The Monkey King

Dates and Venue 5-27 Feb 2010 @ 7.30pm, Sat/Sun mat 2pm| Centre for the Performing Arts, Vancouver

Reviewers Ed Farolan and RM Pink

Based on a 16th century novel, Writer, Producer and Director Dennis K. Law comes up with a spectacular Rock-Musical stage adaptation of a Chinese legend, complete with music, dance, martial arts and everything else that makes this show pure entertainment.

The way it's produced is quite informative, similar to the way surtitles are placed in operas these days. In the Centre's production, two screens, left and right, flash translations of songs, or inform the audience of what transpires next. The programme is also useful as it gives a brief synopsis of each act: 10 acts each in this show of two parts, plus right before the show, each audience member is given this beautiful album of pictures depicting tableaux vivants of each act.

Law who is also the scenic and light designer, creates a lavish production, with costume changes for practically every act, and all types of dances, fusing rock 'n roll with Chinese traditional song and dance, and of course, Kung Fu and all different types of Chinese Martial Arts. It is indeed an artistic, acrobatic and dance tour de force that reaches stellar heights of performance.. Aristotle once said that 'excellence is an art won by training and habituation' and such is the case with this production.

Monkey King concluded with a long, well deserved standing ovation. Each of the twenty short, intense, colorful song and dance acts has a unique theme, yet tied together with one single plot, with styles ranging from the romantic to the demonic, reflecting, as in all classic themes based on legend and mythology, the triumph of good over evil.

One remarkable and memorable dance in Act 10 was the young female dancer, in brown and white striped costume, doing a fast flip and when landing, immediately began walking forward. The timing was impeccable, the result amazing. The performance featured over 20 impressive dancers, with fast paced dance and acrobatic moves. The audience was constantly enthralled.

The singing, sometimes overwhelmed by the fast and action oriented performance, was truly outstanding. The music by Zhou Jiaojiao and lyrics by Jin Tao and Alyssa Xiaoli Wang were inspiring. Special applause goes to A-Kuan and Yi Chun for the magnificewnt costumes and the set and art design by Dennis K. Law which was evocative and colorful.

One of the most beautiful moments of the performance was in Act 15, "Pilgrims Captured", featuring the handsome male lead, Monk Tang Seng, in a striking red gown together with the beautiful, elegant female lead, Guanyin, wearing a shimmering white and blue gown. The duet's song was touching and deeply moving for the audience.

Monkey King represents a return to the big Broadway type of musical that is always difficult to stage, and yet, when done properly, is a feast for the eyes and ears. It is truly a classic and a shining tribute to its creators and dancers.

© 2010 Ed Farolan and RM Pink