Thu, Aug 09, 2018 - Page 14 News List

Hua Mulan is back, as feisty as ever

A revamped version of Taiwan’s first homegrown ‘Broadway-style’ production, ‘Mulan the Musical’ is at the National Theater to mark the production’s 10th anniversary

By Diane Baker  /  Staff reporter

Nana Lee, left, stars as Hua Mulan in the 10th anniversary production of Mulan the Musical at the National Theater in Taipei.

Photo: CNA

Ten years after its debut as a National Taiwan University theater department production, Mulan the Musical (木蘭少女), Taiwan’s most successful Broadway-style musical export, is packing them in at National Theater in Taipei as part of a new tour to celebrate its anniversary.

The show opened on Saturday last week and runs through Sunday.

Created by three wunderkinds, including two of the leading lights of the Tainaner Ensemble (台南人劇團) — playwright/director Tsai Po-chang (蔡柏璋) and Lu Po-shen (呂柏伸) — alongside Owen Wang (王希文), founder of theater company Studio M, the retelling of the story of the legendary woman warrior from China’s Northern and Southern dynasties period, Hua Mulan (花木蘭).

Tsai first wrote Mulan as a stage play, which took first prize in a literary contest organized by the Tainan City Cultural Affairs Bureau in 2007.

The original Chinese Ballad of Mulan, or poem, was a morality tale about the virtues of filial piety, with Mulan deciding to take the place of her father in the army when each family is obligated to send one male to serve: Her father is elderly and her brother is too young. She wants to make a name for her family and serves 12 years without her fellow soldiers realizing she is a woman.

However, Tsai decided to shake the story up and give it a Taiwanese twist, even though the musical version would retain costumes designed to reflect historical outfits.

In his retelling, Hua Mulan is no eager heroine, she is more interested in the easy life of shopping. However, it comes down to a choice between her, her younger brother who is gay, and her sister, who has an illegitimate child. Needless to say, Mulan is forced to enlist.

Performance Notes

WHAT: Mulan the Musical

WHEN: Tonight through Saturday at 7:30pm, Sunday at 2:30pm

WHERE: National Theater (國家戲劇院), 21-1 Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei City (台北市中山南路21-1號)

ADMISSION: Only seats left are in the NT$2,000 to NT$3,300 range, available at NTCH box offices, online at and at convenience store ticketing kiosks. Tomorrow night’s show has the widest choice of seats left.

In the army, she faces several battles, and not just from China’s enemies. While struggling to keep her true identity hidden, she has to deal with a pair of would-be suitors: a childhood friend who does not recognize Mulan, falls for her even though he is straight, as well as a gay general.

Tsai’s script pokes fun at Taiwan’s military culture and family life, and raises questions about gender identity and having children outside of wedlock. The script was designed to invoke laughs, but also inspire thought.

Tsai brought Wang onboard to help turn his play into a musical for National Taiwan University’s Department of Drama and Theatre’s 10th anniversary.

Wang’s original score used rock, rhythm and blues, Chinese folk music plus some jazz and classical influences to create a score of catchy tunes and dance numbers, although for this latest version he did some rearrangements and amped up the pop side in a bid to appeal to younger audiences.

This anniversary production, which wowed audiences in Singapore during a two-month run and in Taichung last month, features two former participants in the One Million Star (超級星光大道) singing contest, Nana Lee (李千娜), Hua Mulan, and Chou Ting-wei (周定緯), at the head of a 26-member cast.

Wang will be conducting the orchestra for the shows.

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