…






The Fairy Princess has been trying quite hard to remain positive these last few posts…because the ‘real’ news has been fairly hideous – whether you are concerned about riots in Egypt, or Child Trafficking, or Russia hating LGBT people….(Which is ludicrous, because of course, Russia is like…the Gayest Country on Earth…if you are famous for BALLET….that’s pretty Gay, Russia…pretty Gay), so she has not been posting about theater, because, well…she thought everyone learned their lesson.

The Fairy Princess lecturing Joseph Anthony Foronda in Flower Drum Song at AMTSJ

The Fairy Princess lecturing Joseph Anthony Foronda in Flower Drum Song at AMTSJ

I mean, she gave a speech at LA Stage Day about the death of Yellowface, and she was totally encouraged by the fact that the audience at LA Stage Day was receptive. Not only were they receptive, the wider, Internet audience that technology makes possible was ALSO accepting of the fact that it’s not cool to put on makeup and bad accents and make fun of Asian people simply because you are too lazy or stupid to do an actual and thoughtful portrayal of Asian culture WITH Asian actors in those roles.

I mean, weren’t we all clear on this? GEORGE? What do you think?


I mean, any educated person would have to take note that demeaning a heritage you know nothing about would be…well… stupid. Any educated person would know that. Educated people, for example, who have just received an Ivy League education at an institution that is known for having high artistic standards….a place like, well…let’s just say it….YALE.

Wow...that is gorgeous...yep, that's Yale

Wow…that is gorgeous…yep, that’s Yale

Yale is a pretty fancy place – it’s graduates include Presidents, Physicians, Performers, Playwrights, in fact, the Fairy Princess’s own cousin holds a PhD from Yale….so she’s been there, and yeah…pretty fancy.

(In case you are reading this post in say….Scotland…or more specifically Edinburgh, it may be worth sharing that Yale Drama School – which is a Masters Program of Study, has some pretty famous Alumni to boast of….much like my own alma mater, Carnegie Mellon….which was founded by a Scot – Andrew Carnegie. GO SCOTS! )

Now, when you think “Yale Drama”, who comes to mind?


Or well, this guy….

TONY Winning Playwright, David Henry Hwang

TONY Winning Playwright, David Henry Hwang

He won a TONY Award for writing this play:


And DHH is not the only Asian American to have attended Yale Drama….how about this guy?

Actor CS Lee - Dexter

Actor CS Lee – Dexter

Or THIS guy…..

Actor & 2x TONY Winning Producer, Pun Bandhu

Actor & 2x TONY Winning Producer, Pun Bandhu

And lest you think that Yale Drama is male dominated…

Actress & TED Speaker, Esther K. Chae

Actress & TED Speaker, Esther K. Chae

So…as you can see, Yale School of Drama has some fairly distinguished Asian American alumni who are gracing our stages and screens, large & small, today. And Yale School of Drama is NOT what this post is about – because obviously they are forward thinking and embrace diversity in it’s students and alumni. And Bravo to that!

However, there are a LOT of people who attend Yale and they are entitled to pursue Acting, Writing, and Directing just the same as anyone else. Their resumes still say….Yale. The word entitled is a very big one here, and it explains the reason for this post.

Though these bright minded individuals do hold degrees from Yale University, they do NOT hold Degrees from Yale School of Drama.

They do not have the training, they do not have the sensitivity, and they do not have, perhaps, their pulse on the beat of the cultural landscape of American Theater to know that there is a…and well…given the subject matter, The Fairy Princess hesitates to use the word, but it is applicable…a REVOLUTION in American Theater in regards to portrayals of Asian peoples.

Nobody binds our feet and leaves us in a corner ANY more….

The definitive answer, in many respects, to cultural misunderstandings

The definitive answer, in many respects, to cultural misunderstandings

Which is why it was all the more shocking to hear about THIS

A play currently playing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

A play currently playing at Edinburgh Fringe Festival written & Performed by YALE Alum

You see…this is the Cast of BEIJING CAKE currently playing at Edinburgh Fringe, and….it’s a play about China….do they look Chinese to you? I see….

Cassie DaCosta, Nathaniel Moore, Sara Rosen, Gabriel Christian the cast of BEIJING CAKE

Cassie DaCosta, Nathaniel Moore, Sara Rosen, Gabriel Christian the cast of BEIJING CAKE

And HERE is a map of CHINA…real, actual, China….it’s not made up, it does not exist only in pure imagination…it’s right THERE…you see?

Wait! Wait a MINUTE you say that CHINA is a REAL and ACTUAL place?

Wait! Wait a MINUTE you say that CHINA is a REAL and ACTUAL place?

And here is a…well…a Chinese person…one who is actually, supposedly portrayed IN this play:

The Chairman...and no, not a fan as he put my Great Aunt into a concentration camp...but he was a real and actual person of which there are MANY images

The Chairman…and no, not a fan as he put my Great Aunt into a concentration camp…but he was a real and actual person of which there are MANY images

Though none of the Cast appears to BE of Asian descent, appearances CAN be deceiving so let’s see their Kickstarter video, because perhaps that would show them to be a sensitive, thoughtful bunch, who can cheerfully bring us all up to speed on the Chinese experience…

Yeah…not so much. Although the repeated GONGS throughout the kickstarter video are a nice touch….

The Fairy Princess has hit a wall….


She has hit a wall because this is a project that is coming from young people! In their twenties! And Whitney Houston always told us that Children were the future!

Whitney lied. These children are as whack as crack.

The Fairy Princess is FRUSTRATED.

Remember what happened the FIRST time she got this frustrated? (MR KAUFMAN? REMEMBER?)

OK here is the deal….this show at The Fringe is billed as a comedy, it’s billed as hilarious…and apparently, those who have done the billing are the playwright, director and Cast themselves, because when core members of the British East Asians attended the show this is what they saw….




You know who should be upset about this? More than The Fairy Princess, more than the British East Asian Artists?

Man if I went there, I would be SO pissed!

Man if I went there, I would be SO pissed!

And here is why...they make Yale Alumni look like culturally insensitive a**holes.

Cuz ya wanna see how they bill themselves….?

Wow...yeah, YALE is all over those bios....huh?

Wow…yeah, YALE is all over those bios….huh?

Yale, Yale, Yale…and you know what – Yale is actually a very sophisticated school with quite an international reputation. And now this bunch is going around the world to spread Yellowface makeup, made up Chinese and…well…racism. I mean, they do not even seem to be aware that Chinese can be broken down into various dialects like Mandarin and Cantonese!

REALLY? Because even ELMO knows what Mandarin is!

THIS is what they came out of YALE with? An entitled sense of being able to make fun of Asian people…an entitled opinion that they are able to portray us, to speak on our issues, to mock a language that is thousands of years old?

OMG Yale – you failed. You were supposed to educate them to take their place in the world and hold forth the tradition of excellence that you are known for. They ran off waving their sheepskin and decided it was a great idea to mock the Country that holds America’s dollar by the proverbial balls.

What a great endorsement for a Yale Education! I’m sure their Parents will be thrilled that they PAID for their kids to learn that you can step all over Chinese people at tens of thousands of dollars per semester! The one who will be absolutely the MOST proud?

The Director’s FATHER….

Because EVERYONE knows that Oscar Winning Screenwriters really want to be known for having Daughters who perpetuate stereotype utilizing Yellowface and made up Chinese adjacent languages! What a shame,  when you, yourself, are so meticulous in your brilliant work. But perhaps, she is a late bloomer. You have faith in her.

The Fairy Princess….not so much.

Let’s break it down people, these Actors and this Playwright and this Director are from groups that have ‘Minority’ written all over their names and faces and gender…possibly even their sexual preferences, who knows or who cares, but it’s possible. So if you are, yourself, a member of a Minority group, how DARE you mock another one? Forget what you obviously did NOT learn at YALE about cultural sensitivity, what the heck were you learning at home that makes this in ANY way ok?

Well now, they are probably upset….they are saying HOW DARE I call them on this racist play that they love doing. Who am I to expect them to strive for excellence and artistic bravery? Ok Kids…fine, but let’s turn this around….because turnabout is fair play, yes?

Foghorn Leghorn says Yes, Turnabout is fair play

Foghorn Leghorn says Yes, Turnabout is fair play

Now…if Asian American actors were to go over to Edinburgh, slap on some Blackface make up and talk like Amos & Andy – would that be ok?

Yeah, remember when people thought THIS was ok? (TOTALLY NOT OK!)

Yeah, remember when people thought THIS was ok? (TOTALLY NOT OK!)


If Asian American Directors and Writers got together a made up a mockery of the Hebrew language which they THEN set it to the tune of “Yiddishe Mama” would that be ok?


Cuz The Bottle Dance from Fiddler On The Roof is just Jerome Robbin’s choreo…we could learn it

Tradition my ASS!

Tradition my ASS!

(BTW, The Fairy Princess knows every damn word to Fiddler On The Roof and made her Mom take her to see it 5 times in a row when she was six years old and then she memorized the Cast recording…but she ALWAYS knew that it was a show she would NEVER do)

But we are not going to. Because we have standards.

I would have thought that you would have them too…being that you know….you went to Yale and all….so many whacks with the wand…you need to grab a mirror and take a good look at yourselves and HONESTLY wonder how you EVER thought that this was in ANY way ok….. OH….and BY THE WAY….


The Fairy Princess has watched the news in abject horror the past few weeks – I mean, I know ‘Haters gonna hate‘ but they seem to be going for the Gold Medal.

Ok, there is a place to start – Russia.

Russia hates LGBT people. (Article)

Hold on a minute, Russia….just so we are clear….this is what you are famous for….(Artistically famous, not, you know, bombs and torture, killing the Tsar & his family, and cold war ‘cross my line and I blow crap up‘ famous)





And Literature….


Writer: Nikolai Gogol (Bio)

But Russia hates Gay People. I see. (Article)

Dear Russia – wake up and smell the caviar…you stink. And if you don’t take my word for it – you have been condemned by GERMANY! (Article)

GERMANY is looking down on you!

Germany, who is never ever going to be able to stop apologizing for THIS guy….

Ain’t NOBODY got time for that – Right, Sweet Brown?

The Fairy Princess can no longer indulge in a dirty martini! She could, yes, switch to gin – but she has seen the crazed orgy scene in The Wild Party too many times for that!

Oh well….back to whiskey….grrr.

This whole thing is ridiculous and tilted her tiara.

So The Fairy Princess is going to write about some GOOD THINGS that happened the last few weeks….get ready!


1. AVENUE Q celebrated it’s 10th year of running on a stage in Manhattan. It should be stated that from an Asian American perspective, Avenue Q provided the only ‘new’ Asian American character our Broadway stages have seen since…ummmm…Throughly Modern Millie in 2002 and since then there has been….ummmm….NEVERMINDGOOD THINGS!

HERE are some of the lovelies that have played the part of Christmas Eve –


L-R: Lisa Helmi Johansen, Sala Iwamatsu, Ann Harada, Erin Quill, Hazel Anne Raymundo, Ruthie Anne Miles

And…as Creator Bobby Lopez said about this photo “The scary thing is that there are so many more

So Congrats to the Creators, Producers, Crew and Cast Members of Avenue Q – The Fairy Princess was very proud to ‘live’ there as part of the Original Broadway Company and just so’s ya know…July 31st was declared AVENUE Q DAY by the City of New York!

2. The FuManchu Complex which will run in London at The Oval House from Oct 1-19th, 2013 has been fully funded through Kickstarter!

Normally, The Fairy Princess DOES NOT give to Kickstarter – and here is why – and ARTISTS, I want you to pay special attention to WHY I normally do NOT give to Kickstarter and why I DID give to this one.

The Fairy Princess believes that if you want her to invest in a film, or play, or project of any sort, then present me with an investment package. I want to see that if I am an investor in your project, then there is some small hope of return on said investment. (The Fairy Princess is not DELUSIONAL, she KNOWS that there is little to no hope of return on investments in Artistic projects, but let’s have RESPECT for the investor)

I do not believe in, in general, asking people to just give money for artistic endeavors because, in the olden days, when I started – if you wanted to fund your own work….you got a job and saved money.

You produced your show yourself, you saved, you borrowed, however you wanted to do it, but you did not expect your friends to pony up money so that you could be saved the hassle of saving.

Then you invited people to buy tickets to your show.

THAT was how friends showed support. They bought tickets. They bought CDs. They came to see the project when completed.

The Fairy Princess is NOT a fan of ‘oh this will be good for my career, and I have fans or friends…I’m just going to ASK them for it, but I will reap any and all benefits and then I will not have to pay back anyone“.

NOT a fan.

I have seen too many Kickstarter funded projects that wound up not actually coming to fruition, and the money – which has no ‘if the project is not completed this money is returned to you‘ clause – went to pay someone’s credit card bill or for a fancy trip abroad.

Now that celebrities are using the fans to pay for projects that they could have found funding for on their own, because they ARE Celebrities with fans…The Fairy Princess was ‘stick a fork in Zach Braff done‘ DONE with Kickstarter.

The NY Times agrees with The Fairy Princess – celebrities using Kickstarter is not quite ethical…(Article)

EXCEPT for FuManchu Complex and HERE is why –

They needed two thousand pounds.

To put up a PLAY.

For 19 days!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I gave them money because I know – I KNOW that they are not going to run and pay an old bill, they are not going to go on a fancy trip – they are renting a space and they are building a set. Obviously, no one is getting paid- they are doing it for themselves but they are ALSO doing it to help keep alive the British East Asian Theater presence and so…I chose to give them money, even AFTER they reached their goal…because you know what?

The Fairy Princess is unable to attend the show due to it being in another country – so she cannot buy a ticket – Kickstarter, in this instance, was the way she chose to raise a glass and salute them. Bon chance, you feisty British East Asians!

And if anyone reading this would like to also send them some $$$ so they can perhaps go to the pub after opening night – here is the link:

And Bless your hearts if you do! All Hail Daniel York and his buddies for continuing to rail against the dying of the light…it’s a damn hard thing to do.


‘One thing I should point out though is that the actors (five East Asians) WILL get paid the Equity rate and that’s one of the things we needed the money for because the Arts Council would only fund us if we raised a certain amount ourselves, the £2000 is barely 5% of the budget but it’s crucial in that sense. I have, however, waived my writer’s fee completely because I want the play to go on and I want East Asian actors on stage in work by an East Asian writer because I want us to have our own foundation rather be relying on the mainstream to chuck us a bone when they wanna put on a China play PLUS the cast we have is just about the most diverse group of Asians ever and we need to be seen as that. Diverse.’

OK – ACTORS GET PAID!!!!!!!!!!! That is even MORE awesome! Well then I’m glad I gave money to such a great cause and The Fairy Princess wishes she could be there to see it. BRAVO ahead of time, you British East Asians!

3. Kristina Wong is the next great thing that happened in the past couple of weeks, because she took on that hideous offensive mess that was the video Asian Girlz and she answered it back with a witty video of her own:

Kristina Wong is a Performance Artist that The Fairy Princess is glad to see on the great wide Interweb. How wonderful that a strong Asian American Woman took a stand against racism, sexism, and stupidity- this is a fabulous thing.

Let’s all get excited about this and watch the video more than a few times and tweet it etc, so that she might get paid the literally hundred of dollars (no, not a typo) that you can make on YouTube if your video is viral.

She is a Performance Artist….she needs the $$$!

4. Kevin Burrows is the next great thing to happen in the past week.


You might not know Kevin and his work if you are not a Broadway afficianado, but certainly should have when they decided to highlight Broadway ‘show-mances’ that lasted and lasted. You see, decided to highlight more than a few of them, but failed to include any LGBT Broadway couples. (Article)

Say what?

Ummmmm, is under the misapprehension that theater in New York City is only inhabited by ‘straight’ people?


One assumes that has actually BEEN to a Broadway show or two or twenty and has done only approximately thousands of interviews WITH Broadway people…where they may have noticed some LGBT couples.

But…when you assume…oh FELIX UNGER…..

Anyway, Kevin read the article, got fired up, and responded with his OWN article entitled “Till There Was US” on The Huffington Post. (Article)

Here is why this is awesome – because Mr. Burrows took on what is, really, institutional prejudice, and won with placement of his own article in the NATIONAL press.

Well played, Mr. Burrows, well played. A righteous parry & thrust! is, of course, designed to help sell Broadway shows – therefore, they may have decided that the people reading tended to be consumers more than theater practitioners. They may even be right.

However, just because facts may upset someone who has an ability to buy a ticket, but an inability to acknowledge the right to live and love whom you want, as any consenting adult should be able to do – does not make it right to leave out couples who are part of the very reason there are tickets to sell in the FIRST place!

THIS. IS. NEW. YORK. CITY. and to leave OUT LGBT Couples who make UP a huge part of the Broadway Community is flat out, dead WRONG to do.

‘Mad props’ to Kevin Burrows for standing up for his own relationship, and the visibility of LGBT relationships in the Broadway community!

Encore! Encore!

5. HERE LIES LOVE is looking to transfer to Broadway! (Article)

The Fairy Princess saw this musical by David Byrne & Fat Boy Slim down at The Public Theater and truly, truly enjoyed it. This may be the first ‘new’ All Asian American musical to make it to Broadway in the next year, so this blog in particular, wishes the show well


And THOSE are FIVE things that were kinda awesome the past few weeks….and they are a reminder that even though you can feel like you are stuck in a Sh*t storm without an umbrella……


The Fairy Princess has been lax – and I admit it. I have not been blogging because there has been a new addition to the family.  My Niece arrived on December 28, adding to the fun of my having a now, 8 month old, and my first niece who is nearing her second annum. So…blogging came a very distant second, third, fifth to the holidays and the naming days and actually all other days that could possibly have a name. I apologize, my wings were trying to beat quickly, but there was just SO MUCH happening I could not get a clear thought in my head.

Until I saw this.

What is that? Ceylonese Arm Wrestling?

What is that? Ceylonese Arm Wrestling?

Was ist das?

You may ask – and you may ask it in German, as I have just done. German would be the way to address this issue because, this issue cannot be addressed properly in English. It should have been able to be addressed in Sinhala or Tamil, but that would assume one has familiarity with the languages of Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon,  and one cannot assume, as Felix Unger warned us so many years ago.

If you have not been flap ball changing around The Broadway, you may not know that there is currently a revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood playing at The Roundabout Theater. The premise of Drood, which was a novel that was never finished by Charles Dickens, is that we are watching a ‘show within a show’. Meaning we have been transported back in time to Victorian England to watch a show done by a Thespian troupe, who are giving us a show about a book that was never finished.

The musical has no ‘definitive’ ending. All we really have is the setup, and then after poor old Edwin has been ‘whacked’ every which way but Sunday, the audience gets to vote on who ‘did it’. Much merriment ensues. Technically you have to see the show several times to see all the different ways in which Old Edwin bites the dust. Therefore not only is it a show within in a show, it’s a moneymaker within a moneymaker. If you love it, you will go back to see it over and over until you are satisfied that you have exhausted every possible motive everyone could have possibly have had, and you will bask in the knowledge that you, good Sir, are a bona fide fan.

It is all very good to want to place things in Victorian England, I wouldn’t mind a place there myself – next to the Dowager Countess of Grantham if possible – but this is impossible because we live in 2013.

Yes, hard as it is to believe it, The Fairy Princess is beating her wings after the Mayan Calendar told us that life as we knew would end. (They did not predict the end of the world, the History Channel has been very clear on that matter, don’t get it twisted). And the Fairy Princess knew that two of the characters in the musical, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, are supposed to be from Ceylon. Which is now the country of Sri Lanka. But in 1870- something was Ceylon.

So when there was an announcement that Drood was coming back to Broadway, I was eager to see who would be cast as Helena and Neville Landless. All I knew was that they were both to have been from Ceylon. I have never been to Ceylon now Sri Lanka, guess where it is?


Oh.  Sri Lanka borders Asia, The Middle East, and the Indian Ocean. If one were to own property in Sri Lanka, one could probably even see parts of Africa from their backyard. (Which would make Sarah Palin happy – she likes land masses viewable from backyards). The Fairy Princess loves research though, so she thought since she now knows WHERE Sri Lanka is, she would take a look at the people of Sri Lanka.

What do people of Sri Lanka look like? I thought I would take a look – Sri Lankan people in 1870…go!

Ceylonese Man Circa 1870

Ceylonese Man Circa 1870

If I were casting the character of Neville Landless in Drood, I imagine that I would look to people who have appeared in musicals, on Broadway or National Tour, who may have South Asian heritage. (Actually you could go a lot of different ways with this, given where Sri Lanka is, but let’s go with the supremely easy choice of South Asian).

It would be refreshing to have that Diversity in the Cast of a Broadway show. It would also fit with the storyline – in fact, it is WRITTEN IN the storyline, and…there are lots of people to bring in and sing for it. After all, since the Original Drood hit Broadway, we have had a whole crop of South Asian Broadway performers setting new standards. It is awesome! So…who would I call?

I might go with Aasif Mandvi, who played Ali Hakim in the last Broadway Revival of OKLAHOMA! (And yes, I had to sing it to spell it)

Or…I mean, you could go with Dev Janki,

Dev Janki - Recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Choreography

Dev Janki – Recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Choreography

Or certainly, without a doubt I would call the star of the only South Asian Broadway show, BOMBAY DREAMS, the one and only Manu Narayan Here’s a clip of him (pay no attention to Mike Meyers or Jessica Alba, you can DO it!)

Yep, any of the aforementioned Dudes would have done a great job of representing a Native of Ceylon, and they have the chops to sing it, dance it, and have been on Broadway stages previously. Easy peasy. I was able to cast that part in two minutes.

But let’s see who Director, Scott Ellis went with:

Andy Karl, Native of Ceylon (Now Sri Lanka)

Andy Karl, Native of Ceylon (Now Sri Lanka)

Now, Wikipedia tells us that it is not actually clear to what extent Helena and Neville Landless are Ceylonese, or Sri Lankan. Perhaps the choice was that Neville Landless is NOT a Native of Ceylon, perhaps he is a British Ex-Pat, who just lived there and got some sun….

I could have gone with that, till  the NY Times pointed out, “silly imitation exoticism‘ and “...absurd burnt umber makeup‘. Which seems to imply that the Director, Scott Ellis, is actually meaning to have a Caucasian Man put on “Brownface’ and dance around in an imitation of what is South Asian traditional dance.


Who would DO that?



Ok, perhaps the part of Neville has been cast with what the NY Times calls ‘absurd burnt umber’ leanings, but let’s turn to the part of Helena. After all, brothers and sisters don’t always look alike.

I mean, in my Family, which is Eurasian, we all look completely different. I decided I would try again – given that Neville has been painted in shades of Umber, I guess that the Director was going for a “Native” look – so I took a Google walk, and here is what a Native Girl from Ceylon (Now Sri Lanka) looked like in the 1870’s.

A Native Girl of Ceylon circa 1870

A Native Girl of Ceylon circa 1870

And here is how Director, Scott Ellis saw the role:

Jessie Mueller, Native of Ceylon circa 1870

Jessie Mueller, Native of Ceylon circa 1870


How awkward.

This is as bad as a white guy playing the King of Siam…oh wait…yeah, see – that rarely happens anymore. This is as bad as the Engineer being played by Jonathan Pryce!

Yeah, ummm, Broadway doesn't DO this anymore, right?

Yeah, ummm, Broadway doesn’t DO this anymore, right?

The issue is not whether or not Helena and Neville are technically Ex-Pats of England brought up in Ceylon, or that this is a show within a show and they are portraying actors from Victorian England who would have portrayed natives of Ceylon in burnt umber makeup – the issue is – why?

Why would you, in the year 2013, find it a strong directorial choice to have two Caucasian actors put on makeup and ‘exoticism’?

If they are English ex-Pats, wouldn’t they be as Caucasian as they both are, but just wear the Native dress and perhaps have an accent? OR…here is a thought – if you are to make the determination that the characters are Native Ceylonese, maybe cast some Actors who look like they could be from that area?

I mean, why Cast this way in the year 2013?

This just does not make any sense!

This is like telling me that Julie Taymor and Bono hang out and go for long walks together! This is like saying that Porgy & Bess should have had an All Asian American Cast! This is like saying that The M*therf*cker with the Hat should be cast with all White Peo…oh wait, didn’t they do that in Connecticut? Nevermind. It’s Connecticut. The point is – all those thing are ridiculous!

I mean, if Neville and Helena were from Africa – which, as you can tell on the map, is just right across the sea from Sri Lanka, and NOT implausible, would you allow Caucasian actors to put on Blackface? They damn well wouldn’t. And THAT is actually Equality – if you would not do it to one Minority, you do not to it to the Others. Even Steven in this case, works just fine.

But wait, they will probably say that they looked, but could not find any South Asian Actors. Yes, yes, we hear this all the time – no Asian actors to be found, thus we were FORCED to use Caucasians in the role.

Really? Couldn’t find any South Asian Actors and Actresses….I see….what? They were all off working for the Wachowskis on their next Sci Fi movie because Tom Hanks is now going to do Broadway and there was an Opening? Right. Nice try.

I mean, is the whole cast of the Bombay Dreams busy? 

The Fairy Princess is astounded. Here is a show which is written to include South Asian characters, and they were erased in favor of a what? In favor of a Mikado-esque depiction of the Natives of Ceylon now Sri Lanka!

(Before we get too crazy, please note: Actors are hired, directed, and give the performances that the Creative Team wishes them to give. So no hating on Andy Karl and Jessie Mueller – they are both very talented Broadway performers. All my Caucasian friends who have seen the show have raved about it. As for the rest, the Fairy Princess is reasonably assured you would understand their feelings.)

Most would ask why, Fairy Princess? Why does this tilt your tiara?  It is a limited run, and who is this really going to hurt? I mean really?

What effect can one show have on an under represented group?

Well, l received a Casting Breakdown from a new show that the Acorn Theater is presenting, it’s called BUNTY BERMAN PRESENTS -It is a show about Bollywood. It is written for an entire Indian Cast by a writer from England named Ayub Khan Din.

Here is the first line of the Breakdown:

NOTE: We are open to seeing Actors who are Non Indian, but who can believably play Indian Characters.

I mean, if South Asian people don’t get to play South Asian on Broadway – why should they get to play themselves Regionally? Why, when it is so FUN for Caucasians to put on thick makeup and accents and have a rip roaring, R and L dropping, Sari wearing heck of a time?

The Fairy Princess has no answer for this. The Fairy Princess finds this very sad.

So five smacks of the wand to The Roundabout Theater and Director Scott Ellis – you had a chance to be a leader, and embrace Diversity in a show where it is part of the plot, and you chose not to. And if you still do not see what effect the casting of a Broadway show can have, what the trickle down is, then please go and re-read that line from the Bunty Berman Presents Breakdown.

And you know what?



A Statement just released by AAPAC:

Visit our website:

AAPAC Opposes Brownface in Roundabout Broadway Production

After seeing The Roundabout Theatre Company’s Broadway production of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and receiving numerous complaints about the use of brownface in the production, AAPAC feels it is necessary to release the following public statement:

We were deeply disappointed to see white actors impersonating characters of South Asian descent complete with brown grease paint, appropriation of costumes and dance movements and relying on stereotypes in place of characterization.  The obvious talents of the actors notwithstanding, the use of brownface had the effect of being extremely surreal and alienating, as if a joke was being told that was not intended for the Asian American community to hear.

We understand that the racism inherent in this musical is a reflection of the social mores within 19th century British panto and Music Hall traditions.  Director Scott Ellis was being true to tradition, historical precedent, and to the story itself.

However, we would assert that if these characters came from the British colonies of Jamaica or Cameroon, and not the British colony of Ceylon (now present day Sri Lanka), blackface would never have been utilized in the same casual way.  Today, you would never see a white actor in blackface playing the title role in “Othello” with the excuse of, “oh, well, that’s what was done in Shakespeare’s day.”  We wonder why minstrelsy is acceptable when it comes to Asians?

The Roundabout production seems to show little awareness of the long history of Asian impersonation we are trying to put behind us or how racial politics and demographics have changed even in the 28 years since this show first premiered.  There were a myriad of ways Mr. Ellis could have handled this issue with more sensitivity.  For one, he could have hired actors of actual South Asian descent.  Or, if he wanted to preserve white actors in these roles, the use of brownface would have been more ironic or satirical had the entire ensemble been cast multi-culturally.  This would have been particularly effective since Hispanic-American star Chita Rivera was already in the cast.  However, we have heard from quite a few members of the Asian acting community, including those with major Broadway credits, that requests from their representatives to secure an audition were denied.

The Roundabout Theatre Company does not have a good record when it comes to inclusive casting.  Last year, we released a report looking at the percentages of actors of color hired at 16 of the top not-for-profit theatre companies in New York City over a five year span.  The Roundabout made our list of the five theatre companies least likely to hire actors of color.  In fact, they ranked second to lowest.

We are reaching out to the Roundabout to engage in closed-door discussions about these issues and are hopeful that they will accept our invitation.  We are certain that their record does not reflect a conscious policy of exclusion and we hope that by bringing these issues to a more conscious level, the Roundabout can become an ally in an industry-wide commitment to more inclusive casting.

In the meantime, if you feel as strongly as we do, it would be very helpful if you take two minutes to send Artistic Director Todd Haimes a short missive via their FB page:

Until there is conscious attention given to these issues throughout the industry, opportunities for American actors of Asian descent–and all actors of color– will never be truly equal.

Yours in Solidarity,

The AAPAC Steering Committee

Pun Bandhu, Cindy Cheung, Kimiye Corwin, Angel Desai, Siho Ellsmore, Christine Toy Johnson, Peter Kim, Julienne Hanzelka Kim, Nancy Kim Parsons, Kenneth Lee, Allan Mangaser, Eileen Rivera



Thank you for your post. Listening to our audiences is at the core of Roundabout’s values, so we appreciate all feedback and take it very seriously.

Roundabout’s leadership team is planning to meet with Asian American Performers Action Coalition to discuss their concerns. In the meantime, we will refrain from further comment here on Facebook, and look forward to a constructive meeting.

Tom Hooper hates singers.

Tom Hooper, Director of the film version of Les Miz

Tom Hooper, Director of the film version of Les Miz

I know, that’s a bold statement, considering he has just presented us with the completed film version of Les Miserables, but after watching this film – and yes, I paid for it, on Christmas Day, just like a non-Entertainment Industry person would do – I’m sticking with it.

Tom Hooper hates singers. Tom Hooper seems to hate musicals as well. Tom Hooper hates musicals and singers SO MUCH – he decided to do a three hour version of his own personal hell and take us all along with it.

And here’s the funny thing – I LOVE MUSICALS! I love musicals so much, I already knew every word of that particular musical before I got to the movie theater. I love musicals SO MUCH, I studied singing so that I could, when conditions are right and I don’t prompt a regional theater to hate me for pointing out their obvious racist casting flaws, be IN THEM.

YES! I do musicals! I even hold a degree in Classical Voice from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Music! I sing professionally! As do, roughly, more than half of the people I count as friends and co-workers. In fact, walking down Broadway when I am not in a show and every show I pass has a friend in it, is kind of my own personal version of Hell – but one I revel in. There are only two people in the world that I begrudge their careers, and they know who they are and what they’ve done, and we’ll leave it there. (Though, considering I am in the business I am, two is a relatively low number – perhaps even precariously low, but it’s accurate).

So here’s some Fairy Princess thoughts, some SINGER Fairy Princess thoughts about the film version of Les Miserables.

I'm thinking...I'm thinking

I’m thinking…I’m thinking

First: no one is able to sing well if they have to lose a bunch of weight right before you make them sing it repeatedly while massive waves are knocking them over. Or if they are trying to look emaciated so that they can sing and ‘die’ while ostensibly dying of consumption. Singers in Operas love to die of consumption – but they don’t diet for it.

This is what weight loss does to the voice when it happens too fast – it creates a wobble. Yes, it creates a wobble that makes you unable to stabilize and hit all the notes you are reaching for. And, when you do happen to hit those notes and you are trying to sing around a wobble, THIS is what also happens – you change timbres. (Pronounced Tam-bers). Meaning the quality of the voice. So the ‘realness’ that it is supposed to be creating – yeah…it’s just distracting. It’s not ‘profound’ or ‘real acting vs. musical theater acting’, it’s ummm…a wobble. Also, for men, you lose the ‘bottom’ of the voice – the rich, roundness that would make the recitative (the dialogue that is sung through) able to work for the story, instead of against. So – for vocal health – NO SUDDEN AND EXTREME WEIGHT LOSS!

Second: if you cast someone who you know cannot sing it – even if you give them intense voice training for a whole FEW WEEKS before you start filming, and then make them do it over and over and over and over, and do not fix it in post – they are going to sound raspy, under-supported, and flat. It’s not their fault. They did their job, they showed up, they knew their lines, they were ‘committed’, but you can’t make a classic musical theater baritone out of a grunting rock voice purse.

Stunt casting was done well in ONE part, putting Colm Wilkinson, the ORIGINAL Jean Valjean in as the Bishop who lets Jackman steal the candlesticks. Otherwise…you didn’t need it. It’s Les Miserables. Longest running, biggest money maker, blockbustery musical in the history of this current time. Even the Mayans could not predict an end to Les Miserables and it’s popularity. Really, isn’t it kinda mean to put some actor in a position where his ass has NO CHOICE but to hang out – given those conditions? I mean, if I didn’t think that Tom Hooper hated singers, I would at least have to consider that he may hate Russell Crowe.

Me, I like Norm Lewis. How about you?

Third: We saw the candlesticks more than we saw Fantine or Eponine. I mean…they had their specialty light and they just kept showing up! Jean Valjean makes his escape with a rope and a toddler, and bam! Candlesticks show up, even though we didn’t even see them run with a carpetbag! Nary a valise to be seen, but the CANDLESTICKS have been magically transported to the new location. It’s the power of musicals I guess – the same thing happened with that cat in GLITTER.

Fourth: Water. Singers and cold water are not friends. Here’s why – in terms of drinking, it will shock your vocal chords right out of that warm up exercise that you just spent twenty minutes doing. In terms of singing IN WATER? We don’t. It’s why things like theaters and opera houses have roofs. It’s why theaters that are under the stars aka outdoor theaters do not have shows when it rains. This is what happens when singers get wet – no, it’s not quite Gremlins, but it’s close.

When singers get wet, we are not like normal people, we do not just get the chills. We get contagion. We get bronchial pneumonia that will leave us gasping for air for MONTHS. We get sore throats walking past a rain gutter that is dripping when we are on the way to our lesson. Singers are big babies. Big friggin’ ‘susceptible to the elements’ babies. We have scarves, we have hats, we chug anything and everything that is suppose to lubricate our throats, clear our sinuses, and keep us able to hit those big ‘money’ notes that people go to see musicals for.

Unless you are shooting the big musical that people have paid big money to see, so you tell your actors to ‘dial it down’. This is reasonable because you are not shooting a musical, you are shooting a vocal “Survivor”-type boot camp for singers where they will have to sing barefoot in water, on what is likely a very cold sound stage – because sound stages are ALWAYS freezing. Which means BIG UPS – and I mean, friggin HUGE ones to this Cast who had to sing through more water than the Cast of Titanic had to deal with, and their movie was set on an ocean liner that SANK!

Let’s see, Hugh Jackman had the MOST water – he was pulling a ship into dry dock, he threw himself into the river, he was buried in a river of (Fake) human feces, that he did not get double pneumonia and need a lung transplant only means that he really IS Wolverine. But Samantha Barks as Eponine did not have a “Little Fall of Rain”, she had a a deluge! (That is French for “a hell of a lot of water”). I didn’t just want to hug her because she was Eponine, I wanted to give her Wellington boots, a hot toddy, and a good Mary Poppins umbrella, because her rendition of “On My Own” was practically perfect in every way.

Fifth: No one was allowed time to breathe. Singing is air. Singing is breath. You can sing and act. But you need to be allowed to do so. The actors that had vast experience doing musicals seemed to be doing BOTH! (What is that, you say? Acting AND singing? At the SAME TIME?) But they probably just let the director talk and then did it their way.

And here’s what happened, in the middle of a movie, a musical movie broke out! Yes, as soon as Aaron Tveit and his Revolutionaries showed up – looking at you too Eddie Redmayne – it was like, not only did the singers start breathing, the audience did too. THIS was the film they came to see, THIS was what they were waiting for. It was so shocking the four teenagers behind me, who were talking and giggling through the whole film, shut their yaps! It was a Christmas Miracle! Yes, the intimacy of the previous numbers was nice, I have always like singspiel, but not in France. Not in Victor Hugo’s France.

Sixth: Yes, I cried. Three times – “A Little Fall of Rain” (Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne had me at “Don’t You Fret”), When Russell Crowe pinned Gavroche’s corpse (Recent events), and at the end when, right after the candlesticks made their final appearance, Fantine came back to sing Valjean into Heaven. So yes, I had problems with the vocal production but not enough to not make plans to buy it on DVD when it comes out. (Have I mentioned I loved, loved, loved Eddie Redmayne in this? Cuz I do. I did. I really did. Mister Redmayne, I was moved by you! Who knew you could sing like that? You Sir, have logged a fair bit of time in a Voice Studio!)

Oh, Mr. Hooper – other than the singing there IS this one thing – the sound effect when Javert hits the river? REALLY? Ouch. Tom Hooper…you have to hate Russell Crowe. I cannot see how you would add that otherwise, it was just…did he throw a phone at you in a previous life?

There was much in this film I really, really enjoyed -like, I liked that in Heaven, Fantine got a sandwich, but curiously, not a weave. I liked that the underlying theme to this musical is that Blond people will have everything work out for them as long as they have a Heart Full of Love, when what they really needed all along was a lung full of air. Brunettes though, unsustainable, even though there was air for days and the tiniest waist I have seen on a healthy looking person in several years. I liked that though Sacha Baron Cohen was the only one using a French accent when he showed up as the Master of the House, he quickly remembered that the rest of the Cast was in jolly old England, and switched – because nothing says France more than sounding like Wills and Kate out at a charity event.

The 'REAL" Master of the House

The ‘REAL” Master of the House

Seventh: I send this out to Mr. Hooper, with whom I would like to someday ‘hang’ professionally, and to the other burgeoning directors of movie musicals who will follow his lead, and have the singers sing live and then add the orchestration later. Take it for what it is, which is good advice – these songs, how many times are they sung in the actual stage show? That would be once. One time.

For that one time, the singer in question will curtail their daily activities, modify excessive behavior, and in general, remain focused on giving the audience a thrilling time at the theater. Singing big ballads over and over and over and over again only guarantees one thing – that the singer is going to get tired. And when we get tired, we fall back on technique, if we have it, to get through that.

The voice is often talked about as ‘an instrument’ – but it is actually a muscle, a series of muscles. Just like in any other sport, you can ‘tweak’ a muscle, you can strain a muscle, in short – there is damage to be done by over exerting these muscles. Calling the voice ‘an instrument’ often inspires in non singers an attitude that singers are able to repeat and repeat, and …it’s not true. If a running back ‘tweaks’ his tendon, he rests.  Same principle.

If you are using people that are not used to singing a two and a half hour shows eight times a week, you may get great takes on tapings 1-5, after 5, it is going to get strained. After 10 it is going to likely get hoarse. And any more than that, you are looking at a singer who may get vocal damage – so I would caution you to take care of your Vocal Artists and show them the same respect you show to the light. It can take hours to set up the lighting so it is just right. You see where I am going with this? (And it would not hurt either to have a vocal tech person on the set, reminding the singers to breathe, place it more forward, put the voice in the head, and so on, so that when you get to see the ‘Dailies’, everyone is happy.)

This is NOT a review of the movie, I don’t want to confuse anyone. This is what I, as a professional singer, took note of while watching the film. I liked the film – but not from a singing standpoint. And, I thought that once or twice on the barricade, a revolving shot that made it look a bit like a stage turntable would have been a tip of the hat to the fans of the show – but ok, that didn’t happen. Anyway, I liked it.

Yes, I enjoyed this film as a moviegoer even though, as a singer, I was horrified. It used to be enough to sing, dance, and act. Now everyone is trying to up the reality of a musical. For heaven’s sake – it is a MUSICAL! I want it to sound fantastic – I want the actors to have their best foot forward. If they have to record it first and sing to track, I am ok with it.

I know, I know, this is a new way of shooting musicals – fine, but if you are going to make your Actors almost die to sing through the elements, then you’d better get more people in there like Samantha Barks, Aaron Tveit, and Eddie Redmayne.

And if you are lucky enough to get the brilliant and amazing Hugh Jackman to work on your musical movie – who I have seen live in The Boy From Oz and was knocked on my ass by how stunningly talented he is – then do not EFF with his instrument by making him slog through mud, water, weight loss, and singing it live so many times he might not do the best he can do. Hugh Jackman is amazing – I want his Agent to read his contract better the next time so I’m not so worried about him! (He should get an award for this, I think, he worked HARD)

All it all – this is a great reason for why more Musical Theater Actors and Actresses should be working in Television and Film. If you have done a musical, 8 shows a week, nothing phases you. And Bravo to those who mounted the monster barricade that IS this musical.

Tom Hooper, if I met you, I would thank you. and perhaps curse you, you and this new way of shooting musicals that  is now going to torture all of us! However, because of you – more people who deserve it will be working. More audiences will be open to it, and pay to see it, and that will mean MORE movies that are musicals.

May I suggest you look at RAGTIME for your next project? As far as I know, there is no water in Ragtime except for the crossing of the immigrants from Europe – but…you are pretty resourceful, I bet you can FIND some!

However, Mr. Hooper, with respect – I still think that you still hate singers. Which is ok, sometimes I hate us too.