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‘Cambodian Rock Band’ Makes San Diego Debut at La Jolla Playhouse

The cast of “Cambodian Rock Band” (from left): Joe Ngo, Moses Villarama, Abraham Kim, Jane Lui, Daisuke Tsuji, James Ryen (understudy), and Brooke Ishibashi.

LA JOLLA — The San Diego premiere of “Cambodian Rock Band,” a story about survivors, the resilient bond of family and the enduring power of music, is being presented at La Jolla Playhouse’s Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, 2910 La Jolla Village Dr., La Jolla.

Dubbed “fierce, gorgeous and heartwarming” by **The Los Angeles Times,** this epic play/rock concert thrusts us into the life of a young woman trying to piece together her family history 30 years after her father fled Cambodia. Featuring a cast that performs a mix of contemporary Dengue Fever hits and classic Cambodian oldies.

Featuring Brooke Ishibashi as Neary/Sothea, Abraham Kim as Rom, Jane Lui as Pou/Guard, Joe Ngo as Chum, Daisuke Tsuji as Duch, and Moses Villarama as Ted/Lang.

Playwright and UC San Diego alum Lauren Yee brings to vivid life the Cambodian rock scene of the ’60s and ’70s, a movement cut short by the Khmer Rouge’s brutal attempt to erase the music (and musicians) once and for all.

“Cambodian Rock Band” premiered at South Coast Rep, with subsequent productions at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Victory Gardens, Portland Center Stage and many others. Yee’s play “The Great Leap” has been produced at theaters across the country. Honors include the Doris Duke Artists Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, Whiting Award, Steinberg/ ATCA Award, Horton Foote Prize, Kesselring Prize, and the No. 1 and No. 2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List.

Yee is a New Dramatists member, Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member, and Playwrights Realm alumni playwright. TV work includes “Pachinko” (Apple) and “Soundtrack” (Netflix). She is currently under commission from Geffen Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Portland Center Stage, Second Stage and South Coast Rep. B.A.: Yale. M.F.A.: UC San Diego.

The creative team includes Takeshi Kata (“Last Tiger in Haiti,” “Guards at the Taj”), scenic designer; Sara Ryung Clement (“The Astronaut Farmworker”), costume designer; David Weiner (“The Seven,” “The Darrell Hammond Project”), lighting designer; Mikhail Fiksel (“Seize the King,” “Tiger Style!”), sound designer; UCSD MFA graduate Matt MacNelly, music director; and Gwen Turos, stage manager.

“It’s a pleasure to welcome UC San Diego graduate Lauren Yee back to San Diego with her riveting, prize-winning work that offers a rocking and redemptive story of a father and daughter finding each other amidst decades-old secrets,” said Christopher Ashley, the Rich Family artistic director of La Jolla Playhouse.

Director Chay Yew’s Off-Broadway credits include The Public, Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop, National Asian American Theatre Company, Ma-Yi Theatre. Regional: Victory Gardens Theater, American Conservatory Theater, Berkeley Rep, South Coast Repertory, Long Wharf Theatre, Denver Center, Humana Festival, Kennedy Center, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Huntington Theatre, East West Players, Cornerstone Theater, Theatre @ Boston Court, Highways, Northwest Asian American Theatre, and Singapore Repertory Theatre, among many others. Opera: Tanglewood Music Center, Los Angeles Philharmonic. Awards: Obie, Drama-Logue awards.

Complete your evening by making a reservation at La Jolla Playhouse’s on-site restaurant, James’ Place, just steps away from the theatre, or stop by for a drink. Opens at 5 p.m.

Showtimes: Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. (plus 2 p.m. show on Nov. 27); Thursdays at 8 p.m. (no show on Nov. 28); Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m. (no tickets available for Nov. 17).

For more information, call (858) 550-1010, email or visit

Meet the Cast

Brooke Ishibashi’s New York credits include: “Good Person of Szechwan” with Taylor Mac (The Public); “A Beautiful Day in November” (NY City Center); “Takarazuka!” (HERE Arts); Qui Nguyen’s “The Inexplicable Redemption of Agent G” (Ma-Yi); “Happy Sunshine Kung Fu Flower” (Ars Nova). Regional: “Cambodian Rock Band (world premiere: South Coast Repertory, Oregon Shakespeare Festival); “All’s Well That Ends Well” (Oregon Shakespeare Festival). TV: Series lead in DJ Nash’s “People Are Talking” (NBC). Education: B.A. in theatre/musical theatre, Marymount Manhattan College; Upright Citizens Brigade. Proud Actors’ Equity Association Western Region principal councilor and member of Fair Wage Onstage. @BrookeIshibashi / @CambodianRockBand /

Abraham Kim’s credits include “Cambodian Rock Band” (Pacific Playwrights Festival, South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Son in “LA Riots” (Café-Club Fais Do Do); Orchestra, “Alice in Wonderland” (Hoover High School). Music: National and international tours with Run River North, DANakaDAN and Magnetic North & Taiyo Na. Drummer on Magnetic North & Taiyo Na’s album “Home: Word.” Music band affiliations: IXS, Castor and Pollux, Monroe Street, The Blazing Rays of the Sun, Former Faces, Fyke, Ruth + the Library. TV/Film: “Good Sessions” (CBS pilot), “Jasyn’s Theme” (YouTube). Education: Craig Kupka, Daniel Yoo, Angelica Thompson. @0abrahamkim0

Jane Lui’s credits include Huong in “Vietgone” (East West Players); Pou in “Cambodian Rock Band” (South Coast Repertory, Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Maudlin in “All’s Well That Ends Well” (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Cecily Pigeon in “The Odd Couple” (Sierra Madre Playhouse); Shannon Baker in “The Sparrow,” Ute/Chief in “Cannibal the Musical” (Coeurage Theatre Company); Julie in “John Doe the Musical” (Lyceum Theatre); Penny in “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (Chinese Pirate Productions). Composition: “Under Milk Wood,” “Secret in the Wings” (Coeurage Theatre Company), San Diego Zoo. Film/TV/Internet/commercial: 67th Emmy Awards, “Odious,” “The Soulman,” “Daylight Savings,” “Luieland” (YouTube personality, 4m views). Voiceovers: “Call of Duty,” San Diego Zoo, “Hibakusha.” Awards: Stage Raw nomination for Best Original Music, Dublin Web Fest Best Music Video, San Diego Best Recording nominations for albums “Goodnight Company” and “Barkentine,” YouTube’s “Unsigned Pick.” Music: All original albums available on iTunes, Spotify. Upcoming fourth album to be released as music project Surrija.

Joe Ngo’s credits include: “Cambodian Rock Band” (South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Nhan/Khue in “Vietgone” (Studio Theatre); Actor 1 in “King of the Yees,” Xu Xian in “The White Snake” (Baltimore Center Stage); Actor 3 in “King of the Yees” (A Contemporary Theatre); Hotspur in “Henry IV, Part One” (Wooden O/Seattle Shakespeare); Hortensio in “The Taming of the Shrew” (Island Stage Left); Hank in “Marvin’s Room” (Covina Center for the Performing Arts); Boy in “Blood Wedding” (Odyssey Theatre Ensemble); Elvis in “Miss Nelson Is Missing” (Lewis Family Playhouse). Solo performances: “Words, Words…” (The Barn Arts Collective and Leviathan Labs Living Room Series). Film/TV: “Crashing,” “Off the Record,” “Beach Blossom.” Education: B.A., Cal Poly Pomona; M.F.A., UW, Seattle.

Daisuke Tsuji appeared in La Jolla Playhouse’s productions of “The Orphan of Zhao,” “American Night.” Regional: “Cambodian Rock Band” (South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival); “With Love and a Major Organ” (The Theatre @ Boston Court); Orlando in “As You Like It” (Antaeus Theatre Company); William Shakespeare in “Imogen Says Nothing” (Yale Repertory Theatre); “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (California Shakespeare Theater/Portland Center Stage); “The Orphan of Zhao” (American Conservatory Theater). International: Public Clown in “Dralion” (Cirque du Soleil); “Meditations on Virginity” (Poland tour). Writing/directing: “Clowns Are Peoples Too” (OSF Midnight Project); “Death and Giggles” (Three Chairs Theater Company); “Monkey Madness” (Los Angeles Theater Ensemble). Film/TV: “Love, Death & Robots”; “Brockmire”; “The Man in the High Castle”; “The Blacklist.” Video games: Jin in “Ghost of Tsushima,” “Call of Duty: Black Ops 4,” “Prey.” Education: B.A., UCLA.

Moses Villarama’s Off-Broadway credits include: “Fast Company” (Ensemble Studio Theatre); “The Sonic Life of a Giant Tortoise” (The Play Company); “Chairs and a Long Table” (Ma-Yi Theater). Regional: “Cambodian Rock Band,” “Henry V,” “The Odyssey,” “The Winter’s Tale,” “Snow in Midsummer” (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); “Vietgone” (OSF/Seattle Repertory); “Warrior Class” (Alliance Theatre); “Suspense! Radio Hour” (Hudson Valley Shakespeare); “King Lear,” “Amadeus,” “A Christmas Carol” (Denver Center); “Swamp Is On” (Pig Iron). Training: M.F.A., National Theatre Conservatory. B.A., University of San Francisco. @themightymos

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