The Ballad of Mu Lan Packs a Punch at HTY
The Honolulu Theatre For Youth opens their 2017 - 18 season of "The Power of People" with The Ballad of Mu Lan, based on the popular Chinese poem and written by company actor, Alvin Chan. Chan is also the dance choreographer, costume designer and co-fight choreographer along with Nicolas Logue.
Originally composed in the 5th or 6th century CE, The Ballad of Mu Lan tells of a brave young girl who successfully disguises herself and enlists as a male soldier in order to take her father’s place in the Chinese army as they go off to fight the Huns.
She becomes skilled in the martial arts as well as the sword and archery, becoming invaluable to her fellow soldiers to whom Mu Lan confesses that she is indeed a female and not the male counterpart that they thought. When the general is told of this secret, he takes Mu Lan to the emperor to surely face dire consequences. Instead, impressed with her fearlessness and loyalty, the emperor gifts Mu Lan with not only his horse but a promotion to general as well.
Of course there's a lot more detail in the original poem, and Chan faithfully follows the story with the addition of original music and choreography both with a definite nod to Jingju or Beijing Opera. This addition takes The Ballad of Mu Lan to the next level. With the quick and sharp moves that Jinju requires, along with purposeful hand gestures and facial expressions, not to mention singing in Beijing Opera style, the entire cast succeeds with flying colors. Christina Uyeno, as Mu Lan, is a bright and fiery heroine. Junior Tesoro plays the general with authority while Sean-Joseph Choo as Father and Chan as the Emperor do double duty as Mu Lan’s soldier buddies.
With set and props designed by Joe Dodd and light design by Joseph Governale, the audience is greeted with red Chinese lanterns that hang glowing above the stage. A large medallion doubles as a projection screen. Chesley Cannon designs the animation that allows scene changes to occur seamlessly with minimal set changes, giving the story a continuous flow. Matthew Mazella adds traditional Jingju instrumentation and sound design to complete the whole package.
Director Eric Johnson knows his audience well. The sold out performance on opening night had many families in attendance and as people found their seats, you could hear all the buzz and laughter from children of all ages. But once the show started the audience was magically transformed to another world. The Ballad of Mu Lan will have public performances on Saturday September 2, 9, 16 and 30 at 4:30 pm at Tenney Theatre. For tickets and information go to www.htyweb.org or call 839-9885 ext. 720.