Friday, May 20, 2011

'Krunk Fu Battle Battle' Will Make You Want To Dance Dance

Wednesday night I was lucky enough to be invited to East West Players for the opening of their latest production, 'Krunk Fu Battle Battle,' and I can emphatically say it was one of the most fun, energetic live shows I've seen in a long time. (Although I should qualify my statement with, "which didn't feature anyone I was related to," since my daughter's high school production of 'Moulin Rouge' ranks first. Until my other daughter's school's upcoming production of 'Tommy,' that is.)

But enough with the nepotism! (Tickets can be purchased for both my daughter's productions through me, however.)

(Cash, checks and credit cards accepted.)

I would describe 'Krunk Fu Battle Battle' as the plot of 'Grease', transposed, set to a hip-hop beat and starring Asians. (I mean that in a good way. I love 'Grease'. And Asians.) A new kid in town, in this case young Norman Lee, competes with the school badass and his b-boy crew for the heart of the sweet, salty Cindy Chang. And what better way to settle the score than with a tightly choreographed, exhilarating, jaw-dropping dance-off? I guarantee it makes John Travolta and Olivia Newton John look like they're standing still.

While the story is certainly one that's been told before, the dancing and the infectious energy in this production is what sets it apart, and judging by the middle-aged man sitting next to me who was on his feet and doing a modified Dougie the entire time, the performers were clearly connecting with the audience. Be prepared to want to dance, sing, and as my husband commented, start working out and stop eating carbs.

(One technical note: I think the volume of the performers and the music could have been much louder. With the type of music used and the setting, turning up the volume could have enveloped the audience even more.)

I'm planning to see 'Krunk Fu Battle Battle' again, and this time I'm bringing my teenage daughters because they'll go crazy over the show's blend of hip-hop dance and club music, but also because it affords them the chance to see Asian performers on stage. In this era of The Last Airbender, Akira and even an upcoming major animated release where whitewashing is unfortunately the trend, 'Krunk Fu Battle Battle' (and all EWP productions) give Asian performers a much-needed opportunity to be seen and heard, and not just in stereotypical roles like the measly few afforded them in film and TV roles. I don't want my kids thinking that their future performing careers depend on their ability to look convincing in thick glasses, play the violin or save the world with an abacus.

And while the show does feature the standard restaurant and dry cleaner owners, it's done here with irony. These heroes are tough, confident, outspoken individuals who, for once, are using their voices and their talents to be heard and recognized. And in this case, their awesome breakdancing gets the girl.

'Krunk Fu Battle Battle' is playing now thru June 26. Click here for more info and to purchase tickets.

8pm Wednesdays thru Saturdays, 2pm. Sundays

David Henry Hwang Theater
at the Union Center for the Arts
(Little Tokyo, downtown L.A.)
120 Judge John Aiso Street,
Los Angeles, CA 90012

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