'There is no higher calling than for a young woman to be chosen as a wife," the Ancestors tell her. But Mulan can't imagine being a "meek and mild wife," so she sets out to bring honor to her family in her own way - by saving her father and her country.
The importance of respect and honor in Chinese culture are at the forefront of the Maui Academy of Performing Arts' production of "Disney's Mulan Junior." Forty-nine young performers from MAPA's Sum'R Musical Theatre Camp learned the value of those qualities during more than 150 hours spent preparing for the show.
On opening night, MAPA Executive and Artistic Director David Johnston told the Steppingstone Playhouse crowd that the backstage area - normally messy -was as neat as a pin. Why? "We had asked the kids to 'respect and honor' Miss Kathleen (Schulz, 'Mulan' director), and so they organized the entire area," Johnston said. "That's how much they got into this play!"
Maui Academy of Performing Arts photo
Mikeila Yamamoto brings courage, discipline and humor to the title role in the Maui Academy of Performing Arts’ thrilling production.
Onstage, the performers demonstrate other qualities as well: teamwork, discipline, concentration, a "show must go on" mindset (during a minor avalanche malfunction), and most importantly, joy in performing.
MikeilaYamamoto brings humor and empathy to the role of brave Mulan, who joins the Chinese army to fight the invading Huns. Her character's efforts to be "manly" - grunting and posturing to fit in with the other soldiers - are hilarious.
Adding to the comedic value of the play are two smaller roles: Mushu and Chi Fu. Ryan Foree plays Mushu, a little dragon (or "lizard," as Mulan called him) who desperately tries to redeem himself to the Ancestors. Foree uses plenty of eye-rolling theatrics, tempered with great dance skills and well-timed interaction with Yamamoto. Eliza Wright plays the bureaucrat Chi Fu, garnering chuckles from the audience with her imperial attitude and drooping mustache.
* Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $12 for adults, $8 for kids 12 and younger; available at the mall's customer service kiosk, online at www.mauiacademy.org or by calling 244-8760.
Caro Walker's striking red, black and white set features a huge yin-yang symbol painted across the stage, and a fresh coat of bright red lacquer on the infamous pole. The Huns make their growling entrance from a golden-painted "stony outcropping" set behind the audience.
The costumes by Schulz are handsome and creative: fur-trimmed hats and tunics for the fierce Huns, flowing white gowns for the omniscient Ancestors, colorful kimono and parasols for the preening Maidens, fiery red scales for feisty Mushu. Choreographer Barry Brinker Jones gives the performers sharp, bold moves blended with tai chi elements for an ancient China feel. Musical director Marti Kluth completes the artistic "dream team," as Schulz calls it. Although the songs are repetitive with several reprises of each, the tunes are catchy.
Most noticeably, the cast is well-rehearsed and has a solid grasp of the complex material -an impressive accomplishment considering all the actors are under the age of 18! But of course, that's why MAPA is worthy of our respect - these young performers bring honor to us all.
"Mulan" sold out for the opening weekend, and will likely sell out this final weekend. The show is 75 minutes in length with no intermission, and is appropriate for all ages.