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3 Chinese-inspired Musicals to Watch if You Like Hamilton

It’s been a week since Hamilton opened in the Philippines, and there’s no doubt that everyone loved what was going on in the room where it happened! Masterfully showcasing the life story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton, the popular hit musical, whose cast includes Chinay singer Rachelle Ann Go as Elizabeth Schuyler, received rave reviews the moment it premiered in The Theatre at Solaire. 

Of course, with all the Hamilton fever buzzing around, it’s only inevitable that you would delve deeper into the world of musical theatre, right? We completely understand, dear reader. In fact, now that we’re in the midst of celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival, why not take a second to check out musicals that highlight Chinese culture?

Check out the amazing soundtracks and performances of our favorite Chinese-themed musicals here: 


Flower Drum Song

Based on the 1957 novel of the same name, Flower Drum Song details the lives of a family of Chinese immigrants who had moved to the United States to escape communism. As one of the first representations of Asian culture in musical theater, the production was widely recognized for its focus on the theme of cultural clashes and intergenerational struggles, following the stories of a Chinese father holding on to his traditional values and a son readily embracing American culture. 

Since its Broadway premiere in 1958, the show was not only adapted to be the first Hollywood film to showcase a majority Asian-American cast but also nominated for a grand total of six Tony Awards, bagging the Best Conductor and Musical category. 

Although Flower Drum Song has rarely been reproduced afterward due to concerns of stereotypical portrayals of Chinese culture, the musical was successfully revived on Broadway in 2002, featuring the performances of Filipino-American Jose Llana and the Tony Award-winning Lea Salonga. 

Check out Lea Salonga’s rendition of “The Next Time It Happens” from Flower Drum Song here: 


Mulan Jr. 

That’s right — this one-act musical is based on the 1998 animated Disney film Mulan! Developed as part of the Music Theatre International’s (MTI) Broadway Junior series, which adapts musicals and Disney productions into shorter half-hour or one-hour productions for young artists to perform in, Mulan Jr. follows the titular heroine Fa Mulan as she disguises herself as a man to take her father’s place in the army. 

Fans of the Disney classic will be pleased to know that the production not only features all of the film’s iconic songs but also two previously deleted numbers from the animated feature’s original soundtrack. Although the production is currently not available in MTI Broadway Jr., Mulan Jr. is currently being considered as a re-release, so best keep your eyes peeled!

In the meantime, those interested may check out local performances of the musical by Repertory Philippines here: 


Binondo: A Tsinoy Musical 

Let’s give our local productions some more love! Exploring the quintessential themes of forbidden love in spite of racial discrimination, political turbulence, and intercultural clashes, Binondo is a personal ode to the memories of its creative producer, Rebecca Chuaunsu. As a second-generation immigrant, Chuaunsu shared her recollections of a Chinese professor’s romance to a Filipina after being encouraged by her mentor Joel Lamangan, who had previously been involved in five out of seven Mano Po films — some of the most notable works on Chinoy culture to this day. 

The resulting project was Binondo, which followed a pre-Martial Law era love story between Lily, a Filipino nightclub singer, and Ah Tiong, a scholar from mainland China. Carlos, who serves as the secondary love interest, is also a local Chinese-Filipino who is confronted with his turbulent feelings for Lily. 

Binondo first premiered at The Theatre in Solaire in June 2018 and received a second rerun in July 2019. Check out a preview of the musical here: 


Bonus: Over the Moon

The 2020 Netflix film Over the Moon may not be an actual Broadway musical yet, but that doesn’t mean that its soundtrack is any less worthy of a listen! Perfect for celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival, Over the Moon is a gorgeously animated musical feature that follows a young Chinese girl’s adventure as she flies on a self-built rocket to the moon. 

Impressively, Over the Moon features the voices of an all-Asian cast, including that of Philipa Soo — aka the OG Elizabeth Schuyler on Hamilton’s Broadway production. Chinoy-American actress Cathy Ang, whose credits include Jin Hee from the original Off-Broadway production of KPOP the Musical, also provided strong amazing performances as the film’s main character Fei Fei.

To promote the film in the Philippines, Netflix tapped Julie Ann San Jose for a spectacular cover of the song “Rocket to the Moon.” Check out the performance here:


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