A young woman sneaks into Chinaís army in place of her elderly and injured father, risking her life and her familyís standing in society, and defending her country from the Huns. Itís the tale of Mulan, based on one of the greatest Disney films, and another in a long line of Disney classics transformed into a stage production. Itís also a San Diego Junior Theatre premiere, directed by the local director with no doubt the most experience directing Disney shows, Joey Landwehr.

His cast is led by Hannah Lo as a kind, earnest, and determined Mulan who also sings her part well. Philip Greenberg and Stephanie Aceron are her loving parents, Gabriella Leibowitz is her diverting grandma, and her family tree go on and on in the form of her ghostly ancestors who help narrate the show as they try to watch out for the Fa family and itís eccentric, cross-dressing, and courageous youngest member, doing it all with charm and personality. Not to forget the family mascot, little dragon Mushu (Teddy Fantano) who goes all out for the role, including that of a charismatic television evangelist, as he tries to raise his status by helping Mulan become a national hero/heroine.

And then there are the characters outside the Fa family. Katie Sale delivers as a humorous Matchmaker. Michael Covington is a Hun leader Shan-Yu with serious anger-management issues, and Julian Coker is obnoxious little bureaucrat Chi Fu with a serious case of Napoleon complex. Captain Shang (Zachary Herzog) is the straight man to a bunch of humorous soldiers who add a lot to the show, from an argument about rice preparation to their Keep íem Guessing (replacement for Be a Man) transvestite number. And then thereís little Barrett Lo as a pocket Emperor, used hilariously as heís carried along the side of bad guy Shan-Yu like a rag doll or picked up and spun around and hugged by Mulan.

The first thing you notice is the scenic work, with Heidi Atchisonís ambitious set of smoothly curved ramps and platforms working beautifully for scenes set in nature, at home, and in the pomp and circumstance of a celebration ceremony at the Emperorís palace. Walter Allenís nice variety of costumes and some lovely lighting effects by Cynthia Bloodgood, particularly during Mulanís soul-searching Reflection, complete the visuals. Well, no. What really completes the visuals is the avalanche of snow Ė ensemble members with billowing, outstretched sheets, rushing down to cover the stage and the audience, sweeping us all away.

Performs June 26 - July 12, 2009

Rob Hopper
National Youth Theatre

~ Cast ~

Laozi: Alexis Park
Yun: Jordan Whitlock
Lin: Emma Wineman
Hong: Samantha Canela
Zhang: Sofia Mai Villafan
Fa Zhou: Philip Greenberg
Fa Li: Stephanie Aceron
Grandmother Fa: Gabriella Leibowitz
Mulan: Hannah Lo
Mushu: Teddy Fantano
Matchmaker: Katie Sale
Chi Fu: Julian Coker
Young Xiao: Spencer Wilhelmy
Older Yi: Trenton Austin
Young Yi: Frank Blythe
Shan-Yu: Michael Covington
Magyar: Dakota Berkley
Subar-Tu: Eric Nelson
Chen: Haley Rose Cox
Liu: Julia Uy
Captain Shang: Zachary Herzog
Yao: Philip Greenberg
Qian-Po: Kevin McRee
Ling: Scott Peterson
Emperor: Barrett Lo

~ Ensemble ~

Katie Armstrong
Dakota Berkley
Samantha Fidel
Chloe Uy

Shannon Barry
Lexia Champagne
Olivia Heifetz
Camile Wilcox

Andie Ezquerro
Maren Hale
Erin Love
Alexa Wing

Natasha Chandler
Haley Rose Cox
Julia Uy
Paige Wilcox

Shannon Barry
Hunter Bennett-Fusina
Natasha Chandler
Konane Gurfield
Noah Hocker
Barrett Lo
Jessie McConoville
Tiffany Wei
Cyan Weinberg
Paige Wilcox
Madeleine Williams
Joe Wineman

Director: Joey Landwehr
Choreographer: Deven Brawley
Music Direction: Richard Morrison, Will Neblett
Set Design: Heidi Atchison
Lighting Design: Cynthia Bloodgood
Costume Design: Walter Allen
Hair and Make-up Design: Richard May
Sound Design: Robin Whitehouse
Properties: Karen Bohrer
Stage Manager: Chase Clemesha


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