Theater enthusiasts, heads up! There’s an upcoming show that’s going to sweep you off your feet: Waterfall: A New Musical. This awe-inspiring spectacle is the lovechild of a harmonious partnership between Thailand and Broadway, and it’s poised to take the stage in Bangkok this month.
Directed by the esteemed Takonkiat “Boy” Viravan, Waterfall is an international reinterpretation of the Thai classic Khang Lang Parp (or Behind the Painting: The Musical for international audiences). Prepare to embark on a mesmerizing journey through time and emotions, where love, both timeless and forbidden, takes center stage. This musical masterpiece, which transcends borders and cultures, is a testament to the unique collaboration between Thailand and Broadway.
The plot unravels the intricate tapestry of love, centering on a love triangle involving Katherine, a young American woman who returns to the land of Siam in the 1930s. For her, Siam is a place of cherished childhood memories, and she is looking to rebuild her life after the Great Depression. Here, she reunites with Than Chao Khun, a prominent Thai government official who had captured her heart in the past. Their connection leads to an engagement, seemingly sealing their fate.
However, life takes a whimsical turn as Katherine encounters Noppon, a vibrant young Thai man looking to climb the government ranks and is now an assistant to Than Chao Khun. Noppon falls head over heels with Katherine’s American spirit, birthing a profound and genuine love.
Picture all of this against the backdrop of global transformations—the shifting governance of Siam in the 1930s, America’s rollercoaster of economic woes, the rising influence of Western culture, and Japan’s imperialistic aims, which would eventually spark World War II. From Bangkok to Tokyo, it’s a story that paints the beauty of first love amidst a constantly changing world.
In the early 1930s, during Thailand’s transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, Noppon, a young Thai man, living in a provincial town, had a life-changing encounter. He stumbled upon an American history book, which sparked an idea: Thailand should follow a path similar to that of the United States.
As Thailand underwent its transformation, Noppon took the initiative to further his education by enrolling in a university. He eventually found employment at the Foreign Ministry and became an assistant to the ministry’s chief, known as Than Chao Khun director-general.
Years before the pivotal year of 1932 (the end of absolute monarchy in Thailand—then known as Siam), Than Chao Khun had crossed paths with an American ambassador who had brought along his 18-year-old daughter, Katherine, during his diplomatic mission in Thailand. Although he found the young American girl charming, Than Chao Khun was already married and could only admire her from afar.
During their time together in Thailand, Than Chao Khun introduced Katherine to the country’s diverse culture and art. Katherine was deeply moved by her experiences and, upon returning to the United States, aspired to become a painter. This was a grand challenge for a woman in those days, but she left her home to chase her dreams and eventually achieved fame as a renowned artist.
Fast forward to 1929, when the United States was struggling and grappling with an economic depression, Katherine, now a successful painter, fell into a deep depression herself. Tragedy struck as her father took his own life and her mother passed away from heart failure. Katherine was absolutely devastated by these turns of events, and started wondering what had gone wrong with her life. She yearned for the place that had initially inspired her artistic endeavors: Siam.
In a heartfelt letter, she reached out to Than Chao Khun, asking him if he remembered her. By that time, Than Chao Khun had recently lost his wife, so he grasped the chance to reconnect with Katherine with nothing holding him back. Their reunion led to a deep connection, and Than Chao Khun proposed marriage, which Katherine agreed to.
The story took an unexpected turn when Katherine crossed paths with Noppon, and this encounter became the starting point of the main storyline in Thailand. Later on, Than Chao Khun traveled to Japan to meet with the Japanese foreign minister, bringing Noppon and Katherine along. During their stay, Noppon and Katherine developed a profound bond as they explored Japan together.
This period coincided with the spread of American culture in Japan, despite growing anti-American sentiments among the Japanese. As Than Chao Khun sought to establish diplomatic ties with Japan, he was faced with the complex situation of having an American wife. It became increasingly evident that Japan was undergoing significant changes, and the world was on the brink of World War II.
As the world grapples with its ever-changing tides, Waterfall delves deep into a story of love, beauty, and passion, leaving us with the burning question: how will this love triangle reach its conclusion? Only Katherine, Than Chao Khun, and Noppon hold the answer.
Waterfall includes a stellar cast of global talents including Josh Dela Cruz as Noppon, an accomplished artist in both theater and television. He has been part of several remarkable productions, both on Broadway and Off-Broadway. His performances in shows like Aladdin, Here Lies Love, The King and I, and Merrily We Roll Along (Encore) have left a lasting impression on audiences. In 2018, he stepped into the role of a beloved TV host in the renowned children’s program Blue’s Clues & You! after a selection process that involved 3,000 candidates. It’s also worth noting that he is the first Asian-American to have had this role.
Danielle Hope, portraying Katherine, is a renowned British singer and actress with an impressive portfolio of theater performances to her name. She has graced the stage in well-known productions such as The Wizard of Oz, Les Misérables, The Sound of Music, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Grease, and more.
She has gained widespread recognition as the winner of the BBC’s singing competition television show Over The Rainbow. She triumphed over a field of more than 9,000 contestants, earning her the coveted role of Dorothy in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Wizard of Oz.
Jon Jon Briones, playing Than Chao Khun, is a Filipino-American actor with another outstanding portfolio in both theater and television. He made a name for himself primarily through his theater performances, with one of his most notable roles as the Engineer in Miss Saigon (2014). His remarkable performance earned him nominations for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical and the corresponding Whatsonstage.com Award in 2016.
Beyond the stage, Jon Jon Briones has taken on a diverse range of roles in various films, television shows, and even Netflix series. His credits include appearances in The Mentalist, Designated Survivor, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, American Horror Story: Apocalypse, Ratched, and many more.
What’s more, behind these luminous stars are none other than the award-winning writers and composers from the heart of New York. The script was written by the Tony Award-winning Richard Maltby Jr., a renowned American playwright known for his versatile talents, including directing and lyric writing. His exceptional collection of work has earned him more than 14 nominations for prestigious awards from various institutions. Some of his award-winning productions include:
- 1978 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – Ain’t Misbehaving
- 1990 Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Score – Closer Than Ever
- 1999 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – Fosse
- 2001 Laurence Olivier Award – Fosse
Maltby’s contributions extend beyond these awards to various other outstanding works. He’s notably been involved in lyric writing for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Song and Dance (1986) and Miss Saigon, earning an Evening Standard Award in 1990 and a Tony Nomination for Best Score in 1991.
Meanwhile, Waterfall’s music was composed by David Shire, a renowned American composer and songwriter with a diverse collection of work spanning across theater, film, and television. Some of his notable musical contributions have made him widely recognized, both for soundtracks in movies and standalone music compositions. His works include contributions to projects like Saturday Night Fever, The Big Bus, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, The Conversation, and All The President’s Men.
One of Shire’s most significant achievements was winning the Academy Award for Best Song for his composition It Goes Like It Goes in the film Norma Rae (1979). He has also collaborated with the iconic artist Barbra Streisand for several years, serving as her accompanist. Their collaborative efforts have resulted in the recording of up to five songs together.
Waterfall: A New Musical‘ will premiere from September 13 to October 1 with only 20 showings at Muang Thai Ratchadalai Theater. Tickets are available at all ThaiTicketMajor counters and online via https://bit.ly/WATERFALL_CCNBKK (Thai subtitles will be provided for all showings).