Dave Rice 12:38 p.m., May 21
When he refashioned this piece in 2002, David Henry Hwang subtitled it "A Musical Revival in Concert." So you expect tuxes and evening gowns and performers, shielded behind music stands, singing the greatest hits of Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1958 original. Instead, San Diego Asian American Rep gives a full staging: set, costumes (blazing reds, in particular) -- even a live, two-piece band.
Hwang condensed the book. He omitted offensive stereotypes and patronizing attitudes. The book still has dialogue, but the characters are sketchy, the plot thinner. The music remains intact, however. And when was the last time you heard "A Hundred Million Miracles" or "Grant Avenue, San Francisco," or the haunting "Love Look Away" -- and imagine having to sing that one in real life!
The large AART cast doesn't boast bombshell voices, and sometimes the band overpowers them. All the leads do more than capable work: Mindy Ella Chu (Me Li), David Armstrong (Wang Ta), Tiffany Loui (Linda Low), and Albert Park (Wang Chi Yang). Most impressive, since the subtitle suggests the opposite, is the theatricality. Gina Ma's choreography's always a plus, as when eight or nine fans snap at once in "Fan Tan Fannie." And Peter James Cirino's brisk direction often includes kaleidoscopic movement.