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Alumnus discusses role in Asian cast production of ‘Mamma Mia!’

Alumnus Andrew Ge features as part of the ensemble in East West Players’ production of “Mamma Mia!” despite having very little experience with musicals. This version of “Mamma Mia!” is especially meaningful for Ge because, with an all Asian American cast, it was a chance for them to take the spotlight rather than being reduced to secondary and background characters, he said. (Courtesy of Steven Lam)

"Mamma Mia!"

Through June 16

David Henry Hwang Theater

Prices vary

By Olivia Mazzucato

May 28, 2019 12:25 am


Daily Bruin reporter

UCLA alumnus Andrew Ge had acted for film and television, but he had never been in a musical when he attended the open call auditions for “Mamma Mia!”

However, Ge had a background in live performance while at UCLA – he had been a part of the marching band, Samahang Modern dance crew and the UCLA Chorale and Chamber Singers. Ge was cast in the ensemble of East West Players’ production of the ABBA musical, starring a predominantly Asian cast, which runs at the David Henry Hwang Theater until June 16.

Ge discussed his role, the atmosphere of the production and the show’s larger cultural context with the Daily Bruin’s Olivia Mazzucato.

Daily Bruin: Being in the ensemble means something different for every musical. What does it mean in particular for “Mamma Mia!” and what do you do?

Andrew Ge: (This cast) is technically the largest cast for East West … but I think in the grand scheme of “Mamma Mia!” productions, it’s actually relatively small. We have the major dance productions that we’re all in and then when we’re not on stage singing … we’re singing in all the songs’ background. … It kind of almost just feels like we’re people living in this city, in this town, and we’re just kind of going about our daily routine of just moving stuff around.

DB: How does this compare to other productions that you’ve worked on?

AG: Definitely having an all-Asian POC cast … that is just something on its own. Even working on TV and film stuff, commercial stuff, it’s rare to be in that sort of environment and I think the sort of camaraderie and family that we built within this production is something that I have never experienced before.

DB: “Mamma Mia!” isn’t a musical or story defined by race, but it’s often cast predominantly white. What was the impact of having Asian American performers in a show that historically hasn’t been inclusive and in a story that doesn’t necessarily center identity?

AG: A lot of the times you’ll read a story … and we automatically default to Caucasian … that’s just something that’s been rooted in our heads for so long … I think because of the history of entertainment and the media, especially Asians, we have always seen ourselves in the background, we’ve never really seen ourselves portrayed in these stories. So it was really amazing to look at this story up close and be like, “Wait, there’s nothing really that makes this family have to be a white family.”

A lot of the story elements (were) very similar to Filipino culture and this makes sense how this family would act in this way. I think it was just amazing how well everything just translated, how well we could all relate to just being a family and not having to view it by racial standards.

DB: Do you have any favorite moments from rehearsal or the show?

AG: This was maybe like a couple weeks into rehearsal, but we all got dinner at Park’s Finest – it’s a Filipino restaurant. And it was towards the end of the day and pretty much after everyone had left, we were just sitting, eating, chatting and stuff, they played “Dancing Queen” and we all just went nuts. We all jumped up, we were like, “Oh, my God!” and we just started dancing and singing at the top of our lungs in the restaurant. It was just one of those magical moments that I just don’t think you would necessarily get on any other production, at least with any other cast. I think this one’s very, very special.

Email Mazzucato at [email protected] or tweet @omariamazzucato

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Olivia Mazzucato
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