Playwright Lauren Yee (center) with Honorary Producers Sam & Tammy Tang and Carolyn & Bill Klein at the First Night of Cambodian Rock Band.
From the opening melody delivered by the band The Cyclos, Cambodian Rock Band captured the attention of the First Nights audience and never let up, delivering two-plus hours of extraordinary performances, incredible live music, thrilling suspense and much more.
Along with laughter and some tears, the audience showed their appreciation with enthusiastic applause and an immediate standing ovation. It was obvious that theatregoers instantly connected with Lauren Yee’s new play, which originated as an SCR CrossRoads Initiative Commission. With a talented cast led by Brooke Ishibashi as Neary/Sothea and Joe Ngo as Chum, the entire ensemble delivered impressive performances while transporting the audience to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, during two different time periods—the 1970s and 2008. The rest of the cast included Abraham Kim, Raymond Lee, Jane Lui and Daisuke Tsuji. For the encore, the cast invited the Long Beach-based band, Dengue Fever (whose music is used in the play) to joint them onstage—greeted with wild enthusiasm by the crowd.
First Night attendees and Honorary Producers Samuel and Tammy Tang greatly enjoyed the play, "Lauren Yee’s Cambodian Rock Band rocks the Julianne Argyros Stage with multi-talented musical actors who weave an intense, mesmerizing story of Cambodian surf rock music, a country ravaged by political disruption, and the intricacies of a father/daughter relationship. Haunting, humorous, tender and riveting!"
Honorary Producers Carolyn and Bill Klein were also in attendance and commented, "Through this play, Lauren Yee helps us explore some dark corners of life, applicable to many other cultures as well, with insight and understanding beyond her years while leaving us uplifted with good humor and music."
Guests who attended the cast party, which was held at SCR’s Ela’s Terrace, were welcomed to a vibrant tableau featuring a colorful palette of orange, purple and green shades, as Cambodian psychedelic surf-rock music played in the background. Saffron Starlight linen-covered tables and tall glass vases filled with beautiful floral décor consisting of orchids, red ginger and heliconia—accented by an abundance of greenery—set the scene for a stylish evening.
Crème de la Crème provided the catering for the celebratory soiree, which featured a menu inspired by delicious Asian cuisine. Guests enjoyed passed hors d’ouevres such as lemongrass-marinated beef skewers with grilled onions, and tofu marinated in chili and citrus with roasted mushrooms on cucumber slices. Other scrumptious dishes that tempted partygoers included red curry chicken on coconut rice cakes, grilled corn with green onion lime butter, shrimp cakes with papaya salad and vegetable spring rolls with mango sauce. For a sweet finish, guests indulged in toasted sesame donuts and coconut pound cake with whipped banana butter cream.
The evening’s signature cocktail was appropriately titled “Ready to Rock!” Comprised of Tito’s Handmade Vodka with mango nectar and lemon juice, the refreshing libation was a fitting tribute to the high-energy production.
First Night guests were thrilled to have the opportunity to meet and mingle with the entire cast amidst the lovely setting at Ela’s Terrace. All the while, lively conversation, laughter and music continued to swirl around Cambodian Rock Band, an electrifying world premiere that has been aptly described as part comedy, part mystery and part rock concert. All in attendance agreed it was a successful evening, as the festive First Night was abuzz with appreciation and acclaim for the cast, crew and playwright Lauren Yee.
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