Kanagawa and Wang Join the all Asian American and Pacific Islander Cast to Tell the Story of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protest with Contemporary Flourishes; The Announcement Follows the Decision of Zach Piser
Quixote Productions and The Phoenix Theatre Company are proud to announce Broadway actors Kennedy Kanagawa* and Ellie Wang* will play the leading roles in Tiananmen: A New Musical opening at The Phoenix Theatre Company on October 4th, 2023 at 7:00 p.m. and making its World Premiere on October 6th, 2023. The original work debuts 34 years after the tragedy in China’s Tiananmen Square.
Tickets for the five-week run are available here – https://phoenixtheatre.com/the-season/tiananmen.
“I’m incredibly honored to be a part of Tiananmen: The Musical,” said Wang. “This production is not just a celebration of art and storytelling, but a powerful reminder of the importance of courage, resilience, and the universal desire for freedom.”
Kanagawa will be replacing Zachary Piser who chose not to continue on with the musical for personal reasons.
“I am proud to bring this powerful story to the stage,” said Kanagawa. “We have an amazing cast, and I can’t wait for our hard work to come to life at the Phoenix Theatre Company this October.”
Kanagawa known for his work in Into the Woods Broadway revival and Wang known for Broadway’s Allegiance will lead the all Asian American and Pacific Islander cast making their Phoenix Theatre debut this fall. The cast includes Grace Choi* (Avenue Q), Austin Ku* (Chinglish Broadway national tour; Soft Power at the Public Theater, Grammy nomination), Michael Ching* (Gold Mountain, Utah Shakespeare Festival), Marc Oka* (Broadway: Flower Drum Song, Bells Are Ringing, Fosse, Miss Saigon, Shogun: The Musical), Sy Chounchaisit (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical national tour), Brandon Gille (The Hunchback of Notre Dame West Coast Premiere), Kuppi Jessop, Danielle Mendoza, Michelle Chin (Cinderella, Once, Dreamgirls, Hello Girls, Phoenix Theatre Company), Raymond Dimaano (The King and I Broadway National Tour), Alexi Ishida, Peter Eidler* and Rommel Pierre O’Choa* (Broadway’s My Fair Lady).
“We are thrilled to present this world-class cast to The Phoenix Theatre Company,” said Director Darren Lee. “Together with a powerful creative team of Broadway and Phoenix’s best, The Phoenix Theatre Company has assembled a dream team that has worked on and performed in more than 40 Broadway shows. We cannot wait for them to bring this story to life for the first time.”
The show, which weaves a love story against the backdrop of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, has been in development for more than a decade, thanks to writer Scott Elmegreen and composer Drew Fornarola, who is best known as a songwriter for DreamWorks. The Princeton graduates were most recently represented in New York by their play Straight, a New York Times Critics’ Pick now in development as a major motion picture.
Tiananmen’s world premiere is directed by Darren Lee (Mr. Holland’s Opus), who will also serve as the Choreographer. Lee has directed and choreographed numerous productions around the country and internationally. He has performed in 11 Broadway shows and in addition to Tiananmen has recently developed the world premieres of Mr. Holland’s Opus, The Gifted Prince, Brain. Storm., and Disney Wishes for Disney Cruise Line. (www.darrenlee.com)
Click here to see and hear some of the show’s powerful music including “We Are Tomorrow,” “Change the World,” “Disloyal Daughter”, and “Our Generation Against the World”.
Wu’er Kaixi, who helped lead the protests in China’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 and now lives in Taiwan as an activist for democracy, is Tiananmen’s conceiver and creative consultant.
“I believed in democracy when we took to the streets in 1989, and I think it even more so today. I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing the events as a musical, and I hope it serves to ensure that the world remembers the unfinished business of this celebration of bravery,” said Wu’er Kaixi.
“It is a tremendous honor to work with Wu’er Kaixi on this story, which crystallizes some of the most important and broad conflicts that society and individuals grapple with today. At a time when democracy faces heightened challenges in America and around the world, we hope that this show will move audiences to reflect on love, freedom, and the big ideas that are worth fighting for,” said Tiananmen author Scott Elmegreen.
The Music Director is Kevin White and the Casting Director is Chelsea Anderson. The Scenic/Projection Designer is Michael Downs. Costume Design is Lex Liang. Hair, Wig and Makeup Design is Jason Hayes. Sound Design is Dave Temby. Lighting Design is Tim Monson. Media Design is Jake Pinholster and the Associate Director and Choreographer is Kristine Bendul.
Tiananmen will debut at The Phoenix Theatre Company, the same 384 seat theatre where its Lead Producer and Quixote Productions founder Jason Rose debuted ¡Americano! and its record-setting run in early 2020. ¡Americano! was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music by Composer Carrie Rodriguez in 2022 during its Off-Broadway run last year. The show was also used by President Obama to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of his Executive Order to protect “DREAMers” living in the United States.
“Like Americano, Tiananmen is an incredibly thought provoking, socially impactful and an important new work that needs to be told,” said Lead Producer Jason Rose, an Arizona entrepreneur. “These are the stories of what happened to those in the streets of Beijing 34 years ago. It’s where world history hinged. It’s extremely powerful to hear the story of these freedom fighters and could not be more important with where the world is at and headed.”
To arrange interviews with any of the principals involved with Tiananmen please contact Media@QuixoteProductions.com.
About The Phoenix Theatre Company
The Phoenix Theatre Company is not only the largest professional regional theatre company in the state, with nearly 500 performances each year on multiple stages, but it’s also the first arts organization in Arizona and a founding member of the Central Arts District. Committed to advancing the performing arts in the Valley, The Phoenix Theatre Company’s mission is to create exceptional theatrical experiences that inspire hope and understanding. For more information about our upcoming shows, campus venue, located at 1825 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix, outreach programs, and more, visit www.phoenixtheatre.com.
About Darren Lee
Most recently seen as Jiang in the world premiere of Jason Ma’s Gold Mountain (Utah Shakespeare Festival) and as The King of Siam in the US national tour of The King and I, Lee began his career at age 11. Broadway performing credits include: Chicago, Guys and Dolls, and in the original companies of Allegiance; Shogun the Musical; Miss Saigon; Victor/Victoria with Julie Andrews; Kiss Me, Kate; On the Town; Seussical the Musical; Pacific Overtures and Thoroughly Modern Millie. Other Broadway work includes: Associate Choreographer on Pacific Overtures. New York director/choreographer credits include: 24 Hour Musicals (Orchard Project); History of War (NYMF); Heading East starring B.D. Wong (Asia Society); The Report and Bronx Express (Fringe Festival); Hair (Wagner College); Black Tom Island (Art House Productions); Andy Warhol Was Right (NYMF); Hidden Sky, BRAIN. STORM. (Prospect Theatre); Reemergence (On The Quays); An Ideal Husband (Irish Repertory Theatre) and Stephen Sondheim’s 75th Birthday Celebration (New Amsterdam). Film credits include: Razor in Hackers, Everyone Says I Love You, Sisters, and Chicago. Lee is also currently in development as the director/choreographer for the world premiere of The Tale of the Gifted Prince. www.darrenlee.com
About Scott Elmegreen
Scott Elmegreen is a playwright, composer, and author based in NYC and Chicago. His shows include Straight; Expecting; Hip Hop Cinderella; Vote For Me; Ivy+Bean; Awesome Allie, First Kid Astronaut; Ladybug Girl; The Magic School Bus, Live!; COLLEGE The Musical; and Thucydides. He wrote the music for the Drama Desk and Emmy Award nominated Colin Quinn Long Story Short; The PhD Movie; We Can’t Reach You, Hartford; Daguerreotype; What I Took in My Hand; and orchestrated S’Wonderful: The New Gershwin Musical. His shows have premiered on Broadway, off-Broadway, on national and international tour, on television and in film, and in regional theaters across the country and around the world. He is a graduate of Princeton University, and teaches musical theater writing and songwriting at the University of Chicago. www.scottelmegreen.com
Drew Fornarola (music & lyrics) is a songwriter and playwright from New York City and the artistic director of Starring Buffalo. He has written for DreamWorks’ SHREK and VEGGIETALES franchises, and was most recently represented off-Broadway by STRAIGHT (co-written with Scott Elmegreen), a New York Times Critics’ pick recently adapted into a major motion picture. Other theater: THUCYDIDES (pub. Samuel French), UNCLE PIRATE (pub. Samuel French), TILLY THE TRICKSTER (collab. With SNL’s Molly Shannon, pub TRW), SHREK THE HALLS: THE MUSICAL (DreamWorks), among others. Film: 1 NIGHT IN SAN DIEGO (Hulu), VEGGIETALES: NOAH’S ARK (DreamWorks), STRAIGHT (BH5 Studios), HIGH SCHOOL ZOOMSICAL (Broadway Unlocked). Drew has headlined concerts around the world including Lincoln Center (NYC), London Theater Workshop (London), Broadway au Carre (Paris) and Bar Fedora (Los Angeles). Proud alumnus of Princeton University and the BMI Musical Theater Workshop. www.drewfornarola.com @drewfornarola
About Kevin Robert White
Kevin is the Resident Music Director for The Phoenix Theatre Company. As MD at TPTC: The Prom, American in Paris, Bandstand, The Color Purple, Always… Patsy Cline, The Hello Girls, and Murder for Two. Kevin recently graduated with a Master’s Degree in Music Direction from ASU. At ASU, Kevin served as music director for The 25th… Spelling Bee, The Last Five Years, and It’s Only Life. Favorite Credits as MD: Matilda, Legally Blonde, James… Giant Peach, Mamma Mia, Rent, 25th Annual… Spelling Bee, The Producers, Gypsy, Oklahoma!, The Spitfire Grill, and Ruthless!. Favorite credits as actor: Ensemble/Music Director in The Hello Girls, Mark in Rent, Sir Robin in Spamalot, Huck Finn in Big River, Joseph in Joseph…, Dr. Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, Lord Farquaad in Shrek the Musical, Johnny in American Idiot, as well as several tours, readings, and new works in NYC. For Dallyn and Ruthie!
About Wu’er Kaixi
Known for his leading role in the 1989 Tiananmen student movement, Mr. Wu’er Kaixi is a Chinese democracy activist living in exile in Taiwan. He became known to the world with his televised rebuttal with The Chinese Premier Li Peng and has been listed as No. 2 on the Chinese government’s 21 most wanted student leaders. Where he lives in Taiwan, he is a celebrated political commentator, columnist, and documentary producer. He is of Uyghur origin and one of the more vocal Uyghur genocide awareness campaigners. As a long-time press freedom defender, he serves as the Emeritus Board Member for Reporters Without Borders. With his Human Rights defending record, he currently serves as the General Secretary of the Taiwan Parliamentary Human Rights Commission.
About Quixote Productions
The focus of Quixote Productions is to entertain with compelling stories that also strive to serve a greater public purpose and expand the dialogue on important and sometimes challenging social and political issues. Its projects are a reflection of those aspirations amidst amazing storytelling. People don’t just want to be part of a crowd, they want to be part of a cause. As a native Phoenician, our team is also excited to help establish the Southwest as a place of substantial and thoughtful new works we hope to export to the rest of the country. Owned and operated by a Scottsdale, Arizona Entrepreneur Jason Rose, Quixote Productions recently announced several new works along with its ongoing efforts to progress its original musical production, the Broadway-aimed ¡Americano!
Rose was a driving creative and motivational forces behind making ¡Americano!, the true story of an Arizona DREAMer. As president of Rose + Allyn Public & Online Relations, Rose and his firm are recognized as one of the most creative and cutting-edge public relations and public affairs firms in the Southwest. He is also creator of the Bentley Scottsdale Polo Championships, the most attended polo event in North America. Rose currently has three additional musicals in various stages of development including The Ghost of John McCain.