In early June, I documented the first read thru of a new musical, THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, based on the award winning, NY Times Best Selling novel, “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford at Ripley-Grier Studios, featuring a book by Lainie Sakakura & David H Bell, with Lyrics by Paul Fujimoto & David H Bell. Music by Paul Fujimoto.
Under the Musical Direction of Thomas Conroy, the cast featured Jane Bernard, Andrew Chen, Wai Ching Ho, Kenny Ingram, Fenton Li, Ethan L. Phong, Mary Beth Purdy, Liam Kaznelson, Avelina Kiyome Sanchez, Alex Sanchez, Allyson Tucker-Mitchell and Joshua Turchin.
1942 wartime Seattle, 12 year old Henry Lee, a lonely Chinese American boy starts a secret friendship with Keiko Okabe, the first Japanese American girl he’s ever met, and his world is turned upside down. A multigenerational story about fathers and sons, coming of age, first love, Seattle jazz, racism, blind patriotism. and unbreakable bonds.
“The musical adaptation of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford actually started with Paul Fujimoto’s mother, who is not a theater professional,” shared director and co-writer Lainie Sakakura. “She loved the book and told her son to read it because she thought it would make a great musical. I didn’t know Paul at the time but I needed a Japanese American musician for The Japanese American Association of New York’s 107th Anniversary Gala. When Paul Fujimoto was recommended to me, I was excited to discover he was also a great composer/lyricist that I could collaborate with on future projects. He introduced me to the book his mother recommended. I read it and fell in love. I had never felt such a strong connection to a book before. Paul and I brainstormed on how to adapt the musical for many months until we finally reached out to the author. We were thrilled that Jamie was responsive to our idea. I then brought in David H. Bell, head of the musical theater writing program at Northwestern. He and I had worked on many new musicals together in the past, and I knew he would be a strong guiding force on the structure of this adaptation.
We are writers from 3 generations with 3 different backgrounds. Paul Fujimoto is Yonsei (4th generation Japanese American), a trumpet player born and bred in Seattle, where the book takes place. I am Nisei (2nd generation Japanese American). My mother immigrated here alone from Japan and my father was interned for 3 years in the Japanese American camps during WWII. David H. Bell is non-Asian, brought up in a conservative Anglo American community. He makes sure that our story is understood by all audiences and evokes empathy from our non-Asian audience members. Paul, David, and I collaborate with love and respect to bring our unique points of view to adapt an extraordinary novel into a beautiful new musical, THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET.”
Industry Reading anticipated in NYC, Monday, Sept 17, 2018.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.