New Delaware Musical SHANGHAI SONATAS Tells The WWII Story Of Jews In Shanghai
The University of Delaware's Master Players Concert Series will present its newly commissioned musical theatre piece Shanghai Sonatas on Saturday, February 15 and Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. in Mitchell Hall. The musical, now in its second year of development, isbased on the true story of Jewish refugees who founded a now-thriving culture of Western classical music in Japanese-occupied Shanghai, China, during World War II. After the production's many workshops in Delaware, New York City and Arizona, the Delaware audience will see the new version presented in the style of a musical in concert with a chamber orchestra and an all-New York City cast. Pre-concert talks with Shanghai Ghetto survivor Betty Grebenschikoff and Shanghai Sonatas creators and performers will take place from 1:30-2:30 p.m. before each show.
Combining musical theatre and live classical music, Shanghai Sonatas is conceptualized, produced and composed by violinist Xiang Gao, UD Trustees Distinguished Professor of Music. "My passion for promoting education, diversity and US-China relations inspired me to create Shanghai Sonatas, which is the most complicated and elaborate musical production that I have done in my 25 years of producing, composing, and performing," said Xiang Gao. Other creators include Master Players Playwright-In-Residence Alan Goodson; lyricist Joyce Hill Stoner; stage director Chongren Fan, artistic director of the Yangtze Repertory Theatre; music director and orchestrator Asher Denburg: and Stephen DeAngelis, casting director.
Austin Ku (SOFT POWER, PACIFIC OVERTURES) stars as violinist Benny Dao. The New York-based cast also includes: Henry Yuk (AWAKE AND SING! at the Public, MARVEL'S IRON FIST), Leenya Rideout (COMPANY, WILD ABANDON at Irish Rep), Cooper Grodin (PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, LES MISÉRABLES), Adam B. Shapiro (FIDDLER ON THE ROOF IN YIDDISH, HBO'S THE NORMAL HEART) Stephanie Lynne Mason (FIDDLER ON THE ROOF IN YIDDISH, MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET), George Dvorsky (THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, PETE 'N' KEELY), Clayton Matthews (SWEENEY TODD, JOSEPH), Joanne Javien (THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE, MAMMA MIA), Neal Mayer (LES MISÉRABLES, HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME), Joanne Borts (ONCE, FIDDLER ON THE ROOF IN YIDDISH), Bebe Browning (BLISS, FIRST DATE) Tiffany Toh (MISS SAIGON), Luis Ramos (LITTLE BUNNY FOO FOO, IN THE HEIGHTS) and Samantha Gao. Kristine Schlachter is Production Stage Manager and Miriam Hyfler is Assistant Stage Manager.
The story follows a modern-day Chinese-American concert violinist who learns how his grandfather learned classical music while traveling in Shanghai. He finds that when he plays restored violins from the Jewish Ghetto, he is transported back to WWII to follow the wartime experience of the Jewish refugees who had arrived at the only city that accepted them - Shanghai, China. Among them were 450 world-renowned classical musicians who suffered in the Shanghai Ghetto under Japanese occupation. While waiting for their families and friends to arrive, they trained many of the first generation of Chinese classical musicians. Their music kept them alive and bridged the connection between the survivors and the local people. "We are all one people, as human beings, and when one group of people suffers, I believe we all suffer in a certain way," says Alan Goodson, book writer of the musical. "It affects the soul of all humanity."
Shanghai Sonatasis a 120-minute, 2-act musical featuring 12 original songs performed by a cast of 14. The performance includes a chamber orchestra in addition to instrumental music performed by actors on stage. The creators of Shanghai Sonatashave found cross-sections between genres and cultures, exploring interconnections between classical music, art songs, Broadway musicals, and Peking opera. The result is a fusion of musical styles including Chinese and Jewish traditional, Classical, musical theatre, and styles from the 1930s.
With 75 years between today and the atrocities of WWII, the truth of the Holocaust is becoming vague for many. A 2018 studycommissioned by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany revealed 11% of all US adults and 22% of Millenials (adults ages 18 to 34) haven't heard or are not sure if they have heard of the Holocaust. While approximately 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust, nearly one third of Americans (31%) and 41% of Millenials believe that the actual death toll was two million or fewer.
Single tickets are available now by phone or online through the Master Players website. Tickets for events are $25 for adults; $20 for senior adults, alumni, faculty and staff; and $5 for students with ID. Special $5 price for students is supported by a private donation. For more information including driving directions, parking, and dining information, visit the Master Players website.