David Henry Hwang (play and lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori’s genre defying play with a musical, which ends its Bay Area premiere at San Francisco’s Curran (445 Geary Street) tonight, is must see theater. SOFT POWER is a Center Theatre Group co-commission with The Public Theater and had its world premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Tickets for SOFT POWER range in price from $29-$175 and are available by calling 415-358-1220 or visiting SFCURRAN.com/soft-power.
Directed by Leigh Silverman (Violet) and choreographed by Sam Pinkleton (Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812), SOFT POWER rewinds our recent political history and plays it back, a century later, through the Chinese lens of a future, beloved East-meets-West musical. In the musical, a Chinese executive who is visiting America finds himself falling in love with a good-hearted U.S. leader as the power balance between their two countries shifts following the 2016 election.
The cast of SOFT POWER features Billy Bustamante (Miss Saigon), Kara Guy, Jon Hoche (War Horse tour), Kendyl Ito (Matilda tour), Francis Jue (M. Butterfly), Austin Ku (Chinglish tour), Raymond J. Lee (Groundhog Day), Alyse Alan Louis (Amélie), Jaygee Macapugay (School of Rock), Daniel May (Thoroughly Modern Millie tour), Paul HeeSang Miller (Miss Saigon), Kristen Faith Oei (M. Butterfly), Maria-Christina Oliveras (Amélie), Geena Quintos (Miss Saigon), Conrad Ricamora (The King and I, “How to Get Away with Murder”), Trevor Salter (Here Lies Love) and Emily Stillings (The King and I).
I flew to San Francisco to catch SOFT POWER and visited with some of the cast post-show. Also in the house that night – Joel de la Fuente and director Lisa Rothe – who are currently in rehearsal for Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths at Theaterworks SV.
I am proud of the Asian American representation and overwhelmed by the level of humanity portrayed onstage. Thank you to the cast for your brave, brilliant and vulnerable performances and to the creative team for their powerful storytelling.
The creative team includes scenic design by Tony Award winner David Zinn, costume design by Drama Desk Award winner Anita Yavich, lighting design by Mark Barton, sound design by Tony Award nominee Kai Harada, orchestrations by Drama Desk Award winner and Tony Award nominee Danny Troob, dance arrangements by John Clancy, music supervision by Chris Fenwick, music direction by David O, hair and wig design by Tom Watson, make-up design by Angelina Avallone and casting by Heidi Griffiths, CSAand Kate Murray, CSA. The dramaturg is Oskar Eustis. The production stage manager is David Lurie-Perret.
As original as it is topical, SOFT POWER overflows with the romance, laughter and cultural confusions of the golden age of Broadway. SOFT POWER is inspired by the legacy of classic American musicals such as The King and I as well as China’s current quest for international cultural influence, also known as SOFT POWER.
Hwang is a playwright, screenwriter, television writer, and librettist, whose stage works includes the plays M. Butterfly, Chinglish, Yellow Face, Kung Fu, Golden Child, The Dance and the Railroad, and FOB, as well as the Broadway musicals Elton John & Tim Rice’s Aida (co-author), Flower Drum Song (2002 revival) and Disney’s Tarzan. He is also America’s most-produced living opera librettist, whose works have been honored with two Grammy Awards, and he co-wrote the Gold Record “Solo” with the late pop star Prince. Hwang is currently a Writer/Consulting Producer for the Golden Globe-winning television series “The Affair,” and his screenplays include Possession, M. Butterfly, and Golden Gate. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Hwang is a Tony Award winner (M. Butterfly) and three-time nominee, a three-time Obie Award winner and a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Recent honors include the 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award for a Master American Dramatist, the 2012 Inge Award, the 2012 Steinberg Distinguished Playwright “Mimi” Award, a 2014 Doris Duke Artist Award and the 2015 IPSA Distinguished Artist Award. He is Chair of the American Theatre Wing and sits on the boards of Young Playwrights Inc. and the Lark Play Development Center. Hwang was recently the Residency One Playwright at New York’s Signature Theatre and currently serves as head of playwriting at Columbia University School of the Arts. In 1998, East West Players named its new mainstage the David Henry Hwang Theater.
Tesori returns to Curran, where in January 2017, Fun Home was the first performance following the theater’s extensive renovation. Broadway credits include Fun Home (2015 Tony Award winner), Violet, Caroline, or Change, Shrek The Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Twelfth Night (Lincoln Center Theater) and John Guare’s A Free Man of Color. Tesori also collaborated with Tony Kushner on Mother Courage starring Meryl Streep at the Delacorte. Her opera credits include A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck (libretto, Tony Kushner; Glimmerglass) and The Lion, the Unicorn and Me (libretto, J. D. McClatchy; Washington National Opera). Her songs are featured in the Netflix revival of “Gilmore Girls.” She is the artistic director/co-founder of A Broader Way, an arts empowerment program for girls from underserved communities; the founding artistic director of Encores! Off-Center; and a lecturer in music at Yale University and Columbia University. Tesori is a member of the Dramatists Guild.
Billy Bustamante, Jon Hoche, Kendyl Ito, Francis Jue, Austin Ku, Raymond J. Lee, Alyse Alan Louis, Jaygee Macapugay, Daniel May, Paul HeeSang Miller, Kristen Faith Oei, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Geena Quintos, Conrad Ricamora,Trevor Salter and Emily Stillings Set for World Premiere of David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori’s SOFT POWER
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.
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