Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by John Weidman
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Music Direction by Jonathan Goldberg
Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland
Costume Design by Gail Astrid Buckley
Sound Design by Andrew Duncan Will
Lighting Design by Karen Perlow
Choreography by Micheline Wu
Mask Design by Brynna Bloomfield
Violence Design by Ted Hewlett
Production Stage Manager: Nerys Powell
Assistant Stage Manager: Geena M. Forristall
Production sponsored by Ronald Sudol & the estate of Toni-Lee Capossela
Director Spiro Veloudos sponsored by Glenda & Bob Fishman
Music Director sponsored by Jo-An Heileman
Music sponsored by Richard Rousseau
Choreography sponsored by Ernesto & Melissa Anguilla
Costumes sponsored by Richard & Sally Zeckhauser
Actor Lisa Yuen sponsored by Tim & Linda Holiner
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This startling, entertaining, and thrilling masterpiece puts a cap on Spiro Veloudos’ multi-year Sondheim Initiative. An unlikely friendship is forged between a samurai, Kayama, and an Americanized fisherman, Manjiro, during Commodore Matthew Perry’s 1853 mission to open trade relations with isolationist Japan. The two friends are caught in the inevitable winds of change and tell the story of Japan’s painful and harrowing Westernization. A highly original, inventive, powerful, and surprisingly humorous theatrical experience.
“Musical theater at its most intellectually challenging. Extraordinary songs!” – NY Times
“It’s enthralling to see Sondheim’s songs work so magically well!” – Huffington Post
Cast & Crew
Kai Chao — Commodore Perry, Dutch Admiral, Guard, Second Geisha, Older Samurai, Samurai Guard
Kai Chao (Ensemble) is making his Lyric Stage debut. Kai returns to Pacific Overtures after performing in a production with the Irvine CLO many years ago, earning him a Los Angeles Dramalogue Critic’s Award. He recently performed in The Joy Luck Club (Umbrella Stage Company). Some of his favorite productions regionally and locally include Mary Poppins, A Chorus Line, Mame, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Beauty and the Beast, Bye, Bye Birdie, and Cabaret. He also enjoyed performing with Disney Entertainment. Kai is always thankful for the love and support from his husband, Al.
Sam Hamashima — Manjiro
Sam Hamashima (Manjiro) is making his Lyric Stage debut in one of his favorite shows. Recent credits include Vietgone (Studio Theatre), Girlfriend (Detroit Public Theatre), and Comfort Women: A New Musical (Playwrights Horizons). Originally from North Carolina, Hamashima received a B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from the University of Michigan. Thanks to The Price Group and family at YoungArts. Much love to Mom, Dad, Ellie, and Grace. samhamashima.com @SamHamashima
Alexander Holden* — Russian Admiral, Third Councilor, Merchant, Sailor, Soothsayer, Third Geisha, Second Sailor, Assassin 2
Alexander Holden* (Third Councilor, Merchant, Sailor, Soothsayer, Third Girl, Russian Admiral, Second Sailor) is a Boston-based actor making his Lyric Stage debut. Alexander’s Boston credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Dream Role Theater Company), The Mystery of Edwin Drood (New Players Theatre Guild), Annie Get Your Gun (The Cannon Theater), Nutzzcrackin’ Immigration Nationalization (Arts Emerson). Regional credits include The Merry Widow (Bear Valley Music Festival). Alexander has studied Vocal Performance at Carnegie Mellon University and is excited to be part of this production!
Elaine Hom — Second Councilor, Second Observer, Second Officer, Priest, Assassin 1
Elaine Hom (Ensemble) is making her Lyric Stage debut. She was most recently seen in Allegiance (SpeakEasy Stage), Diamonds Unstrung, Falling (Boston Theatre Marathon), An Infinite Ache (Glass Ceiling Theater), and Bye Bye Birdie (Weston Friendly Society of the Performing Arts). Elaine has also directed and choreographed shows in the Boston area and coaches dance at Sereda DanceWorks. By day, Elaine works in content marketing and is a freelance PR consultant for Boston theaters. Many thanks to this cast and crew, and her never-ending village of support!
Carl Hsu* — Kayama
Carl Hsu* (Kayama) is making his Lyric Stage debut. His credits include Thoroughly Modern Millie (Ogunquit Playhouse, Engeman Theatre, Goodspeed Opera House), Anything Goes, Mame (North Shore Music Theatre, Riverside Theatre), a benefit reading of Sarah Ruhl’s The Oldest Boy (Central Square Theatre), and many more. Based in New York City, Carl is beyond thrilled to perform the work of his favorite composer/lyricist in his favorite city. Master of Fine Arts from the Boston Conservatory and a proud member of AEA.
Brandon Milardo — British Admiral, Fisherman, Guard, Sailor, Old Man, First Noble, First Lord, Third Sailor, Samurai Guard
Brandon Milardo (Ensemble) is a Boston-based actor and musician who has previously appeared at the Lyric Stage in Road Show, City of Angels, and The Mikado. Additional theater and operetta credits include The Real Inspector Hound (Bad Habit Productions), Once on This Island (Mssng Lnks), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Boston Midsummer Opera), and Threepenny Opera (Commonwealth Opera). He has also appeared on stage in operas with Boston Midsummer Opera, Boston Opera Collaborative, Cape Cod Opera, Metrowest Opera, and Commonwealth Opera.
Gary Thomas Ng* — Shogun’s Mother, Madam, American Admiral, Grandmother, Warrior, British Sailor
Gary Thomas Ng* (Mother, American Admiral, Grandmother, Warrior, British Sailor, Madam) returns to the Lyric Stage where he was last seen in Hold These Truths. Recent regional credits include 1776 (New Rep), Gooney Bird Greene (Wheelock Family Theatre), and Allegiance (SpeakEasy Stage). Other favorite credits include Beauty and the Beast, Billy Elliot (Wheelock Family Theatre), Sideshow (Lyric Stage), Miss Saigon, Grease, Joseph/Dreamcoat, Footloose (Ogunquit Playhouse), Children of Eden (NSMT), and the Far East tour of Cole Porter’s Aladdin. Gary is also a photographer whose works include production photos for Ogunquit Playhouse and Gloucester Stage.
Jeff Song* — Abe, Thief, First Officer, Physician
Jeff Song* (Abe, Thief, First Officer, Physician) is making his Lyric Stage debut. Regional acting credits include Once (SpeakEasy Stage) and work with Fresh Ink Theatre, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Wheelock Family Theatre, Company One, and American Repertory Theater. Jeff can also be heard on the NPR storytelling podcast Circle Round. Credits as Composer/Music Director/Musician include Vietgone (Studio Theatre, DC) and Mary Zimmerman’s The White Snake (Baltimore Center Stage). He is currently a music consultant for Imagination Stage (DC). Jeff has appeared on over a dozen recordings – his original music featured on radio, TV, and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. As bassist for Ute Lemper, Jeff performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Istanbul Jazz Festival, L’Opéra de Vichy, and The Palermo Festival di Verdura. Jeff holds an M.M. from New England Conservatory of Music.
Karina Wen — First Observer, Shogun’s Wife, First Geisha, Boy, Girl, Son
Karina Wen (Ensemble) is making her Lyric Stage debut. Recent credits include The Joy Luck Club (Umbrella Stage Company), Bye Bye Birdie, Guys and Dolls, and A Chorus Line (Priscilla Beach Theatre), and In the Heights (Wheelock Family Theatre). Originally from Lexington, Karina is a rising senior at Brandeis University, where she is double majoring in theater and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.
Micheline Wu — Tamate (Kayama’s Wife), French Admiral, Priest, 2nd Councilor
Micheline Wu (Choreographer/Ensemble) is making her Lyric Stage debut. A Boston native, she trained and performed with the American Chinese Arts Society’s Traditional Chinese Dance Troupe for ten years. In contemporary dance, she received a Young Artist Grant from the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities, two artist residencies at The Firkin Crane in Ireland, and her choreography and dance films have been shown across the country. Theater performance credits include Allegiance (SpeakEasy Stage Company), My Fair Lady (New Bedford Festival Theatre), Little Shop of Horrors (Priscilla Beach Theatre). M.F.A. Musical Theater, Boston Conservatory. @michelinewu
Lisa Yuen* — Reciter, Shogun
Lisa Yuen* (Reciter, Shogun, Storyteller, Emperor) returns to the Lyric Stage having appeared in Kiss of The Spider Woman, Into the Woods, Sweeney Todd, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Local credits include: The King and I (North Shore Music Theatre), Ragtime and Mary Poppins (Wheelock Family Theatre), Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Theatre by the Sea) and New Rep. Other credits include 7.5 years on Broadway (Miss Saigon and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.), 4 national tours (The King and I, Flower Drum Song, The Scarlet Pimpernel and The Pirates of Penzance), Off-Broadway (Second Stage and York Theatre), Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, regional theatre (including Paper Mill Playhouse, The MUNY, PCLO, and Sacramento Music Circus) and TV/film including 23 episodes as “Rachel” on All My Children, Body of Proof, The Martha Stewart Show, World Trade Center). Brookline mom to twins. B.A. from UCLA. Love and gratitude to Mom, Kevin, family, and friends.
Spiro Veloudos — Director
Spiro Veloudos (Director), now celebrating his 21st season as Producing Artistic Director, directed The Roommate this season and Souvenir and Road Show last season. In previous seasons, he directed Company, Camelot, Sondheim by Sondheim, Peter and the Starcatcher, Sweeney Todd, City of Angels, Into the Woods (Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Awards for Best Director, Best Musical, and Best Ensemble), One Man, Two Guvnors, Death of a Salesman (IRNE Award for Best Play),The Mikado, 33 Variations, On the Town, Avenue Q (Elliot Norton Awards for Outstanding Musical and Outstanding Ensemble, five IRNE Awards including Best Musical and Best Director), The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (Elliot Norton Award for Best Production and Best Director, five IRNE Awards including Best Director), Big River, Superior Donuts, Animal Crackers, Blithe Spirit, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, Kiss Me, Kate, and many others. During his tenure, the Lyric Stage has earned numerous awards and honors including Elliot Norton Awards for Outstanding Production and Outstanding Musical Production, and IRNE Awards for Outstanding Production and Outstanding Musical Production. Spiro received the 2006 Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence, the Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award from Salem State College, the StageSource Theatre Hero Award (2003), and was named Best Artistic Director by Boston Magazine in 1999. He is adjunct faculty in Performing Arts at Emerson College.
Jonathan Goldberg — Music Director
Jonathan Goldberg (Music Director) has won four IRNE Awards for the musical direction of Lyric Stage’s Kiss Me, Kate, Grey Gardens, Man of La Mancha, and A Little Night Music. Other Lyric Stage shows include Road Show, Sondheim on Sondheim, Sweeney Todd, Working, On The Town, The Mikado, Big River, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Follies, 1776, Urinetown, The Spitfire Grill, Sunday in the Park with George, She Loves Me, and Assassins, and ten seasons of the Lyric First Stage teen program. Jon is full-time faculty in the Musical Theatre program at Emerson College, and has been Music Director for numerous Emerson Stage productions. Other credits include Pacific Overtures (North Shore Music Theatre) and numerous productions at Wheelock Family Theatre (most recently Ragtime and Billy Elliot).
Janie E. Howland** — Scenic Design
Janie E. Howland** (Scenic Design) has called the Lyric Stage home for 25 years, having recently designed Little Foxes and Anna Christie. Other recent designs: Nat Turner in Jerusalem (ASP), Caroline or Change (Moonbox), Art Makes Sense CONSENSES Exhibit (Mass MOCA), Madeline’s Christmas (BCT), Urban Nutcracker (City Ballet). Other venues: Lynn Redgrave Theatre (NY), Emerson Majestic, New Rep, Weston Playhouse, North Shore Music Theatre, Odyssey Opera, Central Square Theatre, Gloucester Stage, SpeakEasy Stage, Ohio Star Theatre, A.R.T. Institute, Boston Conservatory, Company One, Greater Boston Stage Company, Seacoast Rep, Merrimack Repertory Theatre, New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, and Huntington Theatre Studio 210. Brandeis University M.F.A.; four-time Elliot Norton Award winner, four-time IRNE Award winner, adjunct faculty at Emerson College, Wellesley College. USA Local 829. janiehowland.com
Gail Astrid Buckley** — Costume Design
Gail Astrid Buckley** (Costume Design) returns to the Lyric Stage having designed The Little Foxes, My Fair Lady, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Souvenir, among many others. Recent designs include the 11th annual A Christmas Carol (Hanover Theatre), Dialogue of the Carmelites (Boston Conservatory), Being Earnest, The Salonnières (Greater Boston Stage Company), and key tailor/shopper for the movie Honest Thief. Gail has received two Elliot Norton Awards and two IRNE Awards for Costume Design. Gail is a proud member of United Scenic Artists Local 829.
Karen Perlow** — Lighting Design
Karen Perlow** (Lighting Design) has been a Boston-area designer for over 25 years. She returns to the Lyric Stage where favorite productions include The Wolves, The Little Foxes, Anna Christie, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Death of a Salesman, Water by the Spoonful, My Name Is Asher Lev, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Miss Witherspoon, Urinetown, the Musical, Dirty Blonde, and Lobby Hero. Earlier this season she designed Native Gardens (Merrimack Rep), and Fun Home and Once (SpeakEasy Stage). She is a three-time winner of the IRNE Award for Best Lighting Design (2009, 2007, 2002), and NYC SOLO Fest 2013. Karen has taught Light Design at Northeastern and MIT. She currently teaches English to Speakers of Other Languages with the YMCA/ILC. Member USA 829. She also proudly serves as the treasurer of the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund (TCBF.org).
Andrew Duncan Will — Sound Design
Andrew Duncan Will (Sound Design) previously designed for the Lyric Stage productions of Kiss of the Spider Woman, Gypsy, Murder for Two, Company, Sondheim on Sondheim, Dear Elizabeth, Sweeney Todd, Into The Woods, and One Man, Two Guvnors. Recent local sound designs include productions for Boston Public Works, Stoneham Theatre, Fresh Ink, Hasty Pudding, SpeakEasy Stage, Lyric Stage, Bad Habit Productions, Flotsam Productions, Gloucester Stage, Puppet Showplace Theater, Company One, New Rep, Fresh Ink, Commonwealth Shakespeare, The Poets’ Theatre, and A.R.T. Institute. Andrew received an M.F.A. in Sound Design from Boston University.
Brynna Bloomfield — Mask Design
Brynna Bloomfield (Mask Design) began her theater career twenty years ago as a set designer for the Lyric Stage. She is now excited to be included in this production as its mask maker. Brynna has been teaching mask making at Emerson College for sixteen years, and the works she is most proud of are the hundreds of masks made by her students. She thanks her mask mentor, Stanley Allan Sherman.
Ted Hewlett*** — Violence Design
Ted Hewlett (Violence Design) is an actor, fight director, and teacher. In New York City, he has performed in Shogun (original Broadway cast), as well as at Pan Asian Rep, Mettawee River Co., Lincoln Center Institute, and HERE. Regional theatre performance credits include Shakespeare & Company, Syracuse Stage, Kennedy Center, Elm Shakespeare Co., and Birmingham Theatre (MI). He has choreographed violence for the Off-Broadway run of Bill W. and Dr. Bob, as well as at the Shakespeare Theatre (D.C.), Berkshire Theatre Festival, Westchester Broadway Theatre, and Fulton Opera House. Select Boston credits include Huntington Theatre, SITI Company/ArtsEmerson, A.R.T., Actors’ Shakespeare Project, New Rep, SpeakEasy Stage, Boston Ballet, Boston Lyric Opera, Merrimack Rep, and North Shore Music Theatre. Film and TV credits include Hook, Army of Darkness, and Brush Up Your Shakespeare. Mr. Hewlett earned his M.F.A. in Acting from Brandeis University, and is on the full-time acting faculty of Emerson College.
Nerys Powell* — Production Stage Manager
Nerys Powell* (Production Stage Manager) was the AEA Assistant Stage Manager for Kiss of the Spider Woman and the Production Stage Manager for Breath & Imagination and The Little Foxes this season. Nerys holds a B.A. in English Literature from the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY and is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association.
Geena M. Forristall — Assistant Stage Manager
Geena M. Forristall (Assistant Stage Manager) returns to the Lyric Stage having previously worked on The Little Foxes, The Roommate, Anna Christie, Souvenir, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Select Boston credits include Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, The Weird (Off the Grid Theatre Company), Henry V,I part 3, The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Cymbeline, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company), Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. (Company One), and the international tour of Kultar’s Mime. New York credits include Still at Risk (Theater for the New City) and Sleep No More (Punchdrunk NYC/Emursive). She holds a B.F.A. from Hofstra University, and is a proud member of Actors’ Equity. gmforristall.com
Michael Hisamoto — Assistant to Director
Michael Hisamoto (Assistant to Director) is a Boston-based theatre artist. Credits include Stage Kiss, Fast Company, Hold These Truths, Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (Lyric Stage), Charlotte’s Web (Wheelock Family Theatre), Yellow Face (The Office of War Information), and The Ordinary Epic (Crose to Home Productions). Upcoming: King of Shadows (Flat Earth Theatre). In addition to his acting work, Michael was a Playwriting Resident at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival, and has directed or assisted on numerous productions across Boston. Michael believes in educating the next generation, teaching and having taught at multiple institutions, and happily offers career consultation free of charge to young artists of color. Michael is a graduate of The Orange County School of the Arts and Boston University. michaelhisamoto.com
* denotes member of Actor’s Equity Association
** denotes member of United Scenic Artists (USA-Local 829)
*** denotes member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC)
Press & Reviews
“All these years later, Sondheim’s genius continues to connect people and ideas in new ways revealing the best and worst aspects of humanity.”
“Throughout the years I found myself going through the journey that Kayama is probably going through — I found myself more and more Americanized, to the point that when I go back to Taiwan, things start to feel foreign. That’s his journey, and I felt like that’s something I can identify with. It’s very interesting.”
“There’s been this fear that’s been passed down from generation to generation. What I love about Manjiro is that he is Americanized, very similar to me, at the beginning of the show and he has respect for Japan, but it’s a foreign land. To me, Japan is a foreign land; I’ve never been there, and that’s another whole project of mine, to sort of reclaim my history by going to the West Coast and [eventually] going to Japan. ”
“It’s a story that resonates today, just as it did when it opened on Broadway in 1976, eight months after the American evacuation of Saigon. ‘After this show, I feel I can learn anything,’ Carl Hsu said. ‘It has so much that is unexpected.’”
“[A] intimate yet pointed Lyric Stage Company revival of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s musical about what used to be unabashedly called gunboat diplomacy….I was charmed!”
“With book written by John Weidman, Sondheim’s clever music and delightful lyrics take the audience on a journey that starts with defiance, bullying, change, acceptance, and thrusts the country into its contemporary, westernized state. Quite funny at various times, the production is also a roller coaster ride of emotions that include sadness and poignancy as Japan is pummeled and eventually blown over by the winds of change along with the demonstration of cannon fire power.”
“In a show about progress, the casting of an all-Asian company marks progress within the Boston theater scene, although it is nothing new for the Lyric Stage to champion diversity. ”
“Pacific Overtures” showcases Sondheim’s unrivaled gift for composing songs – such as “Please Hello,” Pretty Lady,” and “Someone in a Tree” – that amount to compelling ministories in and of themselves, told with nary a wasted word.”
“To this impressive cast of 11 for playing over 50 different characters and conquering Sondheim’s most challenging work, bowler hats off to you!”
“Lyric’s artistic director Spiro Veloudos adds his artistic mark and contemporizes the story, without compromising authenticity. The audience can experience the nuanced performances, participate more fully in the characters’ stories, and see the intricate detail of the painted screen panels. The panels rotate to form a series of backdrops in the stunning set designed by Janie Howland.”
“Veloudos’ work emerges triumphant, thanks to adroit casting and a versatile, talented ensemble. Also, his usual attention to detail, combined with his love for both Sondheim and the material, is evident at every turn. Lisa Yuen is just right as the Reciter, the narrator who provides an overview and who also doubles as the uber-powerful Shogun, the power behind the throne of The Emperor, disarmingly performed as a puppet ruler.”
“It is quite hard to produce this musical as beautifully as it is done here, and the director of this production and Lyric Stage artistic director Spiro Veloudos and his team are to be strongly credited for adding yet another strong interpretation of the Sondheim legacy to their roster.”
“Change can be painful. From a remote, peaceful, self-sufficient island to an economic powerhouse to the home of the 2020 Olympics, Japan has worn many faces and overcame many obstacles. Pacific Overtures depicts the raw emotion and a sympathetic perspective on what that might have felt like along the way.”
“Lisa Yuen (the Reciter) and Carl Hsu (Kayama) both bring thoughtfulness, gravity, and maturity to their roles. But Sam Hamashima as Manjiro is the most exciting to watch and listen. His command of Sondheim’s language in “Poetry” is particularly satisfying. The three leads are backed by a strong ensemble who each perform a variety of roles. Brandon Milardo’s British Admiral–a wonderfully realized Gilbert and Sullivan caricature–is just one of many small but rich parts that help create the world of the musical through distinct character choices. The role is also one of several that effectively uses half-mask to other the strange Western newcomers.”
“Make no mistake. This is not the controversial 2017 Off-Broadway revival by John Doyle (of no-frills “Company” and “Sweeney Todd” editions fame) that cut the distinctive number “Chrysanthemum Tea” and the menacing first act-closing “Lion Dance” by America’s Commodore Perry. Here the “Tea” song has the right dark humor. Micheline Wu’s crisp choreography gives Kai Chao riveting moments of fiery movement in Perry’s dance. By contrast, Veloudos and company are exploring the full richness of Sondheim and book author John Weidman’s conception and the striking poetry that runs through the musical’s evocative score.”
“Pacific Overtures is a rich work, tackling large themes like imperialism and modernization while drawing a picture of a civilization on the brink of change through the sung stories of characters high and low—shogun and emperor, fisherman and samurai, sailor and admiral, geisha and merchant and thief. In this beautifully designed and performed production, Veloudos and the Lyric Stage have capped off their Sondheim project with a winner.”
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