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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / ‘Waterfall’ – A Must-See Musical

‘Waterfall’ – A Must-See Musical

by Pasadena Independent
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By Nathaniel Cayanan

June 7th marked the premiere of the much-anticipated musical Waterfall, which opened in the Pasadena Playhouse. The elaborately produced production tells the story of Noppon, a Thai college student who falls in love with an ambassador’s American wife. Their tale of forbidden love spans from his college days in Japan to his return to his homeland Thailand, told through ornate sets and Disney-esque song and dance. While the Tak Viravan-directed musical delves into fairly traditional storylines of exoticism and passion, the production overall succeeds in amazing the audience from beginning to end.

Incredibly refreshing about this production is the casting of mostly Asians and Asian-Americans, something usually not seen in theatre, especially in lavish productions such as this. The cast is led by Thai superstar Bie Sukrit, who makes his debut in American theatre in the lead role of Noppon. While this performance is considered his introduction, Sukrit eases into his role with his charisma and delightful singing. Alongside him, Emily Padgett, who plays love interest Katherine, exhibits her experience in Broadway musicals, as she charms with her elegant performance as the conflicted wife of an ambassador. Thom Sesma also exhibits great acting skill, bringing an authentic sense of prestige to his role as said ambassador.

-Photos by Jim Cox

-Photo by Jim Cox

The music and lyrics by Academy Award Winner David Shire and Tony Award Winner Richard Maltby Jr. are both catchy and, at times, profound, focusing not only on the typical ideas of love and self-discovery, but also the complex perspectives of Eastern-Western relations. This is most true in the understated, but extremely compelling character, Kumiko, played by Lisa Helmi Johanson. Johanson’s Kumiko briefly explores the concept of being an American-born Asian who cannot find belonging in either 1930s America or in her supposed country of origin, Japan.

The main character and his American love interest also share unique perspectives of each other’s culture. Noppon explores Asians’ glorification of America and its culture, and Katherine presents herself ironically as the exotic character.

Sure, at times, the musical draws painfully close to tired story of western ideology saving Asians from their oppressive eastern traditionalism, but, holistically the musical balances out these perspectives enough to prevent the production from becoming one-sided.

Finally, most compelling about this musical are the aesthetic aspects of the play. From beginning to end, the production team truly amazes with gorgeous set pieces and costumes that not only hurl the audience back to the period in which the musical is set, but also exhibit the changing cultural attitudes of Asia at the time – not an easy feat to accomplish.

In short, with great performances, wonderful music and aesthetics that astound, Waterfall is a must-see musical.

Waterfall will play until June 28th at Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101. Show days/times are Tuesday through Friday evenings at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Prices are $30 to $87, plus premium seating at $125. Tickets can be purchased at www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org, by calling (626) 356-7529, or at the Box Office.

-Photos by Jim Cox

-Photo by Jim Cox

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