Chrysanthemum Tea: Atlanta's Alliance Begins Brewing Pacific Overtures April 30

News   Chrysanthemum Tea: Atlanta's Alliance Begins Brewing Pacific Overtures April 30 The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta presents Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman's Pacific Overtures, the conceptual musical about the Westernization of Japan, April 30-June 1.
Kenway Kua as Commodore Perry in the Alliance Theatre Company's production of Pacific Overtures.
Kenway Kua as Commodore Perry in the Alliance Theatre Company's production of Pacific Overtures. (Photo by Demetrius Noble)

The staging is directed by Alliance associate artistic director Kent Gash and is co-production with Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park and North Shore Music Theatre. The acting company, reveling in the show's use of Noh and Kabuki traditions, includes original members of the 1976 Broadway company, the Off-Broadway production and the regional TheatreWorks staging. Opening night is set for May 7 at the Alliance stage at the Woodruff Arts Center.

Pacific Overtures shows the changing of Japan after the 1853 expedition of U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Perry, but through the eyes of a samurai named Kayama and a fisherman named Manjiro. The traditional samurai embraces the Westernization while Manjiro, who had once spent time in the United States, rediscovers his Japanese heritage.

Audiences not used to new forms and Japanese-influenced music stayed away from this foreign-feeling work, which emerged in the year of the United States' Bicentennial. The work has since earned a loyal following and has been popularly revived around the country and the world. The show was nominated for Tony Awards, and won for Boris Aronson's scenic design and Florence Klotz's costume design. (It was also the season of A Chorus Line.) Chicago Shakespeare Theatre had a hit with a revival in the last year, and the production is being remounted at London's Donmar Warehouse this spring and summer. Harold Prince was the original Broadway director.

The Alliance cast includes Alan Muraoka (as Madam, Councilor, British Admiral and others), Jason Ma (as Manjiro), James Saito (as Reciter), Steven Eng (as Kayama), Mikio Hirata (as Shogun's Mother), Ronald M. Banks, Eric Bondoc, Kenway Hon Wai K. Kua, Allan Mangaser, Tony Marinyo, Randy Reyes and Erwin G. Urbi, with Jessica Lucas and Natalie Gray.

Designers are Paul Tazewell (costumes), Neil Patel (set), Michael Philippi and Abe Jacob (lighting). Musical director is Michael Flauss. Darren Lee (the Broadway dancer from Seussical and Kiss Me, Kate) and Frances Jue (from Broadway's Thoroughly Modern Millie) share choreography credit. Traditional Japanese movement is by Yuriko Doi. Tickets range $17-$46. For information, call (404) 733 5000 or visit www.alliancetheatre.org.