Bruce Lee’s Story Headed to Broadway

Bruce Lee’s Story Headed to Broadway

Because I’m a black-belt in martial arts — I break boards the way “Spider-Man, Turn Off the Dark” breaks actors — one of my favorite songs is “Kung Fu Fighting” by the great Carl Douglas.

They were funky Chinamen

From funky Chinatown

They were chopping them up

They were chopping them down

What a lyric! See if you can top that, Steve Sondheim.

And so it gives me great Aiya! to announce the first-ever martial arts play with music: David Henry Hwang’s “Kung Fu!,” about my hero, Bruce Lee.

There was a reading of the play on Monday, and the word of mouth is, as we say in class, an bong fok tsai — which means “fabulous, darling!”

Director Leigh Silverman has put together what one of my spies calls a “spectacular” production that blends Chinese opera, dance, martial arts and authentic karate-chopping music. Hwang’s “emotionally strong” script (according to my spy) charts Lee’s rise from the streets of Hong Kong to superstardom in Hollywood. The emotional center of the show is his conflicted relationship with his father, a man of the old ways who didn’t want his son to get caught up in the modern world.

Everybody’s raving about Cole Horibe, who played Lee. He was a contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance,” and apparently he’s got it all — looks, charisma and high kicks.

“I’d never heard of him before, but he was amazing,” says a potential investor. “The kid is a star.”

The music, by Du Yun, is a pastiche of scores from the great Bruce Lee movies — “The Way of the Dragon,” “Fists of Fury” and “The Big Boss.”

(Personally, I think Lee’s best appearance was as Kato in “The Green Hornet,” but I may be in the minority there.)

The dancing, which one source calls “thrilling,” is by Dou Dou Huang, artistic director and principal dancer of the Shanghai Song and Dance Ensemble.

Check him out on YouTube. You’ll be mesmerized.

A bunch of Broadway martial arts masters were at the reading — Jordan Roth, leading practitioner of the Jujamcyn Technique; Bob Wankel, inventor of the Shubert Leg Bumping Kick; Jimmy Nederlander, after whom the famous Nederlander Naval Propping Punch was named, and Public Theater chief Oskar Eustis, who regularly crumples under my “Mountain Tai Falls on the Incense Burner” attacks.

Producer Kevin McCollum was on hand as well, clad in his white karate gi and looking remarkably like Sean Connery in “You Only Live Twice.”

(Have you been dyeing your hair again, Kevin?)

As much as everybody liked the play, there’s a sense that it’s still unfinished. But Hwang’s got time to find an ending that packs a wallop. The plan is to open “Kung Fu!” at off-Broadway’s Signature Theater Feb. 4. It’s set to run only until March 16, but if it’s as good as I’m hearing, there’ll be a quick move to Broadway in time for the Tony Awards in June and the World Martial Arts League Awards in August.

I am, of course, available to be the production’s martial arts adviser.

Call my agent, “Broadway Joe” Machota, the new top man at CAA in New York.

It’s not doing much at the box office yet, but I’m starting to hear whoops of delight coming out of the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where “After Midnight” is in previews.

Never heard of it? Neither had I — until I got an e-mail from a source with taste, who said: “See it early. It’s a winner!”

“After Midnight” is a revue of Duke Ellington songs. It’s been put together by Wynton Marsalis, and my source says it reminds him of “Eubie!” — the 1978 Eubie Blake revue — and Richard Maltby’s classic “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” a Fats Waller revue.

I’m headed to the Brooks later this week to check this one out.

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