Photo Diary: Inside Utah Shakespeare Festival’s World Premiere of Jason Ma’s GOLD MOUNTAIN Starring Ali Ewoldt and Jonny Lee Jr.

Last week, I flew to Salt Lake City for the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere production of Gold Mountain, a new musical by two-time ASCAP Foundation Award recipient Jason Ma, currently playing a limited run through November 20 at the West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, UT.

Playwright/Composer Jason Ma. Photo by Lia Chang

The world premiere of Gold Mountain, part of the Thrive 125 celebration of 125 years of Utah statehood, began previews on November 4 and opened on November 5.  Gold Mountain is the first-ever non-touring production outside of Cedar City, produced by the Tony Award-winning Utah Shakespeare Festival.

West Valley City is only a 15 minute ride from the Salt Lake City airport. I arrived a day before the company photo call to get tested as per strict Covid protocols so that I could join the bubble with the cast and creative team. Everyone that knows me is aware that I love to eat, so in addition to photographing the show, and documenting the first preview and opening night, I noshed on great Vietnamese food at Phở 777 (1835 W 3600 S Suite A, West Valley City, UT 84119) and Phở Saigon Noodle House (2222 W 3500 S, West Valley City, UT 84119), and Korean cuisine at Myung Ga (3353 S Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City, UT 84119). 

West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, UT. Photo by Lia Chang
Viet Vo, Lawrence Michael C. Arias, Jimmy Nguyen, Kelvin Moon Loh, Kennedy Kanagawa, Darren Lee, Steven Eng, Eymard Cabling and Kiet Tai Cao. Photo by Lia Chang

Gold Mountain is an original musical by Jason Ma, who wrote the book, lyrics and score. Alan Muraoka is directing, having been at the helm for multiple workshops, presentations, and concert versions of the piece since 2015. This marks a return to Utah for Gold Mountain. A staged concert, starring Broadway’s Ali Ewoldt(Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables), was performed as a key commemorative event for Utah’s 2019 Spike 150 anniversary celebrations in Salt Lake City and Ogden with a New York based cast of Asian American actors. Ewoldt reprises her starring role as Yook Mei in the upcoming production opposite Jonny Lee Jr. as Lit Ning.

Ali Ewoldt and Jonny Lee Jr.. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast also features Lawrence-Michael C. Arias as Wong, Kiet Tai Cao as Chu, Michael Ching as Ba, Steven Eng as Loong, Kennedy Kanagawa as Lo, Darren Lee as Jiang, and Robert Scott Smith as Hagan. Eymard Cabling, Kelvin Moon Loh, Jimmy Nguyen, and Viet Vo round out the cast. Emily Song Tyler is the understudy for Mei.

1st row: Jennifer Jackson, Amanda Morton, Alan Muraoka, Jason Ma, Billy Bustamante, Darren Lee. 2nd Row: Viet Vo, Kiet Tai Cao, Jimmy Nguyen, Kelvin Moon Loh, Steven Eng, Emily Song Tyler. 3rd Row: Eymard Cabling, Robert Scott Smith, Lawrence-Michael C. Arias, Ali Ewoldt, Michael Ching, Kennedy Kanagawa, Jamyi Smith and Joanna Li. Photo by Lia Chang

Gold Mountain is a love story set against the backdrop of a pivotal event in America’s history, the construction of the world’s first transcontinental railroad. Ma’s original musical celebrates the striving immigrant spirit, the redemptive power of love, and the ultimate nobility of self sacrifice among a team of Chinese railroad workers.

The Company. Photo by Lia Chang

The Gold Mountain creative team is entirely comprised of women and artists of color. In addition to Muraoka, the team includes music director Amanda Morton, orchestrations by Steven Cuevas, choreographer Billy Bustamante, associate director/ choreographer Darren Lee, associate music director Joanna Li, costume design by Helen Q. Huang, sets by Jo Winiarski, lighting design by Jaymi Lee Smith, and sound design by Jennifer Jackson. Derek Charles Livingston, Utah Shakespeare Festival’s director of new play development/artistic associate, provides Dramaturgy.

GOLD MOUNTAIN Artistic Staff – 1st row: Associate Music Director/Conductior Joanna Li, Choreographer Billy Bustamante, Scenic Designer Jo Winiarski, Assistant Choreographer/Assistant Director Darren Lee. 2nd Row: Playwright/Composer Jason Ma, Music Director Amanda Morton, Sound Designer Jennifer Jackson, Director Alan Muraoka, Lighting Designer Jaymi Lee Smith. (not pictured Orchestrator Steven Cuevas and Costume Designer Helen Q. Huang). Photo by Lia Chang

In 2019 Governor Herbert’s Spike150 commission, in partnership with the Chinese Railroad Workers Descendants Association, brought Gold Mountain to Utah as a special cultural event to celebrate the landmark 150th Anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad.

Ali Ewoldt. Photo by Lia Chang
Robert Scott Smith and Ali Ewoldt. Photo by Lia Chang

Ali Ewoldt. Photo by Lia Chang

Gold Mountain has also been presented at TheTimesCenter in New York City by Baayork Lee’s National Asian Artists Project in partnership with Prospect Theater Company as a part of their 2017 IGNITE series. The original musical was also selected for presentation at the 2016 ASCAP/DreamWorks Musical Theatre Workshop in Los Angeles, for development by Apples & Oranges Studios in their 2017 THEatre ACCELERATOR, for a staged reading at San Francisco LaborFest 2016 in The Aurora Theatre, and for a 2017 eStudio grant for a developmental workshop at The Masie Center.

Steven Eng and Kennedy Kanagawa. Photo by Lia Chang
Steven Eng. Photo by Lia Chang
Steven Eng and Kennedy Kanagawa. Photo by Lia Chang

Tickets are available at the West Valley Arts website at wvcarts.org/gold-mountain.html at any time, by calling 801-965-5140, or by visiting the Ticket Office in person at 3333 Decker Lake Drive, West Valley City, Utah. Ticket Office hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. 

Remaining performances:
Nov 13, 2:00 p.m., Saturday
Nov 13, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
Nov 16, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday
Nov 17, 7:30 p.m., Wednesday
Nov 18, 7:30 p.m., Thursday
Nov 19, 7:30 p.m., Friday
Nov 20, 2:00 p.m., Saturday
Nov 20, 7:30 p.m., Saturday
 
Jimmy Nguyen, Kelvin Moon Loh, Eymard Cabling and Viet Vo. Photo by Lia Chang
Jimmy Nguyễn, Darren Lee, Kiet Tai Cao, Kelvin Moon Loh, Eymard Cabling, Kennedy Kanagawa, Viet Vo and Steven Eng. Photo by Lia Chang
Lawrence Michael C. Arias (on the floor), Steven Eng, Jimmy Nguyen, Kiet Tai Cao, Darren Lee, Jonny Lee Jr., Kelvin Moon Loh, Viet Vo, Eymard Cabling and Kennedy Kanagawa. Photo by Lia Chang
Photos: Utah Shakespeare Festival’s World Premiere of Jason Ma’s GOLD MOUNTAIN Starring Ali Ewoldt and Jonny Lee Jr.

Playbill: A Look at the World Premiere of Jason Ma’s Gold Mountain, Starring Ali Ewoldt, Jonny Lee Jr., More

Good Things Utah: New musical making its debut at a local theater near you

KSL.TV: Utah Shakespeare Festival presents world-premiere musical ‘Gold Mountain’

ByKennethJones.com: Jason Ma’s Musical “Gold Mountain”: A Fresh Lens on Chinese Achievement in America

Below is my photo diary documenting the week leading up to opening night, including dinner and treats.

NOVEMBER 2, 2021

Dinner at Phở 777 (1835 W 3600 S Suite A, West Valley City, UT 84119).

NOVEMBER 3, 2021

The mountains of West Valley City, Utah. Photo by Lia Chang
Jason Ma and Associate Producer Max Chang. Photo by Lia Chang
Jason Ma, Lia Chang and Associate Producer Max Chang. Photo by Lia Chang
Donuts from Donut Boy. Of course, I had the maple bacon donut. Photo by Lia Chang

I liked Phở 777 so much, I went back a second time with friends.

Amanda Morton, Josh, Alan Muraoka, Billy Bustamante and Darren Lee at Phở 777 in West Valley City, UT. Photo by Lia Chang
Billy Bustamante, Alan Muraoka, Darren Lee, Amanda Morton and Lia Chang. Photo by Josh

NOVEMBER 4, 2021 – 1ST PREVIEW

Jason took me to Phở Saigon Noodle House (2222 W 3500 S, West Valley City, UT 84119) during the dinner break.

 

Doug Foxley his son Steve Foxley, and his grandchild Graham with Jason Ma. Photo by Lia Chang
A guest, Jason Ma, USF Board member Nancy Melich. Photo by Lia Chang
Elliott Masie, Jason Ma and Cathy Masie. Photo by Lia Chang
Amanda Morton and Alan Ariano. Photo by Lia Chang
Justin Anthony Long, Jonny Lee Jr., Elliott Masie and Cathy Masie. Photo by Lia Chang
Alan Ariano and Jonny Lee Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Jonny Lee Jr. and Lia Chang. Photo by Justin Anthony Long
1st row: Emily Song Tyler, Jimmy Nguyen, Viet Vo, Kiet Tai Cao. 2nd row: Cathie Masie, Alan Ariano, Kelvin Moon Loh, Lia Chang, Jonny Lee Jr., Elliott Masie. Photo by Justin Anthony Long
Director Alan Muraoka, Music Director Amanda Morton, Assistant Director/Assistant Choreographer Darren Lee, Archivist/Photographer Lia Chang, Choregrapher Billy Bustamante and Playwright/Composer Jason Ma. Photo by Jo Winiarski

NOVEMBER 5, 2021 – OPENING NIGHT

Alan Muraoka and Jason Ma. Photo by Lia Chang
Choreographer Billy Bustamante. Photo by Lia Chang

Our opening night dinner of choice was Korean cuisine, Myung Ga.

 

Utah Shakespeare Festival’s opening night of the world premiere of Jason Ma’s GOLD MOUNTAIN at West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah on November 5, 2021. Photo by Lia Chang
Utah Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Brian Vaughn, Jason Ma, USF Executive Producer Frank Mack, USF Director of New Play Development/Artistic Associate Derek Livingston, and USF Director of Development and Communication Donn Jersey. Photo by Lia Chang
Utah Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Brian Vaughn and Utah Shakespeare Festival Executive Producer Frank Mack. Photo by Lia Chang
Utah Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Brian Vaughn and Utah Shakespeare Festival Executive Producer Frank Mack. Photo by Lia Chang
Utah Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Brian Vaughn, USF Director of New Play Development/Artistic Associate Derek Livingston. Photo by Lia Chang
Utah Shakespeare Festival Artistic Director Brian Vaughn, USF Director of Development and Communication Donn Jersey, USF Director of New Play Development/Artistic Associate Derek Livingston, USF Executive Producer Frank Mack. Photo by Lia Chang
Brent and Kathy Jones, Jeffrey R. Nelson, and Katie C. Nelson, Jason Ma. Photo by Lia Chang
Jeffrey R. Nelson, Katie C. Nelson, Jason Ma. Photo by Lia Chang
Jason Ma, Gail Miller and Kim R. Wilson. Photo by Lia Chang
Elliott Masie, Jason Ma, Cathy Masie, Gail Miller and Kim R. Wilson. Photo by Lia Chang
Elliott Masie, Jason Ma, Cathy Masie and Alan Ariano. Photo by Lia Chang
Jason Ma and Alan Ariano. Photo by Lia Chang
Genevieve Chang, Edee Chang, Gisele Chang, Beatrice Chang, Alan Muraoka, Jason Ma, Po Chang and Max Chang. Photo by Lia Chang
Director Alan Muraoka, Herb Perry and guests. Photo by Lia Chang
Marie Shell with her sons Joe and Buckeye, Jason Ma. Photo by Lia Chang
Jason Ma, Jennie Sant, CynThia Fadel Fleming. Photo by Lia Chang
Matthew Emata Aninzo, Billy Bustamante, Thomas Marcus, Joshua Black, Peyton Royale. Photo by Lia Chang
Emily Song Tyler, Jason Ma, Alex Hsu, Alan Ariano. Photo by Lia Chang
Amanda Morton with her husband, Josh. Photo by Lia Chang

This production is made possible, in part, with support from the Utah Department of Cultural and Community Engagement, the Thrive 125 celebration of the 125th anniversary of Utah statehood, the Jeffery R. and Katie C. Nelson Foundation and Po and Beatrice Chang.

Po and Beatrice Chang, Jason Ma. Photo by Lia Chang
Alan Muraoka, EJ Zimmerman and Jason Ma. Photo by Lia Chang
Elliott Masie and Alan Muraoka. Photo by Lia Chang
Derek Livingston, Mikayla Rae Wallentine, Andrew Daines Wallentine, Frank Mack and his wife, Sarah Delia. Photo by Lia Chang
Lion dancers in the house before the opening night performance of GOLD MOUNTAIN. Photo by Lia Chang
Lion dancers in the house before the opening night performance of GOLD MOUNTAIN. Photo by Lia Chang
Opening night flowers. Photo by Lia Chang
Christine Toy Johnson gifted Jason and the company GOLD MOUNTAIN themed cupcakes, arranged by Max Chang. Photo by Max Chang
The GOLD MOUNTAIN company take a bow on opening night of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of GOLD MOUNTAIN at West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah on November 5, 2021. Photo by Lia Chang
The GOLD MOUNTAIN company take a bow on opening night of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of GOLD MOUNTAIN at West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah on November 5, 2021. Photo by Lia Chang
The GOLD MOUNTAIN company take a bow on opening night of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of GOLD MOUNTAIN at West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah on November 5, 2021. Photo by Lia Chang
The GOLD MOUNTAIN company take a bow on opening night of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of GOLD MOUNTAIN at West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah on November 5, 2021. Photo by Lia Chang
The GOLD MOUNTAIN company take a bow on opening night of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of GOLD MOUNTAIN at West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah on November 5, 2021. Photo by Lia Chang
The GOLD MOUNTAIN company take a bow on opening night of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of GOLD MOUNTAIN at West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah on November 5, 2021. Photo by Lia Chang
The GOLD MOUNTAIN company take a bow on opening night of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of GOLD MOUNTAIN at West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah on November 5, 2021. Photo by Lia Chang
The GOLD MOUNTAIN company take a bow on opening night of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of GOLD MOUNTAIN at West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah on November 5, 2021. Photo by Lia Chang
The GOLD MOUNTAIN company take a bow on opening night of the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of GOLD MOUNTAIN at West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah on November 5, 2021. Photo by Lia Chang
Robert Scott Smith, Michael Ching and Darren Lee. Photo by Lia Chang
Steven Eng, Kennedy Kanagawa, Kelvin Moon Loh and Lawrence-Michael C. Arias. Photo by Lia Chang
Kiet Tai Cao, Jimmy Nguyen, Eymard Cabling and Viet Vo. Photo by Lia Chang
Kiet Tai Cao, Jimmy Nguyen and Viet Vo. Photo by Lia Chang
Ali Ewoldt and her dresser, Marissa Swanner. Photo by Lia Chang
Ali Ewoldt and Jonny Lee Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Jonny Lee Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Kennedy Kanagawa and Lawrence Michael C. Arias. Photo by Lia Chang
Darren Lee, Ali Ewoldt, Viet Vo, Robert Scott Smith, Lia Chang, Kelvin Moon Loh, Jimmy Nguyen, Kiet Tai Cao and Michael Ching.
Peyton Royale, Billy Bustamante, Amanda Morton and her husband, Josh. Photo by Lia Chang
Kay Robinson, Michael Ching, Justin Anthony Long and Jonny Lee Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Kiet Tai Cao, Alex Hsu, Jimmy Nguyen and Emily Song Tyler. Photo by Lia Chang
Max Chang, Steven Eng. Photo by Lia Chang
Elliott Masie, Ali Ewoldt, Cathie Masie, Darren Lee and Steven Eng. Photo by Lia Chang
Elliott Masie, Cathy Masie, Edee Chang and Max Chang. Photo by Lia Chang
Alan Ariano and Kelvin Moon Loh. Photo by Lia Chang
Steven Eng, Diane Wiltshire, Kennedy Kanagawa and David Gow. Photo by Lia Chang
Alex Hsu and Lawrence Michael C. Arias. Photo by Lia Chang
1st Row: Kennedy Kanagawa, Steven Eng, Viet Vo, Kelvin Moon Loh, Kiet Tai Cao and Eymard Cabling. 2nd Row: Michael Ching, Lawrence Michael C. Arias, Jimmy Nguyen, Billy Bustamante, Jonny Lee Jr., Darren Lee. Photo by Lia Chang
1st Row: Alan Muraoka, Emily Song Tyler, Kennedy Kanagawa, Steven Eng, Viet Vo, Kelvin Moon Loh, Jason Ma, Kiet Tai Cao and Eymard Cabling. 2nd Row: Michael Ching, Lawrence Michael C. Arias, Jimmy Nguyen, Billy Bustamante, Jonny Lee Jr., Darren Lee, Robert Scott Smith, Ali Ewoldt, Amanda Morton. Photo by Lia Chang
Associate Producer Max Chang (Center) leading the applause. Photo by Lia Chang
Jonny Lee Jr., EJ Zimmerman, Olivia Oguma and Jason Ma. Photo by Lia Chang
Viet Vo and Alan Muraoka. Photo by Lia Chang
Alan Muraoka, Kiet Tai Cao and Darren Lee. Photo by Billy Bustamante
Lia Chang, Max Chang, Edee Lin, Genevieve and Gisele Chang. Photo by Billy Bustamante
Lawrence-Michael C. Arias, Alan Ariano, Alex Hsu, Viet Vo and Lia Chang. Photo by Bily Bustamante
Lia Chang and Kelvin Moon Loh. Photo by Billy Bustamante.
Kiet Tai Cao, Jimmy Nguyen, Viet Vo. Photo by Lia Chang
Emily Song Tyler, Jimmy Nguyen, Jason Ma, Alan Muraoka, Alex Hsu, Lawrence-Michael C. Arias, Darren Lee, Kiet Tai Cao. Photo by Chang
Jimmy Nguyen. Photo by Lia Chang
Diane Wiltshire, Kennedy Kanagawa, Olivia Oguma and David Gow. Photo by Lia Chang
Alan Muraoka, Edee Chang, Genevieve and Gisele Chang, Max Chang. Photo by Lia Chang
Po Chang, Beatrice Chang, Edee Chang, Max Chang, Genevieve and Gisele Chang. Photo by Lia Chang
Billy Bustamante. Lia Chang, Darren Lee, Jason Ma and Alan Muraoka. Photo by Justin Anthony Long

NOVEMBER 6, 2021

Lan Phạm-Ngũ, a wonderful friend to the company of Gold Mountain, surprised the cast and crew with individually wrapped portions of Chicken, Vietnamese spring rolls and pasta salad for the first two show day for the company of Gold Mountain.

Lan Phạm-Ngũ (in red, second from the right) and friends with cast members Jimmy Nguyen, Kiet Tai Cao, Viet Vo, Emily Song Tyler and Eymard Cabling. Photo courtesy of Viet Vo

My final meal in West Valley City was a return to Phở Saigon Noodle House.

Dax Valdes, Eileen Rivera-Eusebio, George Hobica, Jason Ma, Kansas City Rep Associate Artistic Director Nelson T. Eusebio III. Photo by Lia Chang
Max Chang, Jesselie Anderson, Jason Ma and Scott Anderson. Photo by Lia Chang
Jesselie Anderson, Jason Ma and Scott Anderson. Photo by Lia Chang
Dax Valdes, Eileen Rivera-Eusebio, Kansas City Rep Associate Artistic Director Nelson T. Eusebio III. Photo by Lia Chang
Kennedy Kanagawa. Photo by Lia Chang
Susan Ly and Viet Vo. Photo by Lia Chang
Jessica W. Leung with her cousin, Jason Ma, Paco Beltrán and George Hobica. Photo by Lia Chang
Jason Ma and Utah Rep. Elizabeth Weight (D-District 31). Photo by Lia Chang
Standing: Darren Lee, Eymard Cabling, Kiet Tai Cao, Jason Ma, Utah Rep. Elizabeth Weight (D-District 31), Jonny Lee Jr., Lawrence-Michael C. Arias. Seated: Emily Song Tyler, Jimmy Nguyen and Kelvin Moon Loh. Photo by Lia Chang

SLtrib.com: After 24 years, musical love story ‘Gold Mountain’ will have its world debut in West Valley City

StGeorgeUtah.com: Utah Shakespeare Festival premieres musical in northern Utah based on Transcontinental Railroad workers

Saltlakecityweekly.com: THE ESSENTIAL A&E PICKS FOR NOV 4 – 10 

Lia Chang in the parking lot of West Valley Performing Arts Center in West Valley City, Utah. Photo by Amanda Morton

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.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2021 Lia Chang Multimedia, unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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