Asia Society cast of HEADING EAST in rehearsalConcert cast of HEADING EAST in rehearsal, 2010.

HEADING EAST

A musical

Music by LEON KO
Book and Lyrics by ROBERT LEE

Music by LEON KO
Book and Lyrics by ROBERT LEE

  • News

    Open or Close
    La Jolla Playhouse presented a reading of HEADING EAST in New York City on April 10, 2013, co-directed by BD Wong and Robert Lee with musical direction by Kevin Stites and featuring Cindy Cheung, Jackie Chung, Lori Tan Chinn, Deborah S. Craig, Andrew Cristi, Daniel J Edwards, Steven Eng, Brooke Ishibashi, Kennedy Kanagawa, Windson Liong, Hazel Anne Raymundo, Thom Sesma and BD Wong.
  • Synopsis

    Open or Close
    John D. Rockefeller... Henry Ford... Abraham Lincoln: self-made men who rose from humble beginnings to become shining examples of the American dream. Add to those ranks would-be tycoon Siu Yee Tong, a brazen young Chinaman who arrives on American shores in 1849 determined to be its next success story. Part Andrew Carnegie and part Archie Bunker, the impulsive, abrasive Siu Yee quickly discovers the joys of American entrepreneurship, building a thriving business on the backs of his struggling, misery-prone countrymen.

    HEADING EAST tells the story of Siu Yee’s madcap quest over the next 15 decades to defend his newly minted identity against the onslaught of 150 years of tumultuous American history (although the narrative spans nearly a century and a half, the characters age over the course of a single lifetime).

    As our enterprising protagonist transforms his business from a modest peddler’s wagon in Gold Rush-era San Francisco to the “most American” purveyor of Oriental goods in 1980s Chinatown, he bears witness—often cluelessly—to such events as the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Great San Francisco Earthquake, two World Wars, the Red Scare, the conflict in Vietnam and the microcomputer revolution. He is accompanied by his tradition-bound wife Lee Fung, who disapproves of his obsession with all things American, his hapless friend Ma, whose inability to shed his Chinese peasant ways keeps him perpetually one step below on the socio-economic ladder, Ma’s long-suffering wife, who drowns her sorrows in composing bad Chinese poetry, and Michiko, a progressive-minded Japanese picture bride determined to make a difference in the world.

    With each scene comes a new decade, new family challenges, and new competition in the form of successive waves of immigrants out to cheat Siu Yee of his piece of the American pie (or so he would claim). But persist Siu Yee does—family, friends and “tradition” be damned—until he at last achieves his dream of citizenship... only to find himself aimless, adrift and alone. The irreverent historical picaresque takes on a more serious tone in Act Two as our hero tries in vain to reclaim all he’s left behind.

    In a final confrontation with the spirits of his past, the disillusioned Siu Yee comes to see that his story—that of an outsider leaving home, yearning to become something more—is in fact not his alone but the quintessential American story: far from being a failure, he became an American the moment he set foot on the boat that would carry him to a life of untold possibility. “Finding out that feeling different means that you belong,” the spirits sing to him as he at last embraces his place in the American tapestry.
  • Production history

    Open or Close
    The first version of HEADING EAST was first performed at East West Players with the following cast:

    Reggie De Leon (MA, YOUNG VOICE); Chanel Akiko Hirai (CHINESE MUSICIAN, MINER, MA’S WIFE); Alvin Ing (YEH-YEH); Yumi Iwama (MRS. NG, JASMINE, RALLYGOER 1, MRS. LAI); Radmar Agana Jao (TIMOTHY, SIU YEE); Kurt Kuniyoshi (STOREKEEPER, NATIVE SON 1, IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL, PAK); Emily Kuroda (DIANA, MOTHER); Sabrina Lu (LEE FUNG); Jenny Murano (MICHIKO); Ted Szeto (FORTUNE TELLER, SALESMAN, KO, BANK MANAGER, NATIVE SON 2, IMMIGRANT, KIM, CHARLIE, CARLOS, DR. LAI, RALLYGOER 2); Ke’o Woolford (CHANG), VOICE

    Opening night: May 29, 1998

    Directed by Glen Chin; Musical Direction by Greg Chun; Produced by Roberta Chin; Set Design Akeime Mitterlehner; Costume Designer Dori Quan; Lighting Designer G. Shizuko Herrera; Sound Designer Miles Ono; Property Master Ken Takemoto; Stage Manager Ricardo Figueroa

    ❃ ❃ ❃

    The revised version of HEADING EAST was first presented in concert at Asia Society in New York with the following cast:

    Cindy Cheung (VEGETABLE SELLER, MOTHER HOW, JASMINE, CUSTOMER 2, MRS. LAI); Lydia Gaston (MOTHER); MaryAnn Hu (MA’S WIFE, IRISH GIRL); Fay Ann Lee (LEE FUNG); Ming Lee (STORYTELLER, FORTUNE TELLER, BANK MANAGER, BAILIFF); Angela Lin (PASSING PEASANT, MINER, IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL, CHINESE NEWSBOY, IRISH GIRL, DIANA); Kelvin Moon Loh (STOREKEEPER, KO, CARLOS, JUSTICE, CUSTOMER 1); Manu Narayan (SALESMAN, NATIVE SON, KIM, CUSTOMER 3, DR. LAI); Hazel Anne Raymundo (MICHIKO); Jon Norman Schneider (HOW MING HAW, LEONARD); Rodney To (MA)

    Opening night: May 24, 2010

    Directed by Darren Lee; Music Direction by James Sampliner; Production Design by Lex Liang; Lighting Design by Philip Rosenberg; Sound Design by Leon Rothenberg; General Management by Seth Goldstein; Stage Management by Jenny Slattery

    HEADING EAST Asia Society concert artwork.

  • News

    Open or Close
    La Jolla Playhouse presented a reading of HEADING EAST in New York City on April 10, 2013, co-directed by BD Wong and Robert Lee with musical direction by Kevin Stites and featuring Cindy Cheung, Jackie Chung, Lori Tan Chinn, Deborah S. Craig, Andrew Cristi, Daniel J Edwards, Steven Eng, Brooke Ishibashi, Kennedy Kanagawa, Windson Liong, Hazel Anne Raymundo, Thom Sesma and BD Wong.
  • Synopsis

    Open or Close
    John D. Rockefeller... Henry Ford... Abraham Lincoln: self-made men who rose from humble beginnings to become shining examples of the American dream. Add to those ranks would-be tycoon Siu Yee Tong, a brazen young Chinaman who arrives on American shores in 1849 determined to be its next success story. Part Andrew Carnegie and part Archie Bunker, the impulsive, abrasive Siu Yee quickly discovers the joys of American entrepreneurship, building a thriving business on the backs of his struggling, misery-prone countrymen.

    HEADING EAST tells the story of Siu Yee’s madcap quest over the next 15 decades to defend his newly minted identity against the onslaught of 150 years of tumultuous American history (although the narrative spans nearly a century and a half, the characters age over the course of a single lifetime).

    As our enterprising protagonist transforms his business from a modest peddler’s wagon in Gold Rush-era San Francisco to the “most American” purveyor of Oriental goods in 1980s Chinatown, he bears witness—often cluelessly—to such events as the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, the Great San Francisco Earthquake, two World Wars, the Red Scare, the conflict in Vietnam and the microcomputer revolution. He is accompanied by his tradition-bound wife Lee Fung, who disapproves of his obsession with all things American, his hapless friend Ma, whose inability to shed his Chinese peasant ways keeps him perpetually one step below on the socio-economic ladder, Ma’s long-suffering wife, who drowns her sorrows in composing bad Chinese poetry, and Michiko, a progressive-minded Japanese picture bride determined to make a difference in the world.

    With each scene comes a new decade, new family challenges, and new competition in the form of successive waves of immigrants out to cheat Siu Yee of his piece of the American pie (or so he would claim). But persist Siu Yee does—family, friends and “tradition” be damned—until he at last achieves his dream of citizenship... only to find himself aimless, adrift and alone. The irreverent historical picaresque takes on a more serious tone in Act Two as our hero tries in vain to reclaim all he’s left behind.

    In a final confrontation with the spirits of his past, the disillusioned Siu Yee comes to see that his story—that of an outsider leaving home, yearning to become something more—is in fact not his alone but the quintessential American story: far from being a failure, he became an American the moment he set foot on the boat that would carry him to a life of untold possibility. “Finding out that feeling different means that you belong,” the spirits sing to him as he at last embraces his place in the American tapestry.
  • Production history

    Open or Close
    The first version of HEADING EAST was first performed at East West Players with the following cast:

    Reggie De Leon (MA, YOUNG VOICE); Chanel Akiko Hirai (CHINESE MUSICIAN, MINER, MA’S WIFE); Alvin Ing (YEH-YEH); Yumi Iwama (MRS. NG, JASMINE, RALLYGOER 1, MRS. LAI); Radmar Agana Jao (TIMOTHY, SIU YEE); Kurt Kuniyoshi (STOREKEEPER, NATIVE SON 1, IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL, PAK); Emily Kuroda (DIANA, MOTHER); Sabrina Lu (LEE FUNG); Jenny Murano (MICHIKO); Ted Szeto (FORTUNE TELLER, SALESMAN, KO, BANK MANAGER, NATIVE SON 2, IMMIGRANT, KIM, CHARLIE, CARLOS, DR. LAI, RALLYGOER 2); Ke’o Woolford (CHANG), VOICE

    Opening night: May 29, 1998

    Directed by Glen Chin; Musical Direction by Greg Chun; Produced by Roberta Chin; Set Design Akeime Mitterlehner; Costume Designer Dori Quan; Lighting Designer G. Shizuko Herrera; Sound Designer Miles Ono; Property Master Ken Takemoto; Stage Manager Ricardo Figueroa

    ❃ ❃ ❃

    The revised version of HEADING EAST was first presented in concert at Asia Society in New York with the following cast:

    Cindy Cheung (VEGETABLE SELLER, MOTHER HOW, JASMINE, CUSTOMER 2, MRS. LAI); Lydia Gaston (MOTHER); MaryAnn Hu (MA’S WIFE, IRISH GIRL); Fay Ann Lee (LEE FUNG); Ming Lee (STORYTELLER, FORTUNE TELLER, BANK MANAGER, BAILIFF); Angela Lin (PASSING PEASANT, MINER, IMMIGRATION OFFICIAL, CHINESE NEWSBOY, IRISH GIRL, DIANA); Kelvin Moon Loh (STOREKEEPER, KO, CARLOS, JUSTICE, CUSTOMER 1); Manu Narayan (SALESMAN, NATIVE SON, KIM, CUSTOMER 3, DR. LAI); Hazel Anne Raymundo (MICHIKO); Jon Norman Schneider (HOW MING HAW, LEONARD); Rodney To (MA)

    Opening night: May 24, 2010

    Directed by Darren Lee; Music Direction by James Sampliner; Production Design by Lex Liang; Lighting Design by Philip Rosenberg; Sound Design by Leon Rothenberg; General Management by Seth Goldstein; Stage Management by Jenny Slattery

    HEADING EAST Asia Society concert artwork.

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