REVIEW: “Mulan and the Battle on Black Mountain”

Story By: Amrita Aulakh, Reporter

“Mulan and the Battle on Black Mountain” opened Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. to a modest and excited crowd. The anticipation for “Mulan” could clearly be seen and heard, but in the end was “Mulan” worth checking out? The final verdict: it definitely is.

As the lights dimmed, the audience got their first glimpse of Hua Mulan (played by Thuy Duong). An immediate hush fell over the crowd as they took the scene in with awe-filled eyes. “Mulan” contains a unique start that places audience members at the climax of the story before flashing back to the beginning of Mulan’s journey.

Featuring fitting music and gorgeous backdrops, Mulan’s tale took off without a hitch. As far as storytelling goes, the plot is a tad bit similar to Disney’s “Mulan” in terms of Mulan going to battle for her father’s sake. The similarities between the two end here however.

Chuck Erven’s rendition of “Mulan” features a wide variety of interesting characters and a complex yet emotional storyline. The production had a fair amount of wit and comedy to balance out the adventurous and drama filled aspects.

While there was nothing wrong with the plot itself, it often became hard to follow due to overly loud background music playing throughout the play’s narration. Besides that downside, the plot succeeded in attaching the crowd to the characters.

As far as characters and actor performances go, each performance stood out in its own right. The cast is downright phenomenal and made it easier to immerse one’s self in the vast world of “Mulan.”

The characters and actors that stood out in particular are Hua Mulan, Mulan’s confidant and love interest Wang Xizhi (Sabrina Lopez), the vengeful Ping Xin (Aaron Schoonover) and the cunning Empress Dowager (Nancy Xiong).

Duong is the perfect Mulan. She carried herself with the right amount of confidence and grace; her facial expressions and overall performance was downright outstanding – words simply cannot describe how good of a job she did. Duong’s performance as Mulan proved that anything a man can do, Mulan can do better.

Providing a balance to the headstrong Mulan is Wang Xizhi, a character who becomes easy to love. Lopez roused laughter from audience members whenever she appeared on stage and quickly charmed the audience through her endearing portrayal of Xizhi. Initially introduced as a comic relief, Xizhi soon becomes vital to Mulan’s journey.

“Mulan” villains Ping Xin and Empress Dowager had fewer scenes, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t as interesting as Mulan and Xizhi. Xiong and Schoonover’s mannerisms, aura and overall portrayal of their characters were near perfect with the only downside being their lack of scenes. A spin-off play about these two is definitively needed.

The set and costume designs are gorgeous and thoroughly detailed. The Emperor’s outfit in particular is highly impressive and detail orientated. The choreography for the fights were a bit repetitive, but impressive. The inclusion of puppets was a quirky storytelling method that was effective and interesting to see.  

“Mulan” was an engaging production that should definitely be checked out – the performances alone will make watching the play well worth it.