Martial arts, Chinese opera bring ‘The Ballad of Mu Lan’ to life
An original adaptation of the Chinese epic poem, “The Ballad of Mu Lan” is scheduled to be performed in Hilo this month.
“It’s not the Disney version,” said Becky Dunning, managing director of the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, a professional acting company of adults.
The play follows Mu Lan, who dresses up as a boy to take her father’s place in the army. Promotional material says it is considered a “new take” on an ancient Chinese legend.
Traditional martial arts and Chinese movement is an integral part of the performance. So, too, are styles of Chinese opera, “but very modified,” Dunning said.
Typically, Chinese opera includes highpitched falsetto voice. However, the “Mu Lan” performance has been altered to offer something “more pleasant for contemporary audiences,” Dunning said.
The “girl power” play includes five theater staff performing at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, at the University of Hawaii at Hilo Performing Arts Center. All seats are $10. Dunning said the Honolulu Theatre for Youth also will perform for previously scheduled student field trips to the Performing Arts Center Oct. 18-20, leading up to the capstone public performance that Friday evening.
Audiences have responded enthusiastically to performances, Dunning said.
The Honolulu Theatre for Youth, she said, typically performs six to eight productions yearly. The productions are chosen specifically for their pertinence to students in Hawaii. Dunning said more than 100,000 students are served by HTY annually.
“Our goal is to make sure that every child in Hawaii has the opportunity to see live theater,” she said.
The Honolulu Theatre for Youth has set a goal of performing at least two shows on all six major islands annually.
“We want the kids on every island to have the opportunity to see the acts,” Dunning said.
“Mu Lan,” she said, is a good example. She said it’s designed to be of interest to parents and children.
“It’s a great show. It has a lot of humor and action,” she said.
‘The Ballad of Mu Lan” includes energetic stage action.
When Mu Lan dresses up as a boy to take her father’s place in the army, she has lots to learn.