Mu reprise of The Walleye Kid: The Musical

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Mu Performing Arts presents a reprise performance of their modern folktale, “The Walleye Kid: The Musical” from January 19 (with preview performances on Jan 17-18) through February 3 on the Ordway’s McKnight stage in St. Paul. This updated version has more surprises and some new stars to go along with some familiar faces.

In the lead role of Annie, Francesca Dawis takes over the role that her older sister Isabella played in the original 2005 production.

January 17-February 3. Show times are 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and a Sunday show at 2:00 p.m. The Sunday, January 27 show will be held at 7:00 p.m.

Tickets are $25 adults and $23 for students and seniors. Group discounts are also available. For reservations call 651-224-4222 or visit www.ordway.org and www.muperformingarts.org.

Rich Shiomi, artistic director, Mu Performing Arts, said that Francesca is a “very serious, spunky and talented actor” who first appeared in the Mu production of Filipino Hearts – along with her sister Isabelle, who was about the same age in her 2005 Walleye performance.

“(Francesca) is a new star and a very mature youngster,” he added. “We have quite bit of familiarity and are pleased to have her in the show. She has the ability to go out there and has that energy and that kind of charisma that her sister has.”

The play centers on Annie, as an adoptee child from Korea now living with a Minnesota couple that has longed for a child and unexpectedly wind up with a baby Korean girl that emerges from the mouth of a colossal walleye while they are ice fishing. Annie is raised in a mix of Asian and North Star culture, where she grows up feeling as though she is not like everyone else. Annie frustration grows until the mysterious walleye returns to take her on a magical journey to the land of her birth.

This musical journey offers a colorful, musical look at Minnesota’s ‘other’ immigrant group, the adoptees, and the unique family relationships created through adoption.

Annie is part of two communities and feels like she belongs to neither. In her adventure she encounters challenges to her identity, her ability to understand her place in two worlds, laced with racism and surprises that pushes her forward to pursue this kind of dream journey back to Korea in search of answers.

The result is a realization and appreciation of her unique identity and her family. The story acknowledges how so many lives in this state are touched through adoption.

“In the end the young girl gains a certain kind of empowerment that she is Korean and American,” said Shiomi.

For playwright Sundraya Kase, writing Walleye Kid was a way to convey her own experience of self-discovery as a Korean adoptee in the Midwest. “I am proud of my Midwestern roots,” she says. “This deep connection to my family and the place we come from has given me the strength to travel far away to places like Korea and still feel centered. That is the lesson that we hoped to instill in Annie’s character.”

The new show is more refined with additions to the story, adjustments to dialogue, lyrics and music, said Shiomi, who said the benefit of having staged the musical once before, gave the writers and cast a chance to use that experience to enhance and improve areas the musical and the story.

It is a revised script and score with many of the original Mu performers, Sherwin Resurreccion, Sara Ochs, Momoko Tanno, Janet Hanson, Jennifer Weir, Bill Gilness, Jennifer Kelley and Arnold Felizardo. Marcus Quiniones, writer and star of the acclaimed 2007 production Circle Around the Island at the Guthrie Theatre, joins the cast for the first time.

The play is directed for the second time by Jon Cranney, a past director of the Children’s Theater. The music was written by Kurt Miyashiro and directed by Anita Ruth.

Shiomi is happier with a bigger stage where they can accomplish more and is very pleased with how this family production is shaping up.

Some of the more noticeable changes come in the Second Act, where the young girl Annie goes to Korea. Her modern-day folk tale now includes a Korean street troop – based on the real life experiences of cast-member Sara Ochs, who traveled to Korea last year and became a sort of technical expert for this contemporary update. The changes lifted the tempo and helped to better tell a metaphorical style story that is based on real life experiences, said Shiomi.

“In some ways Sara was our ‘on the street’ resource and was able to bring in contemporary styles and attitudes of Koreans in Seoul,” he said. “So we have that certain kind of flavor from the streets.”

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