Theater is another one of the mainstream entertainment arenas where finding Asian (or even minority) representation remains difficult. With the exception of dedicated Asian companies (like East West Players), it’s rare to find an Asian American in the cast of a musical or play, and when you do it’s hard to avoid the discrimination like the kind Diana Huey faced as an Asian American Ariel in the touring Broadway cast of “The Little Mermaid“. That’s why I think it’s important to find Asian American representation in theater, even if it’s just a local production, like San Jose Stage’s “Mamma Mia“, which opened on June 1st, and runs through July 7, 2019.
While none of the main characters are portrayed by an Asian American actor, Mike Wu plays the role of Pepper, one of the workers at Donna Sheridan’s Taverna and a friend and best man at Sky’s wedding, a role he reprises after performing the same role in Pacific Conservatory Theater’s production of “Mamma Mia” in 2018. The San Jose Stage production also features Vinh Nguyen in the cast as part of the ensemble.
“Mamma Mia” is a always a fun production, showcasing many of the songs of ABBA. San Jose Stage’s version is probably a little raunchier than most I’ve seen, so you may want to skip having the little ones attend this version (they do show a dildo on stage and mimic sex acts). San Jose Stage is in its 36th year of productions, and you can find tickets at www.thestage.org
Before leaving I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention that for the first time, Cosette from Les Miserables is being played by a person of color. Amara Okereke is staring as Cosette in the show at the Queens Theater in the West End in London. This follows the historic introduction of Aisha Jackson as Anna in Frozen in NYC’s Broadway production. And with these milestones, there’s hope that we’ll see more representation in theater.