Los Angeles’ East West Players (EWP) is not only the oldest Asian Pacific American theater in the country, but now the oldest ethnic theater as well. Well-known for its musical productions, EWP closes out its 42nd anniversary season with a production of the classic musical Pippin — done in a hip-hop, anime-inspired style.
Some members of the cast and crew discuss the musicals that inspired them.
JENN AEDO (Actress):
It may be because I’m the age that I am, but my gateway drug to musical theater was Rent. Since I still consider myself a dancer more than anything else, most people think it would be something like Cats or Chicago, but there’s something about that show that spoke to twenty-somethings. The message is simple: Life is too short, “No Day But Today.” I actually have the quote tattooed twice on my body. Just a reminder that tomorrow isn’t promised, feelings are real, and to live every moment, on stage or not, to the fullest.
TIM DANG (Director/ Artistic Director):
One play gave me my inspiration to be a performer, and the other gave me my inspiration to be an activist for Asian American performers.
After seeing A Chorus Line at the now-demolished Shubert Theater in Century City, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in the performing arts — at that time as an actor. The musical showed that the life of a performer is not all glitz and glamour, but perseverance, training and a tough skin to face rejection.
I actually never saw Pacific Overtures but only heard the record, and was amazed that it was performed by an Asian American cast; was a story from an Asian perspective on the westernization of Japan; and was written by Stephen Sondheim, who would eventually become my favorite musical theater composer and whose work East West Players and I would be most known for during my tenure as artistic director. We have produced nine of his shows and will be performing a 10th next season.
MARC MACALINTAL (Musical Director):
The Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack with Ian Gillan as Jesus and Murray Head as Judas exudes this raw angst and energy that feels so ahead of its time. I love the sound of a rock guitar, which can sometimes evoke a feeling that nothing else can.
That show paved the way for musicals with non-traditional orchestrations, like Rent, Spring Awakenings and Hedwig and the Angry Inch. I’m glad that the rock band has found its way into the Broadway musical.
BLYTHE MATSUI (Choreographer/Dance Crew):
The Mikado Project, which I worked on with Lodestone Theatre, is a project that was based on a musical (The Mikado), and yet was a completely original script. This is where, I feel, art takes its purest form. To create a character from the bottom up, spending countless hours understanding it, and then putting song and dance to it all — that is a true expression of my “jack of all trades” gift.
Pippin runs through June 8 at the David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., Los Angeles. Performances are Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets or more information, call (213) 625-7000 or visit
Philip W. Chung is a writer and co-artistic director of Lodestone Theatre Ensemble. Lodestone’s production of Trapezoid runs until May 25 in L.A. For more info: lodestonetheatre.org.