Ever roguish and handsome, it is easy to wonder what a 21st century Monkey King might look like. Well, wonder no more, as the epic story of the Journey to the West has arrived on Broadway, and will even hit Beijing later this month. With this historic tale reaching its 600th birthday, modern audiences could have had a hard time relating, but have no fear, the classic has been retold by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, creators of the super group Gorillaz, using their signature fusion of hip-hop, pop, electronica and rock.
On the acting side, the show itself is performed in Mandarin with English subtitles but there is very little dialogue to translate, according to director Chen Shi-Zheng. Concentrating on reaching as an wide an audience as possible, he is focusing mainly on the action and the art of the performance. Chen took six months to find Chinese circus members trained in traditional Chinese styles, such as balancing, spinning aerial silks, and tossing Chinese yo-yos, so as to create the 110 minute modern retelling of an ancient tale.
Though the cast is entirely Chinese, the lead will change on arriving in China, and an African-American actor, singer and dancer, named Apollo Levine will join the cast. Tony Sitmac the producer (and now director) wanted to “increase the universality” of the story. The Monkey King is a mischievous character always looking to challenge the status quo, which any young person can relate to; and the development the Monkey King goes through to become complete, mirrors the development we all go through, as we grow and learn to adapt to the ever-changing world and become better people. So, get ready people, the Monkey King is up to his old tricks, and it is set to be quite the show.
Image courtesy of Youku