Filipino Vocal Power! Deedee Magno Hall & Clifton Hall Sing the Crap Out of Everything!

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Married couple/musical theater stars Deedee Magno Hall and Clifton Hall have been on my mind lately—or, actually, in my ear. I recently saw them in the East West Players (EWP) production of the rock musical, Next to Normal, in Los Angeles, and that's what most of this post is about. But first:

Since most of this blog's readership is international, I do want those people who are unfamiliar with Deedee and Clifton to be properly introduced to them—by way of their singing voices.

Here they are, performing "As Long as You're Mine" from Wicked, which they both were cast in, on one of the musical's national tours. Watch:


That vocal power is quintessentially Filipino! (Deedee is Filipino American, and Clifton is Filipino Japanese Caucasian American.)

Okay, so back to Next to Normal.

Can I be honest with you? When I saw Next to Normal at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles a few years ago, I actively disliked it.

The sometimes unpleasant music (doesn't anyone believe in pretty melodies any more?!) and sometimes overwrought story of mental illness within a middle-class American family were elements that I just couldn't get into. I checked out early on.

Theatergoers know that, yes, there's nothing quite like a great play, but, oh my god, there's nothing quite as bad as a bad play.


This was also during a time in America when racial diversity in arts and entertainment was even more of a struggle than it is today. I sat there, watching and thinking, "Ugh! White people and their problems!"

Once again, I have to say loud and clear: I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST WHITE PEOPLE. I know white people, I like white people, I've slept with white people. (Ha ha ha! That joke never gets old.) (According to me.)

But I've been watching white people Go Through Things my entire life—on screen, on stage, everywhere I turn. And, yes, some of their problems are universal. And, yes, I have laughed with them, cried with them, empathized with them deeply.

But, you know, once in a while, I want to be represented on stage and screen too. Role models are vital in a person of color's personal development, NO MATTER WHAT AGE YOU ARE. It's the difference between empowerment and isolation.

If we lived in a post-racial society, then I wouldn't care so much. But that is not this country yet. I didn't make race a thing in America. You made race a thing in America. (And by "you," I mean the people who overtly or subtly discriminate on the basis of race or perpetuate racial stereotypes.)

It's the 2000s, and even well-intentioned strangers make "jokes" TO MY FACE about if I do martial arts (no) or I look like Jackie Chan (I don't) or I remind them of William Hung, communicated by them chanting, "she bangs, she bangs," when I appear before them (fuck you).



Yes, I know that white people get made fun of and get bullied to. And I know that their problems are real problems. You know how I know this? Because 99% of American movies, TV shows, and plays show me this, show me about the struggle of white people.

I get it. I really do. I know a lot about white people. When I was kid, when it came to entertainment, I had no other option than to learn about white culture.

I'm older now, and I don't want to stop learning.

But I also want to learn about other things too, other people too. I want to learn about me. I want to learn about my family. I want to learn about black people, Latino people, Native American people, etc. Why? Because these people are the people who populate MOST OF THE ENTIRE WORLD.


I don't know how the hell I got on this tangent.

This post is actually about how I LOVED Next to Normal at East West Players. An Asian-American cast takes over the story, and I suddenly care in a way that I didn't before.

You know why? Because depression and mental illness is not really talked about in the Asian-American community, even though it's much more prevalent than we think. Also, it's been reported that Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek out mental-health services than their Caucasian counterparts.

Also, this time around, I LOVED the music. While the first few songs are admittedly difficult to get into, sweet melodies do kick in, and I found myself humming some of those tunes during intermission and after the show.

And, as I mention in the title of this post, Deedee Magno Hall and Clifton Hall sing the crap out of everything! Their voices are powerful, persuasive, and capture the raw emotion of people dealing with lives that are spinning out of control.

Here's an interview with Deedee and Clifton about working on Next to Normal. Watch:


I also have to give a big shout-out to Scott Takeda, who's perfectly cast as a romantic high school kid, who's got tons of charm to spare. I worked with Scott on my production of Mysterious Skin at EWP many years ago, and it's great to see him on that stage again.

Here's an interview with Scott. Watch:


[Next to Normal is running until June 11, 2017, in Los Angeles.]

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BAMBOO NATION: Filipino Vocal Power! Deedee Magno Hall & Clifton Hall Sing the Crap Out of Everything!
Filipino Vocal Power! Deedee Magno Hall & Clifton Hall Sing the Crap Out of Everything!
Deedee Magno Hall & Clifton Hall star in Next to Normal at East West Players in Los Angeles.
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