May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month! Stagedoor Boxes felt this important to celebrate and we did so in a few ways. First and foremost, we put together another fabulous Spotify Playlist featuring our favorite performances. You can listen it here!
We also included in every box sent out in May, an Art Print featuring Kim from Miss Saigon. And for my faithful readers, I have put together my personal 5 favorite performances. But before we get into it, I wanted to talk more about our Art Print and the artist behind it Brian Li.
According to recent reports, Anti-Asian hate crimes increased 150% in the year of 2020. At Stagedoor Boxes, our mission statement is to help small businesses reach a wider range of musical theatre fans while also giving fans the opportunity to obtain musical theatre items all in one place. We pride ourselves on raising awareness (as we did with Black Excellence and our Women's History Month box) but we also actively support business owned by BIPOC, LGBTQ+ and other marginalized groups.
This is why for AAPI Heritage Month we worked with an Asian American artist Brian Li to create this month's Art Print in our box. It was really important to us that our box not only shined a light of Asian American Pacific Islander Representation (or lack thereof) but also that the person doing so was Asian American. Brian was not very knowledgeable in musical theatre but took a keen interest in learning. After watching several YouTube videos and reading Wikipedia articles he composed this art print based on Miss Saigon because he identified with it the most. And I think the results turned out amazing.
To see more of Brian's incredible art feel free to check out his Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nullptrninja/
In April, we also had the opportunity to meet Monica from PinBill. We didn't have the opportunity to have anything in our box in May from PinBill but we hope to have some of her items in our box soon. If you want to support an Asian American small business that creates musical theatre items, visit her shop on Etsy.
And now, let's get down to business. Here are my Top 5 Favorite Asian American Pacific Islander performances on Broadway (or Broadway adjacent) in no particular order at all.
Telly Leung & Arielle Jacobs - A Whole New World
As soon as I knew I was going to be creating this blog, I knew I had to have Telly Leung on this list. I just wasn't sure what performance as I've been a fan of his for a long time. I have yet to see Aladdin on Broadway but I personally don't like Godspell. Therefore Aladdin wins plus it's one of my favorite Disney movies. Telly Leung comes from a traditional Chinese household and Arielle Jacobs who portrays Aladdin is part Filipino.
This video is from Telly and Arielle's performance in Bryant Park but they are singing live which is what I appreciate. Both of them are incredibly talented. My favorite part is at the 1:08 mark when Telly sings "and now I'm in a whole new world with you."
The camera man was NOT paying attention as for a part of the video they are not even on camera. But let's give some kudos for Disney for not white washing the cast and featuring two Asian American performers.
Lea Salonga - On My Own
You really can't listen to A Whole New World without thinking of Lea Salonga, who is another great Filipina singer . And if you've read any of the other blogs, you know that I am a HUGE fan of her. She was my favorite Thanksgiving Day Parade performance.
I was first introduced to her as a child from the PBS Broadcast of Les Miserables the 10th Anniversary Dream Cast. There is NO BETTER CAST. Do not argue with me about it because you are just wrong. This video is from that performance at the Royal Albert Hall.
I don't really have a lot to say other than THIS IS PERFECTION. Her tone when she hits the low notes and it has that vibrato. :::chef's kiss:::. Everyone who performs this song just imitates Lea because she literally set the standard for Eponine.
BD Wong - My Blanket & Me
It's very annoying that there's not a live performance of this anywhere on YouTube except for a bootleg of the entire show. BD Wong who is of Chinese Descent has a ton of memorable moments in this show as well as his Tony Award winning performance in M Butterfly. My favorite of which is actually his dissertation in the middle of Peter Rabbit in You're A Goodman Charlie Brown. But the true highlight is his solo number My Blanket and Me which can be found around the 21 minute mark. Who doesn't love a dance with a blanket and his impeccable comedic timing??
BD Wong is a family friend of mine. I had the opportunity to go backstage after seeing You're A Good Man Charlie Brown and meeting my idol Anthony Rapp as well as a baby Kristen Chenoweth. So this show will always have a dear place in my heart.
The reason why I wanted to highlight this performance other than that I have fond memories of it, is because of the inclusion in casting. Having Linus and Schroeder who are usually white characters be played by people of color didn't detract from the story and gave marginalized people an opportunity to shine.
Ruthie Ann Miles - Something Wonderful
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any live performances of Ruthie Ann Miles singing this song. I wanted to include Ruthie Ann Miles whose mother is Korean for a number of reasons on this list. She won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for The King & I for her portrayal of Lady Thiang.
When Brian and I were doing research for his art print we discussed at length The King & I and whether or not it was a positive example of Asian American representation. At the end of the day, we both agreed that the Musical gave Asian American women the opportunity to shine on stage and display Asian American culture to Western audiences.
I was hoping to find specifically a clip of her performance at the London Palladium. That performance was a few months after losing both of her daughters in a tragic accident. Not only does Ruthie deserve to be highlighted for her immense talent but also because she is probably one of the absolute strongest women on the planet. She deserves to be celebrated for so many reasons.
Eva Noblezada - Flowers
You cannot talk about Asian American Pacific Islander Broadway stars without mentioning Eva Noblezada who is Mexican and Filipino. She won a Tony Award for her portrayal of Kim in the Revival of Miss Saigon but in my opinion her breakout moment was when she originated the role of Eurydice in Hadestown which she also was nominated for a Tony Award for.
I have never seen Hadestown and I have never really been impressed with any performance I've seen. I immensely disliked their Thanksgiving Day Parade performance and their Tony Award Performance. However, after listening to the soundtrack and watching this performance of Eva - well I am now obsessed.
I think what makes this her breakout role in my eyes is that she originated this role. She brings her soul into it and you can see the emotion in her performance in the video above.
I hope you enjoyed my blog about celebrating Asian American Pacific Islander performers on Broadway as well as our mission at Stagedoor Boxes to uplift Asian American artists.