Born on Roosevelt Island, The Monkey King Swings Into 2023

Born on Roosevelt Island, The Monkey King Swings Into 2023

It’s the spring of 2018, and The Monkey King: A Kung-Fu Musical makes its debut at the Howe Theatre on Roosevelt Island. Commissioned by Kristi Towey at the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance (MSTDA), it’s a lively reversal played off a famous Chinese novel, Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. It ran strong until COVID-19 slowed everything to a crawl.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Photography: Irina Hage, Irina Island Images

In a clever twist, Jonathan and Kimbirdlee Fadner’s creative partnership reimagined the hero as a heroine – a female Monkey King.

After its rousing debut on Roosevelt Island, The Monkey King marched steadily toward an imaginable Broadway breakthrough. Both the writing and the music are high-energy and artistically well-realized. Audiences loved it.

But not long after performances as far away as the West Coast, the show ran into an obstacle that could not be shoved aside: COVID-19, the two-year-long pandemic that smothered public performances across the world.

The Monkey King Pressed On

While the wife and husband team of Kimbirdlee and Jonathan Fadner co-wrote the story, he composed the music while she led the singing and acting. Steven Eng directed the first performance in 2018 and is onboard again for next weekend at the Queens Theatre.

The latest version of the musical hits the stage on the 11th and the 12th of February with tickets are on sale here.

The perseverance of the creative team and its evolving cast can’t be overstated. Surviving the pandemic was a gigantic achievement. But bringing the show back to life with renewed energy and force carries with it the promise of a bright future.

The Monkey King: A Kung-Fu Musical in rehearsal at the Howe Theatre on Roosevelt Island, Kimbirdlee Fadner is the lead role at the center. Photographer: Irina Hage, Irina Island Images

The Monkey King: A Kung-Fu Musical stars Sarah Lam Chiu as Guan Yin, Kimbirdlee Fadner as The Monkey King, Ellis Gage as Jade Emperor, Brian Jose as Demon of Havoc, Charles Pang as Immortal Teacher, Gage Thomas as Dragon King, Bella Villanueva as Jogo and Annie Yamamoto as Ganjuwai.

Don’t miss the adventure as the first-ever female Monkey King battles against Heaven and Earth’s most treacherous foes to save her tribe and achieve immortality. With a cast of memorable characters, a mix of classical and rock music, and kung-fu style choreography – this is an action adventure come to life, a heartfelt and inspiring story perfect for the entire family!

Queens Theatre Press Release.

We couldn’t agree more. Jonathan and Kimbirdlee Fadner, the casts and creative teams they assemble, never disappoint.

But you can see for yourself, next weekend. Performances are at 3:00, a family-friendly time, on both Saturday and Sunday, and tickets are available right now.

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