Written by David Henry Huang, who worked on famous plays and musicals such as M. Butterfly, Aida, Tarzan, and Yellow Face, enter what feels like a very Inception-like play about a musical based on a real story. David, a real Chinese-American man, fell in love with the popular Rodger and Hammerstein’s The King and I, but noted it’s odd story. A white Englishwoman travels to Siam, this “uncivilized” third-world, originally as a governess, but somehow knows how to “properly” rule a country and bring it into the family of greater nations. It was a diffverent time when this show was first created, but David decided to flip the switch. What if instead of Caucasian and European cultures being educated and enlightened, it was actually Asia that dominated the world? What if today’s world leaders learned a thing or two from Chinese culture to make their societies better?
This idea is then born into Soft Power quite literally: the show starts with a character named David Henry Huang (played by Francis Jue) based off of the real David and creator of the show. While floating in and out of fantasy and reality, this show is riddled with catchy songs, irreverent dance numbers, accurate Chinese language pronunciation, and of course political banter. A core event of the show is the 2016 election, which as David portrays was a dangerous time to be an immigrant in America, even though he had been born here and had live here his whole life. This show is full of political jokes, lots of large semi-automatic riffles, Budweiser, and other classic American icons that what make our country great. As a quick disclaimer, the show was predominantly one-sided and very, very blue, so perhaps it is not the best for easily offended conservatives.
Overall, it was a fantastic show. When first going into the theatre, I did not really know what it was going to be about besides Chinese culture. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t much actual Chinese culture in it; I was expecting real Peking Opera scenes or mostly Chinese dialogue. However, I did appreciate that it was an all-Asian cast for all of the Asian roles. It did get a little too political and satirical at times, but it quickly pulled you back at just the right times. The cast was extremely talented and the sets filled up the small Curran stage appropriately. You will feel moved, you will feel inspired, and you will laugh a lot when you go see this show.
Come catch Soft Power while it’s still here! You get to see Hillary Clinton dance, so if that doesn’t sell you on the show, then I’m not really sure what else will.