Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: NAATCO’s Pitch Perfect Falsettoland Hits All the Right Notes

Jason Ma, Francis Jue, Manu Narayan, Ann Sanders, Ben Wu, MaryAnn Hu and Christine Toy Johnson are the merry musical neurotics in NAATCO's Falsettoland at the Dimson Theater in New York through July 1, 2007. Photo by Bruce Alan Johnson

Jason Ma, Francis Jue, Manu Narayan, Ann Sanders, Ben Wu, MaryAnn Hu and Christine Toy Johnson are the merry musical neurotics in NAATCO's Falsettoland at the Dimson Theater in New York through July 1, 2007. Photo by Bruce Alan Johnson

The all Asian American cast of Falsettoland by William Finn and James Lapine, produced by the National Asian American Theater Company (NAATCO) at the Dimson Theater in New York, hits all the right notes.

NAATCO, founded in 1989 to give Asian American actors the opportunity to play roles in European and American Classical and comtemporary works for which they otherwise might not get cast, first presented Falsettoland in 1998. Citing the frustration at the dearth of quality musical theatre roles for Asian American actors, director Alan Muraoka’s choice of Falsettoland to showcase the talents of his gifted peers is spot on.

Set in the 80’s, Falsettoland follows Following In Trousers and March of the Falsettos as the third in a trio of of one-act musicals focusing on a young neurotic Jewish man named Marvin, his wife Trina, their son Jason, and his gay lover Whizzer. The story picks up when this gay/straight/divorced/married extended family of New Yorkers are preparing for Jason’s bar mitzvah and they discover that Whizzer is suffering from a then-mysterious, fatal disease.

With roles they can sink their teeth into, Jason Ma as Marvin, Ann Sanders as Trina, Manu Narayan as Whizzer, Francis Jue as Mendel, Christine Toy Johnson as Dr. Charlotte, MaryAnn Hu as her lover Cordelia and Ben Wu as Jason, shine. I found myself between laughter and tears at NAATCO’s flawless revival.

Musical director Brent Sawyer leads the marvelous ensemble, with only the accompaniment of a piano, allowing their superb voices to convey the brilliance of William Finn’s music and lyrics. While the show takes place in the 80’s, the emotional impact of losing a loved one to AIDS is timeless. NAATCO scores a homerun with this winning revival of Falsettoland.

Falsettoland‘s final performances are on Sunday, July 1st, at 3pm and 7pm. For tickets, call Ticket Central at 212-279-4200.

FALSETTOLANDSunday at 3pm and 7pm
Dimson Theatre (108 East 15th St. @ the Vineyard)
Tickets $20, call Ticket Central at 212-279-4200

For more info:

NAATCO’s production of Falsettoland is part of the first National Asian American Theater Festival (NAATF), which brings together 25 Asian American performing arts companies and solo artists to New York for two-weeks of performances throughout New York City from June 11 to 24.

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All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2011 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multimedia journalist.

As a photographer and videographer, Lia collaborates with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive and social media presence. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden.

Selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space are now in the newly created LIA CHANG THEATER PHOTOGRAPHY PORTFOLIO in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.

Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre,, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle,,,,,, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

Other Articles by Lia Chang:
A night out with Gordana Rashovich, Flora Goforth in The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore
André De Shields Set for World Premiere of Charles Smith’s The Gospel According to James at Indiana Rep, 3/22-4/10
Photos: A.B. Cruz III and Lillian Kimura Receive 2011 AALDEF Justice in Action Awards
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.

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