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LA Theater Review

Krunk Fu Battle Battle

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This delightful hip-hop musical—with book by Qui Nguyen, lyrics by Beau Sia, music by Marc Macalintal, and additional dance music by Jason Tyler Chong and Rynan Paguio—is an entertaining, if frothy, dance spectacle with an Asian-American twist. While the plot is whisper thin, and the music and lyrics are mostly forgettable, the energetic and talented dance troupes make for a lively, fun evening.

Set in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, it is the story of teenager Norman Lee (Lawrence Kao), who has recently moved from Connecticut with his mother, Jean (Joan Almedilla). The preppy Norman suffers major culture shock as he is thrown into the tough gang culture of Brooklyn. When he challenges a gang leader (Leng Phe) to a dance-off, Norman's future seems bleak. The only ray of hope is a beautiful young girl (Liza B. Domingo), whom he develops a crush on, and an older neighborhood denizen (Blas Lorenzo), who promises to teach him how to dance.

The piece relies on a series of fast-moving dance numbers, which highlight the skill, agility, and individual talents of each of the performers. Choreographer Jason Tyler Chong mixes elements of Asian-American culture into the all-American hip-hop style, as each dancer not only marks out his or her dance territory, but also weaves a narrative through dancing. Musically and lyrically, there is not much that stands out, with the exception of the inventive ballad "We Will Get There" as the two young lovers meet for the first time and exchange tentative, teasing flirtations.

The acting is solid, with strong performances by Kao, Domingo, Almedilla, and Lorenzo. Matt Tayao and Evan Moua are outstanding in secondary roles, and excellent dancing performances are turned in by Cesar Cipriano, Leng Phe, Megumi Tatsumikawa, and Troy Terashita, along with the rest of the company. Director Tim Dang has guided the production with a graceful hand, allowing the young performers enough space to express their exuberance in the dancing.

Presented by East West Players at the David Henry Hwang Theater, Union Center for the Arts, 120 Judge John Aiso St., L.A. May 18–June 26. Wed.–Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (213) 625-7000. www.eastwestplayers.org.

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