I celebrated the 10th day of Asian Pacific, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with Suzen Murakoshi at the Community night of Encores! Into the Woods at New York City Center, at the invitation of Project1voice’s Erich McMillan-McCall.
The pre-show reception featured a chat with journalist Diep Tran and Lear de Bessonet, Director of Into the Woods and Encores! Artistic Director.
Encores! Into the Woods is the hottest ticket in town and it was a delight to see my colleagues Ann Harada as Jack’s Mother, Kennedy Kanagawa as Milky White, Albert Guerzon as Cinderella’s Father, and Brooke Ishibashi as Florinda, shine and take center stage.
They are part of the all-star company that includes Emmy and Tony Award winner Neil Patrick Harris as the Baker, Sara Bareilles as the Baker’s Wife, Denée Benton as Cinderella, Gavin Creel as Cinderella’s Prince/Wolf, Jordan Donica as Rapunzel’s Prince, Annie Golden as Grandmother/Cinderella’s Mother/Giant’s Wife, Ta’Nika Gibson as Lucinda, Heather Headley as the Witch, David Patrick Kelly as Narrator/Mysterious Man, Julia Lester as Little Red Ridinghood, Lauren Mitchell as Cinderella’s Stepmother, Shereen Pimentel as Rapunzel, Cole Thompson as Jack, and David Turner as Steward.
The special two week run of Into the Woods (May 4 – 15) is dedicated to the memory of the legendary Stephen Sondheim. Encores! Into the Woods features music direction by Encores! Music Director Rob Berman and choreography by Lorin Latarro.
Joining the company for a finale that highlights the ways theater connects us across time is a 72 person, multigenerational community chorus of New York City seniors and public school students from City Center’s Education Department partners, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, Louis Armstrong Middle School, and Rosie’s Theater Kids.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Lear deBessonet and Producing Creative Director Clint Ramos, the Tony honored Encores! series broadens its embrace with three expressions of musical theater revivals: unearthing hidden gems, an artist’s personal lens, and celebrating a classic musical that connects us across generations. Encores! Into the Woods represents this third tenet and ushers in a new annual tradition at City Center celebrating iconic musicals.
The final performance of Into the Woods on May 15 will be dedicated to outgoing Encores! Music Director Rob Berman for his 15 years as Encores! Music Director. He will return in future seasons as a guest music director.
Encores! single tickets start at $35. Tickets can be purchased online at NYCityCenter.org, by calling 212.581.1212, or at the City Center Box Office. New York City Center is located at 131 W 55th St between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.
NEW YORK CITY CENTER (Arlene Shuler, President & CEO) has played a defining role in the cultural life of the city since 1943. Manhattan’s first performing arts center, City Center was founded by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia with the mission of making the best in music, theater, and dance accessible to all audiences. This commitment continues today through celebrated dance and musical theater series including the Fall for Dance Festival, the Tony honored Encores! and Encores! Off Center, and the newest series Artists at the Center and City Center Dance Festival. The distinctive neo-Moorish theater welcomes over 300,000 annual visitors to experience internationally acclaimed artists on the same stage where legends like George Balanchine, Leonard Bernstein, Barbara Cook, José Ferrer, Martha Graham, and Paul Robeson made their mark. Home to a roster of renowned national and international companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, City Center’s Principal Dance Company, and Manhattan Theatre Club, City Center’s dynamic programming, art exhibitions, studio events, and master classes, are complemented by education and community engagement programs that bring the performing arts to over 11,000 New York City students, teachers, and families each year. NYCityCenter.org
Lia Chang is a Chinese-American actor, a multi-media content producer, an award-winning filmmaker, and a photo activist and documentarian, who lifts up and amplifies BIPOC communities and artists and the institutions that support them.
Lia moved to New York from her home in San Francisco when she was 17 years of age and made her stage debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet. She spent many years working extensively Off-Broadway, including Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago. Her film work includes Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon. The decades of being viewed by others through the narrow lens of “Asian actor” in the industry brought Lia to a turning point, and she picked up her camera, determined to create awareness by documenting the work and the lives of her BIPOC colleagues, resulting in the creation of thousands of photographs and pieces of video. Her photo archives are housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room under “Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011” and in the “Lia Chang Photography Collection” in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library.
Lia’s awards include the 2022 Prospect Muse Award, the 2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative, the 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award and the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media. She is also an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate, a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age, a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media, and a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.
More recently, Lia co-founded Bev’s Girl Films, which makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. She executive produced and starred in 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). www.liachang.com, www.liachangphotography.com