Chatting with ROMEO & BERNADETTE’s Viet Vo; Theater Legend Ken Page Visits with the Cast

Performances, Photography, Theater

On the 25th day of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage month, I went to see Viet Vo in the matinee of the critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway production of Romeo & Bernadette: A Musical Tale of Verona and Brooklyn, with book and lyrics by Mark Saltzman, music adapted from classic Italian melodies, directed and choreographed by Justin Ross Cohen at Theater 555. The production has a limited run through June 26. Click here for tickets.

Aaron Gandy, Justin Ross Cohen, Ken Page and Viet Vo. Photo by Lia Chang

An extra bonus, theater legend Ken Page was in the house, supporting his friend, director Justin Ross Cohen, and graciously posed with cast members.

Troy Valjean Rucker, Ari Raskin, Michael Marotta, Ken Page, Judy McLane, Viet Vo, Carlos Lopez, Michael Notardonato and Nikita Burshteyn Zach Schanne. Photo by Lia Chang

Viet has been involved with Romeo & Bernadette since 2018, when Amas Musical Theatre presented it as part of their new works as 29 hour reading. He plays “Lips”, the opera loving, bodyguard to the Penza Crime Family, who is a real softy at heart, despite the “hard” exterior. Romeo & Bernadette is Viet’s Off-Broadway debut.

Judy McLane Carlos Lopez Anna Kostakis. Photo by Lia Chang

We had a chance to chat at the Romeo & Juliet Cafe over iced chocolate and empanadas after the show.

Viet mentioned that a film he worked on, Cupids, directed by Zoey Martinson and co-written by Martinson and Julie Sharbutt, recently screened in the Emerging Filmmaker Showcase at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. Cupids is a collection of four narrative shorts that reclaims the 8 minutes and 46 seconds that took the life of George Floyd, to tell stories of Black love and joy, 8 minutes and 46 seconds at a time. Cupids premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival as part of the 8:46 films and was produced by Saturday Morning, Tribeca Studios, and Procter and Gamble. 

Below are excerpts of our chat.

Troy Valjean Rucker, Ari Raskin, Michael Marotta, Ken Page, Judy McLane, Viet Vo, Carlos Lopez, Michael Notardonato and Nikita Burshteyn. Photo by Lia Chang

Viet Vo and Lia Chang

Lia: How does feel to be back in the show with this cast?

Viet: It feels really good to be back. The cast, the creatives, and our crew. It’s an Honor and privilege.

Lia: How have audiences been responding?

Viet: The audience response has been incredible! Everyone is extremely happy and the comments have been all positive. I’ve even been yelled at by patrons from across the street, calling out “LIPS”. So….I guess they like it. Lol
 

Lia: What other projects have you worked on since making your Off-Broadway debut? 

Viet: Last Fall, I worked on Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of Jason Ma’s Gold Mountain. This was such a great experience for me. I had the chance to help build a brand new piece of theater, under the guidance of our Director, Alan Muraoka, Choreographer, Billy Bustamante, and Music Director, Amanda Morton. It was challenging and yet so rewarding. This piece is special to me, as it tells a story that is very much a part of the Asian narrative and its impact on how this country came to be.  I also worked with Model Majority, an all Asian American sketch comedy group.

Jimmy Nguyen, Darren Lee, Kiet Tai Cao, Kelvin Moon Loh, Eymard Cabling, Kennedy Kanagawa, Viet Vo and Steven Eng in the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s world premiere of Jason Ma’s GOLD MOUNTAIN. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: How have you been celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

Viet: I celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, by honoring all those before me and currently with me. And I hope to do it on and off stage. This month is extra special for me, because I had a kupuna (elder) that taught me Hawaiian culture and customs, thus it’s extra special for me.
 

Lia: What’s next?

Viet: I am working with a dialect coach for my first Vietnamese speaking role in a short film called DON’T, written and directed by Sally Tran. I play a cop who is terrorizing people. I’m also doing a short horror film with Alex Chester, written and directed by Justin Woo. After Romeo & Bernadette, I’m working on the Soho Rep production of Kathy Ng’s Happy Life, directed by Kat Yen. 

Viet Vo has appeared in Vietgone at the Alley Theatre, NAAP’s Carousel, Fishing for Wives, Mikado, Evita, and Songs for a New World. His TV and film credits include “The Blacklist,” A Crime to Remember, “Manifest,” “Tales of the City”, and “Lost”. 

The returning original cast for Romeo & Bernadette features Nikita Burshteyn (Newsies), Anna Kostakis (Romeo & Bernadette), Carlos Lopez (Man of La Mancha), Michael Marotta (Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical), Judy McLane (Mamma Mia), Michael Notardonato (Romeo & Bernadette), Ari Raskin (Romeo & Bernadette), Troy Valjean Rucker (August Rush) Zach Schanne (Pippin), and Viet Vo (Vietgone). Lisa Graye, Charlie Marcus, Charles Osborn, Lyn Philistine, and Daniel Wisniewski are the understudies for the show.

The creative team includes Walt Spangler (Scenic Design)Joseph Shrope (Costume Design), Ken Billington (Lighting Design), Andrew Keister (Sound Design), Daniel Lynn Evans (Hair Design), Aaron Gandy (Musical Director), Steve Orich (Musical Supervision/Arrangements/Orchestrations)Kathryn Wright (Associate Choreographer). Christine Viega is the Production Stage Manager. Casting is by Carol Hanzel Casting, CSA.

Viet Vo and Steve Orich. Photo by Lia Chang

The production received nominations for “Best Musical” (Off Broadway Alliance), “Outstanding Lyrics – Mark Saltzman” and “Outstanding Book of a Musical” – Mark Saltzman” (Drama Desk Awards) and was awarded “Best Book” (Mark Saltzman) and “Best Supporting Actress” (Judy McLane) by the Outer Critics Circle.

Nikita Burshteyn and Viet Vo. Photo by Lia Chang

Lyn Philistine, Lisa Graye, Michael Notardonato and Nikita Burshteyn. Photo by Lia Chang

Romeo & Bernadette website.

Anna Kostakis, Lia Chang, Ken Page and Viet Vo. Photo by Richard Hillman

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer, a performing arts photographer and an award-winning filmmaker. A co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, Lia makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon. She stars in and is the Executive Producer for the indie films Hide and Seek (AA Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Rom-Com Gone Wrong, and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative). Lia made her stage debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet, was featured as Joy in Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago and has worked extensively Off-Broadway. Photo archives: Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011, housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room; Lia Chang Photography Collection in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library. Awards: 2022 Prospect Muse Award, 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award, the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media. Lia is an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate (2000), a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age (2000), a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media (2001), a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism (2002), and a National Tropical Garden Environmental Journalism Fellow (2003). www.liachang.com, www.liachangphotography.com

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2022 Lia Chang Multimedia, unless otherwise indicated. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com 

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