Three members of one family appear in shows
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Editor
Woody Chock, an artist, is portraying Wang Chi Yang, the father figure, in Army Community Theatre's "Flower Drum Song," which opened last night at Richardson Theatre at Fort Shafter. His son, John Chock, is making his stage debut as Wang's tailor, Leo Lung.
Across town, at Manoa Valley Theatre, daughter Sherry Chock Wong is prepping for the role of Chah Li, in "Song of Singapore," the off-Broadway musical premiering next Wednesday.
For Woody Chock, it's the third time at bat in the Rodgers & Hammerstein evergreen. "I guess I'm a typical Chinese father, who comes down hard on the kids," he said. "I played the role a little 'hard' the last time, in 1997, recalling how tough my father was, but Jim Hutchison (the director of the current revival) told me to soften him a bit."
He played Frankie Wing when he first did the show at ACT in 1990.
Daughter Sherry, who had her eyes on the Linda Low role in "Flower Drum Song," was bypassed at auditions, only to land the lead in the MVT musical that parodies film-noir classics and is set in an "environmental" theater, which means the audience will be part of the cavorting saloon experience.
Sherry was a Fan Tang dancer in the last "Flower Drum." But the three Chocks have never been on the same stage at the same time. Woody and wife Raelene, who is the state Department of Education's Honolulu District superintendent, previously appeared together in a production of "Joy Luck Club." Raelene declined to try out for anything now.
While the traits attributed to Chinese American culture in "Flower Drum" may seem dated, even trivial, Woody said any show that addresses "family relations and a worried father and a son that tries to be dutiful" is right on in his book.
The Chock family actors all have different preparation techniques.
"Dad sings in the shower, and he's not bad, getting the best sound quality," said son John. "But I wonder what the neighbors think. But he's been performing for so long, not only in musicals but in operas, so he inspired me to try out, too."
"It's always fun to work with your family," said Sherry.
When she and her dad were in her first "Flower Drum," the cast included her aunt, Gerianne Hong; a cousin, Brenda Yim; another cousin, Michael Wong; plus a smattering of other relatives.
"Dad has always been an inspiration," she said. "We've done a couple of operas together, like 'Madame Butterfly' and 'The Masked Ball,' and he's awesome, very devoted to his craft, practicing like crazy. He has that wonderful work ethic, to get it right."
Sherry said that while her father loves to rehearse with family members, going over lines together, she prefers the solitary method. "I like to get my character on my own. The others, they make me nervous."
She yearned to be in "Flower Drum," simply because she's admired Nancy Kwan from afar since she was a small kid. "She's an Asian actor, and there are so limited opportunities available," she said. Consequently, she was disappointed when she was bypassed ... but things happen for a reason: "I was lucky to get the Chah Li part in 'Song of Singapore.'" And lots of tunes to sing.
Sherry is pursuing a second bachelor's degree in music (her first was in biology) and now works at Iolani School as a vocal director for the school's forthcoming "Bye Bye Birdie" musical at the Hawai'i Theatre. "I also sing at Japanese weddings, and I'm a soprano soloist at the Community Church" of Honolulu.
John, who sells advertising, is contemplating a return to school, but would consider more plays, if this experience turns out favorably. His is not a singing role.
Woody, who was in public relations and in retailing before going full-throttle with his landscape art, said he records his performances to take stock of his progress as an actor. "Sometimes I'm told I come down too hard on myself," Chock said. "I know I should let the acting come in automatically, to grow into it. So I try to do that. Often, I come home from rehearsals very upset (because of frustration), so I need to mellow out a bit."