By Don Tagala, ABS CBN North America Bureau
NEW YORK CITY – For two nights only, New York says hello to an all-Asian-cast of the Tony Award-winning musical ‘Hello, Dolly.’
At the dress rehearsals, producer Bayork Lee said this benefit production is fully staged, choreographed and comes with a fully costumed cast of 52 — many of whom are Filipinos.
“So that the Asian Actors would be able to perform in these roles that they would never be cast in, so I think the most important thing is to prove that we can do it,” Lee said.
Based on Thornton Wilder’s play “The Matchmaker,” – ‘Hello Dolly’ takes place at turn of the 20th century New York City.
Chinese-American Christine Toy Johnson stars as Dolly Levi – a professional matchmaker who sets her sights on bringing together numerous people looking for love, including herself.
Co-starring with Johnson is Filipino-American Broadway veteran Raul Aranas who plays Horace Vandergelder.
“Usually I do Miss Saigon and King and I, this is a different thing for me, so it’s good,” Aranas said.
The Asian American Performers Action Coalition reports that from 2011 to 2012, asian american actors were cast in only 3% of all shows in Broadway.
For many Filipino-Americans in Broadway, landing a role in classic musicals like Hello Dolly is almost impossible.
“When you walk through that door, they see your skin, and they don’t even give you a chance sometimes, because you’re even typed-out, before you even open your mouth, said ensemble member Anthea Neri.
When the opportunity came, it only took a moment for Filipino actors Karl Josef Co and Jaygee Macapugay to land lead roles in Hello Dolly.
“Hopefully it opens people’s minds. Look, it’s great, it doesn’t matter what race you are as long as they’re talented, they work hard and they’re good at what they do,”
Co who plays Cornelius Hackl said.
The musical is directed by Lee Roy Reams who was also director and choreographer of Carol Channing’s last Broadway revival of Hello Dolly in 1995.
Kababayans can still catch Hello Dolly’s last performance on May 6 at the Pershing Square Signature Center in Manhattan.