David Stone
Growing Stronger, A Monkey King Swings Back To Roosevelt Island

When The Monkey King premiered on Roosevelt Island, the MST&DA/Common Man Musicals effort served a dual purpose of showcasing local talent and nurturing a promising new musical created by Jonathan and Kimbirdlee Fadner, MST&DA's Assistant Executive Director. Evidence of its success will hit the Howe Theatre stage again in August.

Theatre is all about collaboration, and if anything gets credit for the progress of The Monkey King, from wild idea to professional staging, it's the Fadners' gift for working with a wide range of talents and resources to bring new music and a contemporary twist to reality.

As their press release describes it, "The Monkey King is a theatrical retelling of an ancient Chinese legend infused with a clever storyline and heart-pumping music.  The legend has entertained all ages for centuries with a cast of mythical creatures that can transform and transcend earthly realms and triumph amidst epic battles.  But can you imagine what happens when the King is born and he is… a woman...?"

Support seeding the emerging work is wide-ranging. It's "sponsored in part by Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance through the use of their theatre, and the Queens Council on the Arts through their 2018 New Works Grant."

Steven Eng returns to direct.
Steven Eng returns to direct.
Photo courtesy of Common Man Musicals

If The Monkey King eventually reaches "wider audiences," a goal that encompasses Broadway in a longer view, it will be remembered as getting its start on Roosevelt Island in the Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance's Children's Theatre.

Kids trained at MST&DA had great fun with it, putting on a show for packed audiences in May and giving the creative team a chance to see their ideas played out live.

"The Fadners’ score and libretto has been expanded from the Children’s theatre version and will introduce more language and music for a savvy and sharp professional cast," Common Man Musicals says, "while maintaining the original concept and freshness."

Eleven actors are engaged, playing multiple roles, in "an Equity Showcase, treated like a work in progress with a strong focus on the story-telling along with minimal set and costume design." (An Equity Showcase allows for relaxed union rules to help promote new works that lead to more jobs for casts and crews.)

Among the professionals are Roosevelt Islanders Russ Cusick and Joan Marie. Kimbirdlee Fadner plays the title role she helped create while Steven Eng, a Lortell Award nominee, returns to direct, following up the successful, also original Common Man Musicals's Northanger Abbey.

The stage is set for The Monkey King performances starting Friday, August 3rd at 8:00 with and continuing with three more through the weekend. It's expected to sell out on its path through Roosevelt Island.

Tickets for The Monkey King are available now. Click here to reserve.