Broadway vets Lainie Sakakura and Alex Sanchez ushered in the Year of the Dog at P.S. 87 – William T. Sherman School’s Annual Pan Asian Lunar New Year celebration, with a little help from their Asian American Broadway friends on February 9, 2018.
The evening, highlighting a variety of Pan Asian cultures, is a labor of love for Sakakura and her husband, award-winning choreographer Alex Sanchez, who has served as her P.S. 87 Culture & Community Committee co-chair for eight years – in bringing multicultural awareness and arts to a New York City public school through contemporary and cultural music, dance, and personal stories.
“Growing up, I didn’t have any Asian American role models to look up to,” shared Sakakura. “I only saw Asian people portrayed as buck tooth, thick glasses wearing nerds. I didn’t have any positive influences to counter the racial prejudices I felt towards me. The PAN ASIAN LUNAR NEW YEAR event is what I wish I had as a kid. An evening filled with amazing, talented, beautiful Asian American performers celebrating everything that we are.”
The 90 minute set, which was free to the public, kicked off with Japanese Taiko Drumming by New York Taiko Aiko Kai. The stellar lineup included performances by Telly Leung, currently starring as Aladdin in ALADDIN, PHANTOM OF THE OPERA’s Ali Ewoldt, who plays Christine, THE LION KING’s Rika Nishikawa, who portrays Young Nala, and SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS’ Kelvin Moon Loh, who is featured as Perch Perkins. Jason Garcia Ignacio (M BUTTERFLY), Belinda Allyn (ALLEGIANCE), Sam Tanabe (ALLEGIANCE), YoonJeong Seong (THE KING & I, Dallas Summer Musicals), Hansel Tan (PING PONG, The Public Theater), dancers Adam Rogers (AMERICAN IN PARIS) and Tommy Scrivens (ROMAN HOLIDAY), Kai Rivera (SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE NEXT GENERATION), and students of UWSDance with Lainie Sakakura, rounded out the lineup. The evening closed with the Chinese Lion Dance by Kwan’s Kung Fu, and was followed by a potluck of Asian cuisine.
NEW YORK TAIKO AIKO KAI “Isamigoma” & “Enjin Daiko”
Taiko was originally a battlefield instrument to intimidate and scare the enemy in the 1500’s. NYTAK born from PS 87 families practicing Taiko in hopes of passing Japanese culture to their children.
*Mayur Baruah, Nina Briggs, Jackson Pietsch, Nobuko Sato, **Rie Taniguchi, **Kyoko Toyama-Baruah, Keiko Yamamoto (*PS87 alumni, **PS87 former parents) nytak.blogspot.com
TELLY LEUNG “Proud of Your Boy”
Chinese-American, born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. Telly is currently playing the title role in Disney’s ALADDIN on Broadway. Other Broadway & National Tour credits: In Transit, Allegiance (with George Takei and Lea Salonga), Godspell, Rent (final Broadway company), Wicked (Boq, Chicago company), Pacific Overtures, & Flower Drum Song. Off Broadway: MTC’s THE WORLD OF EXTREME HAPPINESS. Television: “Wes, the Warbler” on “Glee” (Fox), “Instinct” (CBS), “Odd Mom Out” (Bravo), “Deadbeat” (Hulu), “Law and Order: Criminal Intent’ (NBC). He has released two solo albums – I’ll Cover You (2012) and Songs for You (2016) and can be heard on many original Broadway cast recordings. BFA Carnegie Mellon University. Website: www.tellyleung.com. Follow @tellyleung
ALI EWOLDT “Pakiusap”
Half-Filipino, half-“Midwestern”, currently starring as Christine in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. She made her Broadway debut as Cosette in Les Miserables, appeared in Lincoln Center’s recent Tony Award Winning revival of The King and I and has played Maria in numerous productions of West Side Story across the nation and the world. Her other credits include: The Fantasticks (Luisa) Off-Broadway, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Philia) at The Muny in St. Louis, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s The King and I (Tuptim), McCarter Theatre’s A Christmas Carol (Fan/Mrs. Bonds) and concerts at Feinstein’s/54 Below, Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall and The Town Hall. TV/Film: The Michael J. Fox Show, Yield and Drama: The Web Series. Ali has a BA in psychology from Yale University. www.aliewoldt.com Follow @aliewoldt
JASON GARCIA IGNACIO “Nasa Iyo Na Ang Lahat”
Born and raised in Manila, Philippines. His love for dance brought him to NYC and recently had his broadway debut in M. BUTTERFLY. www.jasonignacio.com
RIKA NISHIKAWA “I Just Can’t Wait To Be King”
Age 11 Nisei (2nd generation Japanese American) but lived in Japan for 3 years. She’s currently playing Young Nala in THE LION KING on Broadway. Her professional stage career started with the role of Princess Ying Yaowalak in Marriott Theatre’s 2014 production of The King and I. Other local credits include her appearance in Lyric Opera’s The King and I, Theatre at the Center’s Annie Warbucks, and Griffin Theatre’s Balm in the Gilead. Rika is a former member of Lookingglass Theatre’s Young Ensemble. She has also appeared in Ruth Page Civic Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.
KELVIN MOON LOH “Go The Distance”
Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but grew up in Queens & Long Island. He is currently playing a rainbow suited fish, Perch Perkins in SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS on Broadway. Kelvin most recently appeared in Classic Stage Company’s revival of Pacific Overtures (dir. John Doyle). On Broadway, Kelvin appeared in revivals of The King and I (Lincoln Center) and Side Show. He created the role of the DJ in the critically acclaimed Here Lies Love (Public Theater) and toured with the 1st National Tour of Green Day’s American Idiot. www.KelvinMoon.com Follow @KelvinMoonLoh
UWS DANCE “Grant Avenue”
Lainie Sakakura’s tap students ages 4 to 13 yrs old. A playful song about SF Chinatown from the 1958 Rogers & Hammerstein musical, FLOWER DRUM SONG about Chinese immigrants and their American born children’s inter-generational struggle between their Chinese roots and American culture. www.uwsdance.com
YOONJEONG SEONG “I Feel Pretty”
Born in South Korea. Moved to New York 15 years ago. YoonJeong appeared in 10 productions of THE KING AND I as Tuptim. One of her favorite roles was playing Amahl in AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITOR.
HANSEL TAN “Bunga Sayang” with Adam Rogers & Tommy Scrivens
Hails from the sunny Southeast Asian isle of Singapore (which by the way is not in China). Hansel spent 2 years in the Singapore Armed Forces, so don’t mess with him. Graduate of Wesleyan and Oxford University. www.hanseltan.com
BELINDA ALLYN and SAM TANABE “Breaking Free”
Belinda Allyn is Filipino-American Hapa (first generation). Broadway performer, proud doggy mama, and third time performer at PS 87’s Pan Asian Lunar New Year celebration! www.belindaallyn.com
Sam Tanabe is half Japanese and half Swiss, making him Hapa (half Asian)! He loves musicals and was a part of Japanese-American history in ALLEGIANCE on Broadway. www.samtanabe.com
AVELINA SANCHEZ*, SABRINA GREEN*, ISABELA SANCHEZ** “How Far I’ll Go”
*13 year old PS 87 Alumni, ** PS 87 5th Grade
KAI RIVERA “God’s plan/Fever/Special Delivery” Mix
14 years old, Hapa – half Japanese and half Puerto Rican. A member of Brooklyn Nets Kids dance team. Appeared on So You Think You Can Dance S13 and many commercials including Black Panther toy (currently playing). Performed with celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots.
The production team included Musical Director/Pianist Tom Conroy and Percussionist/ Drummer Kory Grossman.
TOM CONROY, Musical Director – Doctor of Musical Arts in Composition – Rice University, MM Composition – San Francisco Conservatory of Music, MA Liberal Arts & Homeric Greek Studies – St John’s College. Work ranging from Pokemon Live! to Betty Buckley. Actor and teacher of English to speakers of other languages.
KORY GROSSMAN, Percussion/Drums – has played well over 35 Broadway shows, is a member of the American Symphony Orchestra, currently working on the new Broadway revival, MY FAIR LADY. PS 87 Alumni.
Lainie Sakakura is a 26+ year Broadway veteran, choreographer, director, writer and teaching artist. She was awarded the 2015 Joe A. Callaway Award – Best Choreography for the Off Broadway show, RED EYE OF LOVE in collaboration with co-choreographer Alex Sanchez, directed by Ted Sperling and the 2002 Joseph Jefferson Award – Best Choreography for DAMN YANKEES, Marriott Theatre in collaboration with director/co-choreographer David H. Bell. Nominated for the 2003 Joseph Jefferson Award – Best Choreography for HOT MIKADO, directed by David H. Bell.
Sakakura is currently co-writing the musical adaptation of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, the New York Times best seller by Jamie Ford.
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