'Broadway' stars plan Hawai'i wedding
By Wayne Harada
Advertiser Entertainment Writer
Deedee Lynn Magno, who played Kim, and Cliffton Hall, who was Chris the American GI, are an "item."
Their backstage story, laced with theatrical memories and challenges, is that they're getting married in Honolulu in April. On stage, they will be part of the cast of "Hello Broadway" Saturday at Blaisdell Concert Hall, singing tunes from "Miss Saigon," "Les Miserables," "Phantom of the Opera" and other shows.
"We're planning to be there a month before the wedding, and if we get a contract (to work), we'll just have to ask for time off," said Magno.
"It has to be in Hawai'i," said Hall, who has family and friends here.
Magno and Hall, both 27, are musical theater troupers and Asian American. They're married to their careers, but finding performing jobs is difficult, particularly because race often is a factor.
They first met in 1995, got to be good friends by 1999, when Magno was performing the pivotal role of Kim in the Tony Award-winning "Miss Saigon."
"We knew we would be lifetime friends, but we parted ways to do separate projects," said Hall. "When she was on Broadway and I wasn't, I'd phone, write letters. We were always talking to each other, going to movies together. We decided to take it a step further."
So they got engaged. In Central Park, no less, last January.
"Being apart means making sacrifices," Magno said. "Now, we have each other."
"Being on tour is being separated from loved ones and families," said Hall. "No more."
They were speaking in a conference call from Los Angeles, one of two homes for Hall.
"I still have my apartment in New York, sharing it with Robert Orosco (a fellow alum, like Hall, of the Castle Performing Arts Center at Castle High School). He's holding forth in the apartment there. I moved out here last February to try to break into films and TV. It's been kinda hard; I have a lot of musical theater credits on my resume. Hollywood likes young and beautiful, and at 27, I'm an old man. But I do workshops here and there, auditioning for stuff, hoping to break the ice."
For the record, he's part Japanese and Filipino (his mother is Japanese, Filipino and Spanish), so he qualifies as being an Asian-American actor. And he's hapa (his dad is French, Irish, German and Dutch).
Magno is Filipino and a child star, at 12, when she was a Mouseketeer on "The All New Mickey Mouse Club," and always found theatrical and TV jobs. Only recently has she encountered the hardship of being Asian and the frustration of losing roles because of race.
"There are few parts for Asians," she said. "But there are lots of talented Asians in this industry.
"You can't wait for change to happen," said Magno, who has played Kim the longest on Broadway. "You have to make the changes. You have to write projects that focus on Asians so Asians can be cast. It's exactly what Welly's been doing, creating new projects to focus on available Asian talent."
Welly is Welly Yang, who also starred as Thuy in "Miss Saigon." He has started to create, through his Second Generation organization, his own destiny by mounting shows specifically to give fellow Asians gainful employment. One such show was "The Superfriends of Flushing, Queens," in which Magno participated.
"When I started on Broadway, he was on the way out and I was on my way in, but through mutual friends, he eventually contacted me," Magno said of Yang. "We've since done some shows together and have become good friends, sharing in the mission to raise awareness about the plight of Asian actors."
But, said Magno, she has been consistently working since she was 13, and race was seldom an issue. "There was a rainbow of colors on the Mickey Mouse Club, and it was almost like a 'Saturday Night Live' with kids. When I was part of The Party, a singing group created by Disney, it was like a Benetton ad very interracial. Only recently have I encountered some challenges."
Hall grew up in an environment in Hawai'i where Asians routinely play a variety of roles.
"Hawai'i was always color blind; you were cast on the basis of talent, not how you looked," he said.
While he yearns for a film opportunity, Hall said, live theater and the instant audience endorsement remains a thrill. "It's pretty joyful when people respond to what you're doing; the neatest thing is that instant gratification. Live theater is like 3-D in that respect."
Magno said there are distinct differences between being on stage and before a camera. "My job on stage is really to get the audience on stage with me, instead of me putting myself into the audience," she said. "In films, every movement you have on your face can be seen; it's not like that on stage. You still have to reach the audience, so ultimately, the technique is the same with a difference."