Playbill, in partnership with The Broadway League and the Times Square Alliance, is presenting Curtain Up!, a three-day outdoor experience in Times Square presented by Prudential, and sponsored in part by Lexus, Netflix, United Airlines with additional support by Audible. Curtain Up! will take place Friday, September 17th through Sunday, September 19th outdoors in Times Square, stretching between 45th and 48th Streets.
It was a spectacular Saturday afternoon to come out and see The Playbill Variety Show’s celebration of AAPI Artists on Broadway panel moderated by JoAnn M. Hunter and featuring Jose Llana, Minami Yusui, Lourds Lane, and pianist Ted Arthur on Curtain Up!’s MainStage in Duffy Square (7th Avenue and 47th Street).
The panel was introduced by Playbill’s Creative Director, Bryan Campione and produced by Valerie Lau-Kee Lai, Producing Director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The panelists discussed their experiences of working on Broadway, non traditional casting, the need for more Asian American and Pacific Islander representation, and the importance of writing your own narrative, creating your own work and telling your own story. Jose Llana wrapped up the segment with a cover of Brendan Graham & Rolf Lovland’s ‘You Raise Me Up’, accompanied by Ted Arthur on the keys. He performed the song on May 19 at a Tribute Concert for Members of the Philippine Nurses Association of America at Lincoln Center’s Restart Stages. The panel was very inspiring, but oh too brief.
Watch the panel and Jose’s performance below.
JoAnn M. Hunter (Director/Choreographer) has 20 Broadway shows to her credit as a Choreographer, Associate Choreographer and Performer. Choreography includes: Broadway – School of Rock (Bdway and West End), Disaster, On A Clear Day…, Broadway Bound. Off Broadway – Rock and Roll Refugee, Dedalus Lounge, The Twelve (workshop). National Tour/Regional: A Sign of the Times (Goodspeed) by Bruce Vilanch, Harmony (Ahmanson Theatre) by Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman, World premier of Marvin Hamlisch and Rupert Holmes’ The Nutty Professor, directed by Jerry Lewis. Nat’l tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Pump Boys and Dinettes, Grease, Oliver and Curtains all at (PMP). She has directed Debra Monk in her one woman show with special guest Ron Rifkin, Andrea Martin, Victor Garber, and David Hyde Pierce. In development, Lourds Lane superhero rock musical CHIX 6 and Perfect Spiral, conceived by JoAnn is a ballet with words about the will to do what you were born to do regardless of a possible outcome, the loss of your own identity. Assoc Broadway Choreographer – Spring Awakening, Curtains, The Wedding Singer, All Shook Up. As a performer, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Thou Shalt Not, Kiss Me Kate, Chicago, A Funny Thing Happened…, Steel Pier, How to Succeed…, Damn Yankees, Guys and Dolls, Miss Saigon, Shogun the Musical, Jerome Robbins Broadway.
Jose Llana starred as The King of Siam in Lincoln Center Theater’s Tony-Award winning production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King & I, directed by Bartlett Sher, opposite Kelli O’Hara and Ruthie Ann Miles. He continued his star turn in the US Tour opposite Laura Michelle Kelly and recently completed his run in the UK and International Tour. Last year Llana made a triumphant return to Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Series in the Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center after making his series concert debut in the Kaplan Penthouse in 2015. His US solo album debut, Altitude (Yellow Sound Label), celebrates that 2015 concert. Llana is a favorite among theater fans for his broad vocal range and impressive versatility as a performer. Llana is perhaps best known for his portrayal as President Marcos in David Byrne & Fat Boy Slim’s Here Lies Love at The Public Theater, directed by Alex Timbers, garnering a Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical. Other appearances at The Public include Orsino in Shaina Taub’s musical adaptation of Twelfth Night (dir. Kwame Kwei-Armah, Public Works), Gabey in On the Town (dir. George C. Wolfe, Delacorte) and Adam Guettel’s Saturn Returns (dir. Tina Landau). His extensive Broadway career includes Chip Tolentino in William Finn’s The 25th Annual Putnam Country Spelling Bee (Drama Desk Award, dir. James Lapine), El Gato in Wonderland, Wang Ta in David Henry Hwang’s adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Flower Drum Song opposite Lea Salonga, Angel in RENT(dir. Michael Greif), Jessie-Lee in Streetcorner Symphony and his Broadway debut as Lun Tha in the 1996 Revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King & I opposite Donna Murphy and Lou Diamond Phillips. Regional appearances include Bill Sikes in Oliver! (Papermill), Guillaume in Cameron Mackintosh’s Martin Guerre (Guthrie Theater, US Tour),Tin Manin Ballad of Little Jo (Steppenwolf Theater, dir. Tina Landau, Jefferson Nomination – Best Supporting Actor) and Candide in Candide (Prince Theater, Barrymore Nomination – Best Actor). TV/Film appearances include HBO’s “Sex and the City” opposite Margaret Cho and Hitch opposite Will Smith. Appearing on numerous cast albums Jose is also a best-selling recording artist on the VIVA Philippines label. Training: Manhattan School of Music. @thejosellana www.josellana.com
Minami Yusui is a Broadway actress who has appeared in My Fair Lady, Miss Saigon, The King and I. National Tour: Mary Poppins. Regional/International: Waterfall (US premiere, Pasadena Playhouse), James and the Giant Peach (Goodspeed), Chicago (Flat Rock Playhouse), Cats (Maine State Music Theatre), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Weston Playhouse), Wicked (Japan/Shiki Theatre Company), Paper Mill, MSMT. Assistant Director and Translator for the Japanese premiere production of Spring Awakening. Instagram @minamiyusui
Lourds Lane is the book, music, and lyrics writer of the Broadway-bound musical, Chix 6, as well as one of the stars of the show — the electric-violin playing superhero, “Rise.” Lourds is also the founder and CEO of the educational, arts-based non-profit called the Super You FUN-dation, and the founder and host of the Medusa Festival, featuring the best emerging female-fronted bands in the country. A classically trained prodigy on violin and piano at age 3, Lourds toured with youth orchestras in concert halls around the world. Upon graduating Harvard, with a sparkly, new electric violin as her main instrument, she kicked in the distortion pedal and shredded her way on tours across North America, fronting her rock band, LOURDS, and amassing a devoted nation-wide fan base. With her message that “The superhero is you,” Lourds has become a voice of empowerment, inspiring audiences at TEDxWomen, the Forbes Women in Power Summit, and the United Federation of Teachers Annual Conference. Next year, she’s scheduled to speak at We Day to a stadium full of youth as well as at the U.N. One thing that’s for sure, no matter what the venue, Lourds energizes and embraces an audience with a voice that is unforgettable and uniquely her own. As Billboard hails “Lourds breaks the rules while poised to break into the big time.”
Ted Arthur is a New York-based music director/pianist and is a conductor and Music Director for Diana, the new Broadway rock musical about Princess Diana’s life which just recently filmed in quarantine for distribution on Netflix. Most recently, he was the music director for Cyrano Off-Broadway starring Peter Dinklage. Ted was the associate music director for The Prom and has also worked on Mean Girls, Once On This Island, Dear Evan Hansen and Wicked. Ted collaborates with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and has assisted on a number of productions with Royal Caribbean and Busch Gardens. During the COVID-19 pause, Ted has worked on a number of benefit concerts including Sondheim’s 90th Birthday Celebration and a virtual fundraiser for the Biden campaign.
Valerie Lau-Kee Lai’s Broadway career spans more than 30 years, beginning with onstage roles in The King and I starring Yul Brynner and Smile by Marvin Hamlisch and Howard Ashman. She then transitioned to the production side of the industry, working as a stage manager on Carousel at LCT, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Grease, Miss Saigon, Phantom of the Opera, The Capeman, Whistle Down the Wind, Lion King, Aida, Wonderful Town, Sunset Boulevard, Mary Poppins and Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark. Lau-Kee Lai currently serves as the Producing Director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS where her experience in production helps connect and mobilize the theater community in support of a vital safety net of social services, helping both those within the theatre community and people in need across the country.
The variety show segment also included a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Irving Berlin’s Music Box Theatre, featuring performances of iconic musical theatre classics from Broadway stars Bryce Pinkham (Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) and Shereen Pimentel (West Side Story), with music director David Hancock Turner, and an interview with Lauren Gaston and Austin Sora from the Broadway Green Alliance! Click here to watch the full video at Playbill.com.
Curtain Up! wraps up today at 11:00 AM with the Curtain Up: This is Broadway! Finale Concert. This grand, outdoor event marks the culmination of the Curtain Up! Festival. The concert will spotlight marquee talent from returning and new Broadway productions, showcasing Broadway to the world, trumpeting the message that BROADWAY IS BACK! Hosted by Jelani Alladin, this concert will celebrate all of Broadway and the re-opening of New York City. Current shows and performers participating include: Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations, Aladdin, Caroline, or Change, Chicago, Come From Away, Company, Dear Evan Hansen, Diana the Musical, Girl from the North Country, Hadestown, Jagged Little Pill, The Lion King, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Phantom of the Opera, Six, Tina- The Tina Turner Musical, Waitress, Wicked and the following plays: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Lackawanna Blues, Pass Over, Thoughts of a Colored Man, and To Kill A Mockingbird. Additional special guests will be announced.
*Shows and performers are subject to change.
Video from this event will be available live via the stream above and at this link after the end of the event.
Curtain Up! Map
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. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative). She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.
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