Directed by James Chiao
Choreography by Becky Castells
Conducted by Charles Fernandez
September 22nd -26th at 8pm, El Portal Theatre, North Hollywood,CA
There is something very magical about watching dreams come to life. In this case, the journey from the dream to the stage is wondrously profound, to say the least.
The creator of “Mannequin Man by Day Tenor by Night,” James Chiao, was born in China many years ago. His life there was hard and a far cry from the life his parents planned for him. His father was the famous and much celebrated Chinese composer Fei Chiao and his mother an accomplished soprano, but the Chinese revolution changed everything for them and James was sent away to become a farmer and a fisherman in a tiny village where he met his beautiful wife Lily.
Lauren Han and Kevin Gino. Photo by Ed Krieger.
Their hard work brought them to America where they eventually set up their own business making mannequins, but it was James’ dreams that drove him to study music and singing and the rest has now become musical history and the foundation for James' first musical.
This charming work is based on James and Lily’s life here in America, with a little bit of extra theatrical magic mixed it. The character of James is a hardworking owner of a mannequin factory who has dreams of becoming a professional singer. His family has grown a little tired of hearing him rehearsing endlessly at home and his wife, upset that James insists on practicing continuously, even on their anniversary, forbids him to sing in the house ever again. One evening Lily and James are paid a visit by their new neighbor, a magician, who offers James a solution to his lack of support at home. The magician tells James to meet him at his factory late at night where he casts a spell giving life to James’ mannequins who can now provide him with the adoring audience he has always sought. The only problem is James can never leave, or they will revert to their original state. Unbeknownst to James, the magician is secretly in love with Lily, and with James out of the way he plans of working his magic on her.
Alexandra Mitchell, Stefan Alexander Mille and Kevin Gino. Photo by Ed Krieger.
This is a really fun show.
The musicality is absolutely beautiful and the cast are all truly exceptional singers. They give life to this delightful story and fill these lovely characters with the passion they deserve. The cast is also full of brilliant dancers and the chorus is fantastic. There are some terrific numbers with the mannequins and the staging is truly unique and full of color and magic. It’s an unusual and enigmatic story, there are so many hilarious moments and also quite poignant and moving turns to the story. My absolute favorite number involved dancing suitcases at the airport in a frantic race to save Lily. You’ll just have to see it to believe it!
Musicals are notoriously difficult to produce and starting off with something this ambitious is startling and audacious. But he pulls it off! For James Chiao “Mannequin Man by Day Tenor by Night” is clearly his life’s work and why mess around with anything less important than that, I ask you? James is absolutely triumphant in this play. The story is strange, fantastical and deeply compelling, and the fact that it is based in his own life brings a remarkably sweet truth to it. I loved this show. It’s bold and funny and musically delightful. The actors own the stage, using every ounce of their talent and energy to make us all believe that dreams do come true…bravo!
The orchestra is also wonderful, making it feel as if this production floats on musical air. They give such splendid support to the performers and the story and don’t stop playing for a second throughout the entire show. Amazing!
I thoroughly enjoyed “Mannequin Man by Day Tenor by Night.”
It is only on for a couple more nights at the El Portal, but they are touring, so please look them up if you can’t make these shows. We should all give our support to beautiful dreamers like James and Lily Chiao.
Kevin Gino, Stefan Alexander Miller, Alice Ko, Lauren Han, Allison Aoun, Tash Casberg, Caitlyn Faucher, Mark Curtis Ferrando, Timothy Hearl, Gavin Juckette, Thurzday Lyons, Alexandra Mitchell, Benjamin Perez, Taleen Shrikan, Andrea Somera, Chad Takeda, Patrick Tsoi-A-Sue, Karlton “K.Starr” Wallace, Junru Wang, Mary Au
Amy Chiao - Producer, Scenic Projection, Props & Manmequin Costume Design, Casting
Coleen Chan - Costume Design
Cricket Myers - Sound Design
Chara Abvabi - Lighting Design
Klint Flowers - Hair & Makeup Design
Assistant Props Design - Christine Choi
Jeanine Pool - Artistic Advisor
Mary Au - Vocal Coach
Jordan Jones - Stage Manager
Lydia Runge - Assistant Stage Manager
Stacy Hennon Stone - Production Manager & Technical Director
Brian Chiao - General Manager
Lily Chiao - Producer
Benjamin Perez - Assistant Director
Becky Castella - Choreographer
Charles Fernandez - Music Director, Orchestrator & Arranger