Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: Christine Toy Johnson Leads the Cast of Pan Asian Repertory Theatre’s Shanghai Lil’s, 11/11-11/27/11

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Christine Toy Johnson Photo by Bruce Alan Johnson

Christine Toy Johnson Photo by Bruce Alan Johnson

Christine Toy Johnson (The Music Man, Grease!) plays the title character in Pan Asian Repertory Theatre’s new production of Shanghai Lil’s at the West End Theatre (263 W. 86th Street between Broadway & West End Avenue in the Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew, 2nd floor), with performances November 11th-27th. Tisa Chang who directed and created the dances in 1997 has re-envisioned a new production to introduce Chinese musical history of the 40’s for a new generation of audiences. Pan Asian Rep commissioned Shanghai Lil’s with book and lyrics by Lilah Kan, music by Louis Stewart, directed by Tisa Chang, and now adds choreography by Susan Ancheta, who portrayed the dancing lead in the 1997 premiere. Opening night is Wednesday November 16th at 7:00PM.

Shanghai Lil’s is set in a 1940’s San Francisco nightclub. In a world where the American musical embodies the optimism of boy-meets-girl romance and the American Dream, a cast of Asian American performers charm their audience with song, dance and comedy in spite of the looming specter of WWII and internment.

Jaygee Macapugay

Jaygee Macapugay

Shanghai Lil’s, also stars Jaygee Macapugay (last seen in Pan Asian Rep’s Imelda) and features Leanne Cabrera, Whitney Kam Lee, Rebecca Lee Lerman, Timothy Ng, and Lisa Villamaria. Musical direction is by Sarah Brett England; set design by Gian Marco Lo Forte; costume design by Kate Mincer; and lighting design by Jiyoun Chang.

Tisa Chang (Director) has a lifetime love for the musical theatre form, having danced at an early age and in Broadway musical classics in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, King and I, Flower Drum Song, Sweet Charity, Pacific Overtures, which has informed her directing career at Ellen Stewart’s La Mama Chinese Theatre Group with bilingual premieres of Return of the Phoenix, A Servant of Two Masters, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Thunderstorm and highlights at Pan Asian Rep including: The Joy Luck Club, Cambodia Agonistes, Rashomon which was invited to the Havana Theatre Festival in September 2003. Tisa will celebrate 35 years at Pan Asian Rep with a Gala Benefit on March 19, 2012 at the glamorous Edison Ballroom.

Lilah Kan (Book and Lyrics) acted with San Francisco’s Inter Players in the 50’s and made her New York acting debut in Frank Chin’s Year of the Dragon at American Place Theatre (televised for PBS’s “Theatre in America”) and had a longtime association with Pan Asian Rep as an actor- Legend of Wu Chang, Flowers and Household Gods, Sunrise, Monkey Music– and also acted in Paper Angels directed by John Lone.

Louis Stewart (Composer) Specializing in New Music, he has conducted and played premieres in New York, Seattle, Boston and Baltimore, and has guest conducted in the US and Southeast Asia. One of his many acclaimed compositions is Ballet Beat Café, which was premiered by American Concert Ballet. His recordings include Sleepwalking In Singapore, in collaboration with the Baltimore Improvisation Ensemble, and scores for two documentary films aired on PBS. Shanghai Lil’s renews a series of collaborations with Tisa Chang, which began in 1973 with the musical compostion for The Return of the Phoenix, and includes Cambodia Agonistes. He currently teaches at Berkelee College.

PAN ASIAN REPERTORY THEATRE, founded in 1977, is the East Coast’s most veteran producer of Asian American theatre. For 35 years, Pan Asian Rep has celebrated the artistic expressiveness of Asian and American theatre artists under the highest standards of professional excellence creating Asian classics and new works. Under the direction of Tisa Chang, the company’s renowned Masterpieces from China, Japan, India, Korea, Cambodia, Tibet, and Asian America, bring underrepresented themes to American audiences while deepening their understanding of Asian American cultural heritage. Pan Asian is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, celebrating 50 years of building strong, creative communities in New York State’s 62 counties; the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; City Council members Peter Koo and Gale Brewer; Shubert and Fan Fox & Leslie R. Samuels Foundations; and The New York Community Trust and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Educational programs are supported, in part, by MetLife Foundation and Con Edison.

Pan Asian Rep’s Shanghai Lil’s runs November 11th – 27th at the West End Theatre (263 W. 86th Street between Broadway & West End Avenue in the Church of St. Paul & St. Andrew, 2nd floor). Via Subway, take the 1 train to 86th Street. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30pm with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm. (Additional performance Monday November 14th at 7:30 pm; Wednesday November 23rd performance at 2:30 pm only.) Tickets are $39 with discounts available for seniors and students, call OvationTix at 212-352-3101. Group discounts are available by calling 212-868-4030. For more information about Shanghai Lil’s, Pan Asian Rep and a schedule of weekday student matinee performances for middle and high school students, visit

Other Articles by Lia Chang
Photos: Leviathan Lab’s Twelfth Night at the Arclight through 11/19
Tina Chilip and Jojo Gonzalez Star in Leviathan Lab’s Dynamic Hong Kong Re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night Featuring an All-Asian American Cast, at the Arclight in NY, 11/3-11/19
Photos of AEA’s Asian Heritage Celebration, featuring the Leviathan Lab Asian American Women Writers Workshop
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Jennifer Lim, Leigh Silverman, Samuel L. Jackson, Kenny Leon, David Ives, Douglas Carter Beane and More at The Drama Desk & Fordham University Theatre Program’s “Anatomy of a Breakout” Panel
Ma-Yi Presents Carla Ching’s The Sugar House at The Edge of The Wilderness at The Connelly Theater, 11/8-12/4
Knock Me a Kiss Sweeps Audelcos with 9 Wins Including Best Dramatic Play, André De Shields, Marie Thomas, Charles Smith and Chuck Smith
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Jennifer Lim, Leigh Silverman, Samuel L. Jackson, Kenny Leon, David Ives, Douglas Carter Beane and More at The Drama Desk & Fordham University Theatre Program’s “Anatomy of a Breakout” Panel
David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish Takes Home 2 Jeff Awards
Cathy Foy-Mahi Plays Bloody Mary in 2011-2012 National Tour of South Pacific
Photos: Backstage with the Cast of Chinglish and David Henry Hwang at the Longacre Theatre
Lia Chang Photos: Opening Night of Mu Performing Arts’ Katie Hae Leo’s Four Destinies
Lia Chang Photos: Backstage at Mu Performing Arts’ Four Destinies by Katie Hae Leo
Art by Nicholas Galanin Featured in Kindred Spirits, Native American Influences on 20th Century Art, at Peter Blum Soho in NY, 10/29/11-1/14/12
Photos: Crossroads’ Ain’t Misbehavin’
Up Close and Personal with Rick Shiomi, Award-winning Playwright and Artistic Director of Mu Performing Arts
Photos: Christine Toy Johnson, Angela Lin, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Jake Manabat, David Shih in Jen Silverman’s Crane Story at The Cherry Lane Photo Flash: Library of Congress’ IN REHEARSAL Exhibit
Lia Chang Theater Portfolio at Library of Congress Features Photos of Thom Sesma’s Makeup Transformation as Scar in Disney’s The Lion King Las Vegas, Robert Lee and Leon Ko’s Heading East Starring BD Wong, David Henry Hwang’s Chinglish, and Samrat Chakrabarti and Sanjiv Jhaveri’s Bakwas Bumbug! on View Through August 2
Photos: “How To Succeed” stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rose Hemingway & John Larroquette at Lord & Taylor Fifth Ave
Photos: David Duchovny, John Earl Jelks, Amanda Peet, Tracee Chimo at Opening Night Party of Neil LaBute’s Break of Noon
Multimedia: Promises, Promises’ Stars Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes at Lord & Taylor Fifth Ave
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

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. Lia currently plays Nurse Lia on “One Life to Live”. She has appeared in Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and “New York Undercover”.

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.

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

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