After a particularly boisterous, soccer-filled Saturday, Nick, Mari, Lila, and I made our way into Atlanta last weekend to check out the new stage adaptation of Disney's Mulan at the Alliance Theater. Mulan, the story of a girl who poses as a man, sneaks into the Chinese Army and saves her country, is a favorite around these parts with my girls two diehard fans of Chinese culture and traditions and any story that ends with the girl being a hero. It was an easy bet that Mari and Lila would enjoy this show.
For sure, there was a lot to love in this stage production: The girl power vibes alone make the price of admission worth it. Mulan is a clumsy, awkward girl who is constantly hounded by her family and the ancestors to embrace Chinese tradition, honor her family, and know her place: A girl's sole mission in life should be to marry and have kids. But when her disabled father is called to war against The Huns, Mulan kicks tradition to the curb and, with the help of a wisecracking dragon, transforms herself into a man and devises a sneak attack that ultimately defeats the enemy, saves the emperor, and brings great honor to her family.
The grand costumes, towering puppets and lush set were a treat; my girls were particularly impressed by how the director used lights, material and shadows to create an avalanche on stage, and they enjoyed singing along with Mulan (Leslie Bellair), who powered through a beautiful rendition of Reflection. Of course, Mushu, (Bernard Jones) with his tart tongue and gospel pipes, was quite the hit, too.
I dug the tender moments and lessons that informed the play, particularly the message that while holding fast to traditions is honorable, extending love to others is the ultimate way to honor them. I also appreciated the extremely diverse cast, but would have liked to see at least a few Asians on the stage, considering this play was set in ancient China. I also would have appreciated just a few more specific cultural touches that spanned beyond the broader themes of tradition, honor, and the importance of heroism; with a rapt audience of children, it would have been a win-win to incorporate into the play, say, a bit of the language or a few specific Chinese customs something the kids could have taken away with them, and, perhaps, could have inspired them to go find out more.
Overall, though, it was a fine evening out for The Chiles family and I know you and yours would love Mulan, too. The play is being staged at Atlanta's The Alliance Theater each Saturday and Sunday through March 14. Tickets are $20 and $30, but you can get a 50 PERCENT DISCOUNT (!) off adult tickets by using the promo code DISNEY. Purchase tickets at the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office by calling 404.733.5000 or online HERE, at The Alliance Theater.
[Photos by Greg Mooney]