Musical showcases diversity with non-traditional casting

By Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America Bureau

Sept. 18, 2014

OAKLAND, Calif. – Filipino talents have taken the lead in Woodminster Summer Musical’s presentation of “Flower Drum Song”, the 2002 David Henry Hwang revision of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1958 Broadway hit.

Catherine Gloria shares the lead role with fellow Filipino Romar De Claro in a story of how two young Chinese immigrants try to find their identities in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1940s.

“She’s trying to find her life in America,” said Catherine Gloria, who plays “Mei-Lei”, “And also still hold on to her life in China which is very unique to me in the sense I’m trying to maintain my Filipino culture but also be American too. It’s very fun to play that role.”

Woodminster is one of a kind with its unconventional casting methods. Most roles are not ethnic specific so all actors have the opportunity to play someone regardless of their race. In fact, Woodminster celebrates the wide diversity of its cast members by having all performers announce to the audience their name and nationality during curtain call.

“It’s really neat to be able to express that to the audience,” said Gloria, “And already in that small statement let them know who we are as a person and not as an actor.”

“I think just the theater company is so non-traditional,” said Romar De Claro, who plays “Ta”. “They really look for the talent versus what color your skin is.”

“It’s amazing how the audience truly appreciates that not just our work we put on stage,” said Brian Daughlash, who plays “Chao”, “But they appreciate our backgrounds and us coming up here as Asian-Americans and supporting and also putting up this great work.”

Three-time Tony Award winning Broadway producer and Filipino Jhett Tolentino expressed his interest in bringing more Filipinos back to live theater and these Filipino actors agree that it would be nice to see more support from fellow kababayans.

“I would like that – that would be great at performances,” said Brian Daughlash. “More Filipinos would be appreciative and it would help us get out there and support each other as well.”

Rod Voltaire Edora, who plays “Harvard,” said “To have the support would be huge, and me as a kid, if I saw a Filipino or someone who looked Filipino on stage, that would be inspiring.”

“Once you show them the value and show them a good show, I think it would start for them,” said Romar De Claro. “As long as the shows we showcase are good quality like this one.”

“Musical theater is so much about story telling, so that’s also a neat thing to be a part of,” said Catherine Gloria. “A lot of us from childhood love listening to stories and being part of all that, so that’s another fun aspect.”

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