Mulan, Jr.

MulanBy Walt deFaria

DISNEY’S animated film Mulan, based on a true story from ancient China, was a modest motion picture success that took a fresh look at the place of women in an ancient paternal society. Now a stage musical version of the film has turned up in children’s theaters everywhere.

PacRep’s School of Dramatic Arts (SoDA) has mounted Disney’s Mulan, Jr. in a beautifully produced version that features some of the best young talent around the Monterey Peninsula. As live family entertainment goes, the production is an absolute joy.

Stephen Schwartz and Jeanine Tesori are the lead composers of the score in Patricia Cotter’s adaptation of the original book by Robert D. San Souci.

Mulan is the story of a young girl who goes to war disguised as a man to keep her infirm father from being called to duty—a rather simple plot. Mulan plays a soldier, proves that brains are often better than brute force, and meets her true love on the battlefield. There are a few moments when the storyline is a bit muddled but that is offset by the genuine enthusiasm of the cast.

Directed with a delightful sense of humor and drama by Gracie Poletti, with charming choreography by Gloria Elber, the cast of 77 youngsters—go ahead count them—perform with a professionalism that is wonderful to behold. Special note must be made of the “Huns” who attack the emperor’s kingdom. A more delightful bag of miniature villains in fantastic wigs I have never seen.

There are two casts, but the leads I saw included the charming, lovely-voiced Mia Pak as Mulan and a strong Cameron Poletti as the soldier Shang who captures her heart. The comedic role of Mushu the Dragon was performed perfectly by Mia Poletti. Kevin Matsumoto, Colin Hodges, Zane Saddy and Baily Brewer stood out in their roles as did The Wise Ancients played by Lauren Mansour, Eliza Fletcher, Tara Mann, Tess Franscioni and Maddie Mizgorski. Costumes by Ziona Goren and the sets by Patrick McEvoy were picture-perfect.

Mulan, Jr. plays at PacRep’s Golden Bough Playhouse through May 3. This is one to see if you enjoy very talented young people performing fabulously on stage.

Family involvement is big in SoDA productions. For example, the Poletti family is well represented in Mulan, Jr. Gracie teaches and is head of the SoDA program. As it turns out there are a number of children in the show whose parents also work behind the scenes.

Photo by Stephen Moorer