ROMANCE OF THE WESTERN CHAMBER is an absolutely charming production of this classic Chinese love story; elegant, beautiful, funny and engaging, the show is a wonderful example of passion and collaboration among artistic veterans and newcomers…. clearly a labor of love on every level … quality writing, music, direction, costumes, choreography and stylized acting that perfectly captures a romantic tale that is universal. Don’t miss it! -Leslie Dileo, Hi! Drama
Faithful to the original story, but in the form of a Broadway musical, the show is interwoven with dialogue, narrative, dance and songs. Stances and gestures, as performed by the actors, are borrowed from Chinese dance and opera to contribute to the show’s period aesthetics. This two-and-a-half-hour-long adaptation has two acts and is smooth and compact. Interspersed with humorous dialogue, lyrical singing and light-hearted lines, it captured the audience’s attention from the beginning until the end. The audience was also able to enjoy the story more because the playwright had chosen to translate classical Chinese literature into English words that are both accurate and easy to understand. -Jing Lin, China Press
“Delightful show. I thought some people in the cast were outstanding, most of them were merely excellent. So much fun. Well done.” -Toni Hart, writer/producer
“Saw the show yesterday, and it is an example of a great production experience. I was really impressed with how everything worked together: the script, lyrics, live music, set etc. not to mention the talented performers. Loved the last act.” -Ellen Freed
“I want to thank you for bringing the story of ROMANCE OF THE WESTERN CHAMBER to a NY stage. I was moved for many reasons, mostly, the tender and beautiful insight into Chinese heritage and history – one that is not often presented on American Stages. My friends and I enjoyed the piece overall. The piece is rich with relatability and authenticity. Your cast gets five stars through and through. ~Yaakov Bressler, writer/producer
“This is an ambitious standard English adaptation of a Tang Dynasty Chinese literary work & later, a 21 act revised version play. Howard Rubenstein did a scholarly adaptation from the complicated poetic text & wrote a decent modern book & lovely lyrics very much in the influence of the highly cultured Renaissance style of the creative Tang Dynasty. …The music is lovely…. Dances and fight scene are great.” ~Alice Chiao, critic
“It was beautifully choreographed. The acting and voices of all the actors were outstanding. I loved the story also. It was a terrific production.” ~Dena Levin, writer
“A masterful job of transposing this play into a modern idiom, by including music, dance and easy-to-follow English. Enhanced by a capable cast of (mostly) Chinese actors, dancers and musicians, it catches the feel of the original yet feels timely.” -Robert 7263, Show-Score
“An old saga from China told through exquisite music, dancing, singing and delicate choreography. Adventure, romance, and humor. See it!… The cast was fantastic, especially Mari Uchida as Hong-Niang, a maid with a heart of gold. Also, Albert Hsueh, brought talent and comic relief to this enchanting folktale.” -Zorayda M, Show-Score
“Nail biting drama that will keep you at the edge of your seat with great singing, lots of laughs, and tons of imagination.” -Evelyn M, Show-Score
“A work of art, with beautiful music, singing, dancing, acting–all integrated into a delightful story. I have seen it twice and am looking forward to seeing it again.” -Daniel 7266, Show-Score
People You Should Know …
from Zac Calhoon’s Blogspot
JEE HENG LIAO is delighted to join this production. Off-Broadway: Anything Goes at Musicals Tonight. NY Theater: When You’ve Got a Gift (June Havoc Theater), Immortal (New York Theater Festival), Foreign Exchange (The Poet’s Den Theater). International Theaters: Anything Goes (with Asian pop star Evonne Hsu), Daylight (Taiwan National Theater). @jeeliao
How did you get involved in theatre? When did you know that you wanted to be an actor?
I was very fortunate to be able to go to the theater growing up. I would travel by bus to the capital to see the performances. In high school, I had the chance to volunteer to be an usher and luckily got a chance to be an “extra” for the touring theater company visiting my small town. Since then, I fell in love with theater. At that moment I found my passion. I was accepted to the National Taiwan University of Arts and took my first steps to becoming an Actor.
Tell me about ROMANCE OF THE WESTERN CHAMBER. How do you feel rehearsals are going? What do you love most about the show? (If rehearsals haven’t started yet, what are you most looking forward to about the show?)
Romance of the Western Chamber is one of the most famous Chinese dramatic works and I’m so excited that it is being presented to western audiences. As someone who celebrates his Chinese heritage, I appreciate the opportunity to perform in the U.S premiere of the story. I love how the authentic to the original material this production is. I’m very proud to be working with this all-Asian cast.
What kind of writing inspires you?
I am very inspired by writers such as Alain de Botton. His works such as A Week at the Airport and The Romantic Movementreally speaks to me. He talks about simple things with sincerity and humor. I’m also a very big fan of fiction because they ” Open up my mind, let my fantasies unwind.”
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work as an actor thus far?
Recently, I realize that my ballet training has been a big influence in my work as an actor. Ballet is an art form that requires repetition and attention to technique to perform instinctively. It taught me patience and determination towards polishing my craft. Also, had it not been for my dance background, I would not have been able to break in to the theater world with confidence in approaching the characters through movements.
What else are you working on right now?
I’m currently rehearsing a Chinese folk dance piece for a Chinese festival performance.
People You Should Know … Howard Rubenstein
from Zac Calhoon’s Blogspot
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer and/or composer? What prompted you to start writing musicals?
I have enjoyed writing ever since I learned to print in the first grade. My earliest efforts were poems, which my mother, for reasons I never understood, stored in the refrigerator. She also kept her jewelry there.
The thought of writing a musical came much later, when I was in my late seventies or early eighties (see below).
I had already written translations and adaptations from the ancient Greek (Aeschylus’s Agamemnon, Euripides’s The Trojan Women) and of Racine’s 17th century French masterpiece Britannicus. My wife and I had been to China in 1984, and we fell in love with the people, the cuisine, and the natural beauty of the countryside. The Chinese have such a brilliant history, I said to myself in about 2009, there must be a Chinese play that Westerners would enjoy. So I read all the Chinese literature in translation that I could find. Xi Xiang Ji (often translated as The Tale of the West Wing), a 13th century classical play and a favorite in China even today, seemed especially wonderful. I found it enchanting, funny, human, and remarkably modern. I was smitten. It was so universal, I could not understand why it was unknown in the west. I was determined to make it known–to adapt it (the original is about 20 hours long to be played over three days), and I also thought it would make a splendid musical. (It had already been several times transformed into Beijing operas, but I wanted to create a work that would also appeal to Western audiences.). I listened to all the Chinese folk songs I could find, and selected tunes in their entirety or short melodic passages that were pleasing to me and that would fit my lyrics. A musician friend introduced me to Max Lee, a composer of classical music. I asked Max if he would be willing to arrange and orchestrate the music I had selected. Max agreed and created a wonderful score. The show, thanks largely to Lilly Cheng, managing director of the Confucius Institute of San Diego State University, had its successful world premiere in 2011 in Hangzhou, China. It was thrilling for me to hear my English on the stage and see Mandarin supertitles.
How do you feel rehearsals are going? What do you love most about the show?
Rehearsals have just begun, and my wife and I live in San Diego. We will come to NYC in September to see the final rehearsals and to attend the opening.
I love the story, the characters, the music–in sum, everything. But I think I love most of all the heroine’s maid Hong-Niang who ties the entire showctogether.
What kind of writing inspires you?
Good writing. Aeschylus and Moliere are among my chief mentors. Then too are O’Neill, Pirandello, Genet, and Beckett–and Rogers and Hammerstein. Oklahoma! completely captivated me, including the choreography by Agnes deMille; as did The King And I, particularly the scene in which Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brunner danced to the music of Shall We Dance?
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your work as a theatrical artist thus far?
Probably my mother. She along with her two sisters, when children, had been a vaudeville act in St Louis. Their theatrical career ended soon after it began, but as an adult she frequently spoke with great excitement of the magic and wonderment of legitimate theater.
What else are you working on right now?
Right now I’m completed absorbed in and devoted to Romance of the Western Chamber. If you can’t get tickets to Hamilton or can’t afford the price of tickets, please consider coming to see our show.
Interview with Shela Xoregos
director of Romance of the Western Chamber
by Tita Beal Anntares
“We all understand the beauty of deep love,” says Shela Xoregos, as she explains how easily, in September 2017, New York audiences will enter and welcome the gorgeous world of a treasured Tang Dynasty story, re-told over and over for centuries by writers of books, plays, operas and film for centuries.
Love becomes the underlying vision that unifies story, music, singing (an all-Asian cast with trained legit voices), dance, an array of characters, costumes, sets and lighting. Love and the struggle of two young lovers against the powerful and the criminal – and even more challenging, a frightened angry mother fearing the consequences of betrayed promises. Yes, profound love, danger, risk – but also hilarity as the lovers find subterfuges, hide and try to circumvent obstructions.
Drawn to the high quality of Howard Rubenstein’s compelling re-telling of Romance of the Western Chamber and Max Lee’s soaring blending of Chinese folk tunes into the music, Xoregos made a commitment to a high quality production to match the quality of the script and musical score – as well as the excellence achieved in Tang art, culture, revered calligraphy and governance where civil service exams required candidates for any job to demonstrate a knowledge of poetry and where women could ride the famed horses in polo games or play an instrument in an orchestra.
Xoregos, a director/choreographer, has extensive experience blending music, song and dance with story, in both classic and new works. This experience is helping her create a stunning vision for the English premiere of Romance: she is working with her design team to create a dance of war between a general and the head of thieves more dynamic than a battle between a whole army and gang. She doesn’t need a ballroom full of dancing guests – that would pale beside a dance of intense connecting between two young lovers. Xoregos, together with Erich Rausch (music director), Mandarin Wu (choreography), Jessa-Raye Court (costumes), Sal Perotta (sets) and Joyce Liao (lighting) are creating a stunning world we can enter and savor in September.
Shela Xoregos directs Romance of the Western Chamber, the Chinese Romeo & Juliet, a musical by Howard Rubenstein and Max Lee, for Wildly Productive Productions. September 14-October 1, 2017 at TADA! Theater, 15 W 28 Street Manhattan