Since its founding in 1989, Ma-Yi Theater Company has distinguished itself as one of the country’s leading incubators of new work shaping the national discourse about what it means to be Asian American today. Building on the recent success of the Lortel Award-winner KPOP and Mike Lew’s Teenage Dick, Ma-Yi is presenting the world premiere of Felix Starro, a new musical by Jessica Hagedorn and Fabian Obispo. Based on a powerful short story by acclaimed Filipino American writer Lysley Tenorio, Felix Starro marks the first-time-ever a musical created by Filipino Americans will be presented Off-Broadway.
Directed by Ma-Yi’s Producing Artistic Director Ralph B. Peña (The Chinese Lady, Among The Dead) and choreographed by Brandon Bieber (FX’s “Fosse/Verdon”), Felix Starro also marks the long overdue return to New York stages of novelist and playwright Hagedorn whose critically-acclaimed Dogeaters (The Public Theater, 2001) was called “imaginative and fluidly impressionistic” (New York Times). Felix Starro runs August 23 – September 15 at Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street, Manhattan) with an opening night of September 3.
In Felix Starro, protagonist Felix is a famous faith healer in the Philippines, whose clients once included celebrities and big politicians. After falling on hard times, Felix decides to go to San Francisco for one last healing mission with ailing Filipinos in the Bay Area. Junior, Felix Starro‘s nineteen-year-old, orphan grandson, goes along as his assistant. Unbeknownst to Felix, Junior has plans of his own.
Felix Starro explores issues of faith, family, love, loss, betrayal, and what it means to be an undocumented immigrant in America.
The cast for Felix Starro includes Alan Ariano (King and I, Miss Saigon) as Felix Starro, Caitlin Cisco (Hundred We Are) as Crystal, Francisca Muñoz as Mrs. Delgado, Ryan James Ortega as Bobby/Ramon, Diane Phelan (School of Rock) as Charma, Nacho Tambunting (NBC’s “Rise”) as Junior, and Obie and Lortel award-winner Ching Valdes-Aran as Flora.
The creative team also includes Obie award-winner Marsha Ginsberg (scenic design), Becky Bodurtha (costume design), Oliver Wason (lighting design), Julian Evans (sound design), Paulo K Tiról (orchestrations), Ian Miller (musical director), Cristina Sison (production stage manager), and Jorge Z. Ortoll (executive producer)
Performances of Felix Starro will take place August 23-September 15 at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street in Manhattan). Critics are welcome as of August 28 for an opening on Tuesday, September 3. Tickets, priced at $52-$102, can be purchased by visiting ma-yitheatre.org or by calling Telecharge at 212-239-6200.
About the Cast
Alan Ariano (Felix Starro) Ma-Yi debut. Broadway: The King and I (Lincoln Center Revival), Miss Saigon (Original Company), Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Shogun, M. Butterfly and Flower Drum Song (National Tour). Off Broadway: Shanghai Moon, Prospect Theater’s Honor. Directly from East West Players playing Sam Carmichael in Mama Mia! his favorite roles include the King in The King and I at Dallas Summer Musicals & Arizona Broadway Theatre. He has played regional theaters all over the country. TV: “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: SVU” (recurring), “The Path,” “Treme,” and “Leverage”.
Caitlin Cisco (Crystal): Select NY credits — Songs About Trains (New Ohio Theatre/La Guardia Performing Arts Center) Loving and Loving (Adler Studio Theater) Words on the Street (Baruch PAC) The Hundred We Are (Origin Theatre Co.) Melt! (Highline) Regional — Folger Theatre: Nell Gwynn (Rose Gwynn); Baltimore Center Stage: The White Snake (Canopus/Madame Lin); UV Theater: Three Sisters (Irina), The Seagull (Masha); Capital Rep: 4000 Miles (Amanda). TV: “Orange is the New Black” (Season 7), caitlincisco.com
Francisca Muñoz (Mrs. Delgado) is an Actress/Singer/Songwriter with a Bachelor of Music (Honors) in Performance, Theatre, and Composition from the University of Western Sydney, Australia. Some of her theatre credits include: Maria in The Last Jew Of Boyle Heights – Off Broadway (The Actors Temple), Regional credits include: Arella/Natalie in Informed Consent (The Gable Stage), Katherine Wright in Kitty Hawk (The Adrienne Arsht Center), Frida Kahlo, Rufina Amaya, Alfonsina Storni in Tres Vidas (The Core Ensemble), Terry in Extremities; (Abyss Theatre), Merry Murderess in Chicago (Boca Raton Theatre Guild), and Margaret in Much Ado About Nothing, (Outre Theatre). New Media credits include: supporting roles in Follow The Leaders and Earth 2050 (Zen Film). Her original EP, Colors of Me is available on iTunes and all media outlets.
Ryan James Ortega: (Bobby/Ramon) is a first generation Filipino American from Southern California. He received a BFA in Media and Performing Arts from the Savannah College of Art and Design under the wing of Sharon Ott. Off-Broadway: Between Gods and Kings (BEDLAM). Regional: HAIR, Miss Saigon (Serenbe Playhouse), Newsies (The Engeman Theater).
Diane Phelan (Charma) is a New York based actor and director, passionate about making theater that redefines what it is to be an American, now. Broadway: School of Rock (Patty u/s ), King and I (Tuptim u/s LCT). Off Broadway: Here Lies Love (Imelda Standby, The Public Theater), Bernarda Alba (Adela Standby, LCT). Other favorite roles: West Side Story (Maria- 50 th Anniversary Int’l Tour), Oklahoma (Laurey, BTG), Carousel (Julie Jordan, NAAP). Founder, Broadway Diversity Project. SDCF Observership class 2017-2018. www.dianephelan.com.
Born and raised in Manila, Nacho Tambunting (Junior) began his career with Repertory Philippines in 2006 – appearing in productions like: The Sound of Music, Seussical, Peter Pan, Camp Rock, The Producers and Jack and the Beanstalk to name a few. Nacho moved to NY in 2014 to attend NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and later graduated with a BFA in Drama. He was most recently seen as Francis on NBC’s RISE – other TV credits include “Dickinson” and “The First Wives Club”. @nachotambunting
Ching Valdes-Aran (Flora) is thrilled to be back working with Ma-Yi. Most recent and ongoing projects include: Geoff Sobelle’s Home HOME (Bessie Award, Outstanding Production); Rachel Chavkin’s/Heather Christian’s musical adaptation of Mac Wellman’s novel Annie Salem ANNIE SALEM (NY Stage & Film’s Powerhouse Theater). Broadway: The Wild Party (Victoria Theatre); NYSF Shakespeare On Broadway (Belasco Theatre). Off & Off-Off Broadway: CSC, Public Theater, La Mama E.T.C., NYTW, Mabou Mines, The Foundry, NAATCO, Pan Asian Repertory, Women’s Project, Working Theater, New Georges, New Ohio. others. Regional: A.C.T., Arena Stage, Center Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Wilma Theater, Yale Repertory. She has also worked in numerous films and television and has performed in many international festivals. Ching received an OBIE Award (1996 Ma-Yi production of Ralph’s Peña’s Flipzoids directed by Loy Arcenas) and a Lucille Lortel nomination (2001 Public Theater’s production of Jessica Hagedorn’s Dogeaters directed by Michael Grief). Other awards: Fox Foundation Actor Fellowship, Rockefeller MAP, New Dramatist’s Charles Bowden Award, ACC Fellowship, PACCAL, Ma-Yi Award for Artistic Excellence, & a U.S Congressional Award in Arts and Culture.
About the Creative Team
Jessica Hagedorn (book & lyrics) was born and raised in the Philippines and came to the United States in her early teens. Her novels include Toxicology, Dream Jungle, The Gangster Of Love, and Dogeaters, winner of the American Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Award. Hagedorn is also the author of Danger And Beauty, a collection of poetry and prose, and the editor of three anthologies: Manila Noir, Charlie Chan Is Dead: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Fiction and Charlie Chan Is Dead 2: At Home In The World. Work in theatre includes the musical Most Wanted, a collaboration with composer Mark Bennett and director Michael Greif at La Jolla Playhouse; Fe In The Desert and Stairway To Heaven for Campo Santo in San Francisco, and the stage adaptation of Dogeaters, which was presented at La Jolla Playhouse and at the NYSF/Public Theater (dir. by Michael Greif), at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City (dir. by Jon Lawrence Rivera) and in Manila (dir. by Bobby Garcia). Hagedorn wrote the screenplay for Fresh Kill, a feature film directed by Shu Lea Cheang. She wrote the scripts for the experimental animated series “The Pink Palace,” which was created for the first season of the Oxygen Network. From 1975-85, Hagedorn was the leader of a band called The Gangster Choir. One of her signature songs, “Tenement Lover”, is included in John Giorno’s ’80s downtown music anthology, A Diamond Hidden in the Mouth of a Corpse. Honors and prizes include a Gerbode, Hewlett Foundations’ Playwriting Award, a Lucille Lortel Playwrights’ Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fiction Fellowship, a Kesselring Prize Honorable Mention for Dogeaters, an NEA-TCG Playwriting Residency Fellowship, as well as fellowships from the Sundance Playwrights’ Lab and the Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab. Hagedorn has taught in the MFA Playwriting Program at Yale and in the MFA Creative Writing Program at LIU Brooklyn, NYU, and Columbia University.
Apart from being internationally renowned for his iconic choral arrangements of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Fabian Obispo (composer) has been a longtime composer and sound designer of Ma-Yi Theater Company, having previously worked on The Chinese Lady, Teenage Dick, House/Rules, and The Romance of Magno Rubio, just to name a few. His recent Off-Broadway credits include Sea Wall/A Life, Oedipus El Rey (Public Theater), Grace, A Very Common Procedure, Last Easter, Intrigue With Faye, Bright Ideas, What of the Night, Oroonoko, Durango, The Right Kind of People, No Foreigners Beyond this Point, Rubio, Two Sisters and a Piano, and The Square. Regionally, he has designed and composed for Arena Stage, Guthrie Theater, Goodman Theatre, D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Kennedy Center, Folger Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, American Conservatory Theater, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Hartford Stage, Long Wharf Theatre, Syracuse Stage, New York Stage & Film, Westport Country Playhouse, Asolo Repertory Playhouse, and Perseverance Theatre, among others. His work has been recognized with the American Theatre Wing’s Hewes Design Award, as well as Helen Hayes, Barrymore, NAACP, Jackie, and Bay Area Critics Circle award nominations.
Ralph B. Peña (director) has been Ma-Yi Theater’s Artistic Director since 1996, and has been instrumental in establishing Ma-Yi Theater Company as the country’s leading incubator of new works by Asian American Playwrights, reaping numerous Obie and Drama Desk Awards, a Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical (KPOP), and most recently, the 2018 Ross Wetzsteon Obie Award. Recent directing credits include The Chinese Lady, Among The Dead, and House/Rules. Apart at Ma-Yi Theater, his work has been seen on the stages of Ensemble Studio Theater, The Public Theater, Long Wharf Theater, Victory Gardens, Laguna Playhouse, Children’s Theater Company, and La Mama ETC, to name a few.
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 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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