A Nightingale Sings in Lafayette


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Pauli Amornkul is the nightingale in The Four Immigrants.

Photo by Stu Selland

Bay Area playwright and composer Min Kahng won considerable acclaim in Palo Alto this summer with TheatreWorks Silicon Valley’s world premiere of his musical The Four Immigrants, based on an early manga graphic novel by a Japanese immigrant about his friends’ misadventures in San Francisco in the first couple of decades of the 20th century. Now East Bay residents have a chance to see a slightly earlier work by Kahng, a San Francisco native who now lives in Alameda—this one a little closer to home.

Lafayette’s Town Hall Theatre Company opens its season with a newly revised version of The Song of the Nightingale: A Musical Fairy Tale, a musical that originally premiered at Alameda’s Altarena Playhouse four years ago. With book, music, and lyrics by Kahng, Nightingale is an adaptation of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale about the Emperor of China. A kitchen maid catches a nightingale and gives it to the emperor, who rewards her with a cushy promotion, but the emperor’s delight in the song of his new pet is soon replaced by a jewel-encrusted golden artificial nightingale.

Director Michael Mohammed (Douglas Morrisson Theatre’s Candide, Oakland Opera Theater’s X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X) helms a strong Asian-American cast headed up by DC Scarpelli (Tri-Valley Rep’s The King and I, Contra Costa Civic Theatre’s My Fair Lady) as the emperor, Isabel To (Bay Area Children’s Theatre’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, also written by Kahng) as Mei Lin, and Pauli Amornkul (also a veteran of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon) as the nightingale. Music director Margaret Halbig returns to Town Hall after serving in that capacity for the company’s productions of Company and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. A new version of a newish work by a local playwright seems like a fantastic way to kick off the 73-year-old community theater’s new season.

The Song of the Nightingale, Sept. 28-Oct. 21, Fri., Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; Town Hall Theatre, 3535 School St., Lafayette, $18-$30; 925-283-1557, TownHallTheatre.com.

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