Malone and Stevens
Retro story gets new music, new life Off-Broadway
The new production of the beloved story of the beautiful Japanese woman who falls in love with an American soldier during WWII is brought to new life with this gorgeous staging of “Sayonara” featuring all new music by George Fischoff.
Based on the novel by James Michener, the socially conscious script deals with intermarriage and prejudice. The theme of the fair maiden of exotic extraction pairing off with the young white man in a flourish of forbidden love is a tried-and-true plot device of verismo opera. Verdi’s Aida comes quickly to mind as well as other opera staples such as Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine; Puccini’s Madama Butterfly; and Delibes’s Lakme. In Italian verismo and French grand opera the hero, of course, is always a tenor whereas on Broadway the hero is usually a lyric baritone.
This new production developed and played out through the New York City arts scene. It started in a small 8th Avenue studio and through super talent, directing and funding made its way to the Clurman Theater on West 42nd street. Produced and directed by Ms. Tisa Chang of the Pan Asian Repertory Theater—in business over 38 years—the production has a high artistic standard of excellence and is expected to move to Hawaii and then return to New York City to a Broadway venue.
Chang is an expert at casting talent within her company budget, choosing the right person for the part and always placing them to best advantage on stage. Actors clamor to be part of her productions. Rumi Oyama as “Fumiko” well played her role and her dance creations captured the spirit of the show with her excellent singing and dancing. The dance troupe of NY young energetic artists filled the stage with singing matched with precision movements. Each delivered a star performance, especially Edward Tolve as “Private Joe Kelly.” Justin McEllroy as “Captain Mike Bailey” joined in with delightful vigor and charm. Justin R.G. Holcomb as “Colonel Craford” plays a well-acted pain in the neck. Morgan McCann, “Major Lloyd ‘Ace’ Gruver” sings like a bird with a radiant well-placed sound when performing with the pretty Ya Han Chang as “Hana-Ogi,” an outstanding actress, dancer and singer--a real triple threat performer.
Behind the scenes, Wally Wong (brother of late Jadin Wong of dragon girl fame, whose life was immortalized by the show “Forbidden City West” and who performed with Bob Hope) was one of the sponsors. George Fischoff composed the wonderful score with lyrics by Hy Gilbert. Beautifully choreographed by Rumi Oyama with the musical direction of Sarah Brett England.
Performed at the Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row 410 West 42nd St. July 5-26, 2015.Musical review by Patricia Stevens and Richard Malone