This is a new musical about finding a balance between Chinese values and those of the western world.
Newcomers Yen Yen Stender and Chiew-Jin Khut form the Adelaide cast of this musical by Angela Chan and Michael Manley, with Chan accompanying the performance on piano.
Khut plays the role of the mother, Lily, a first generation Chinese immigrant to America, and Stender plays her daughter, Mei. Chan provides the voice of Mei’s daughter, Kim.
Whilst the musical starts with Mei’s interaction with Kim, getting the child to practice piano in preparation for a recital, its main focus is on the relationship between Lily and Mei, with most of the show in flashback to Mei’s childhood and memories of Lily making her practice piano for recitals and competitions, and the ongoing demand for excellence and to be better than Lily’s friend’s child.
Some clever lyrics and observations of the differences between Chinese children and western children elicits laughs as the audience, regardless of background, can recognise the stereotypes. The show also draws on other stereotypes, Lily running a laundry and dry cleaning service, Mei wearing a Hello Kitty Dress as a child, and the Chinese inability to pronounce the letter L.
Whilst the show focuses on a Chinese family, similarities can be drawn to other ethnic groups where migrant parents see their children’s academic success as being the key to survival in their adopted country.
The piece raises the question of how much discipline, and focus on results, is enough, and when does it become too much, as well as examining the different ways of showing appreciation and compassion. As subsequent generations mix with the adopted culture, things are gradually done differently as each learns from the lessons of the previous generation This is shown in Mei’s relationship to Kim, and advising Lily that she will not raise her child with the same level of demands that were placed upon her.
Stender and Khut handle the performance well, keeping the accents whilst singing, and maintaining the mannerisms.
Well worth seeing regardless of cultural background.
Reviewed by Jade Kops, special guest Fringe Critic, Glam Adelaide
Venue: David Spence Room, Level 2, Adelaide Town Hall, 128 King William St, Adelaide
Season: 7:30pm, Sun 4 – Sat 10 Mar 2012
Tickets: Adult $25, Child $18, Group $20, School YEP $18
Bookings: Fringetix 1300-FRINGE (1300-374643), their outlets, or online