Blossoming (You Undo Me) Musical

Original Showing: Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Review By: Brian Merriman

Produced by LinkAge Arts
Director and Co-writer Xun Huang
Book and Lyric Writer by Stephanie Martin
Accompanist Lu Liu
Performed by Tao Deng
Gilded Ballon Patter Hoose
Duration 60 minutes

Blossoming (You Undo Me) is the first ‘queer Asian musical’ about a young Chinese immigrant who finds his freedom in the UK, while sacrificing all of his cultural ties with home. This strong and lyrical, original queer solo musical show is set on a stage full of multi-purpose suitcases. We follow the central character’s (Tao) journey, physically and emotionally from the ‘One Child China’, where he is the second born. 

Tao leaves China at the behest of his sympathetic Mother and sister, to study ‘Economy’ in the UK at 18. He is placed in the home of his Mother’s old friend Grace, where he starts learning about who he is, months before the university education begins. The melodic score is well sung by Deng (the show is dual cast with his alternate, the exotically named Apollo Ziegfeld) and well performed by on stage accompanist Lu Liu. 

Deng’s powerful vocals and dynamic range stand out. While singing in a second language can be a little difficult to grasp all the words, whatever is lost in sound is conveyed in the emotion of the performance. He is agile and deeply connected to the emotion of the story, which clearly resonates with many young Chinese men, not only burdened by coping with their sexuality, but also with the burden of their parent’s sacrifice to have a son to carry on the family name. This cultural clash is a driving point of the musical narrative. 

After arriving at his new home in London, his housemate is a grounded, independent young man who eventually agrees to show him around and ‘break him in’. It is a love story, emerging onto the London gay scene, first love, and finally the expression of the new self, as many young men do, through a drag alter ego. 

Tao strives to survive it all, including the many lessons along the way, while retaining his empathy, compassion and love on the bumpy road to self-approval.  This may well be a first queer Asian musical story on stage, but it is a common story of many a young person who leaves family, culture and country behind, to break free in a new country. It is a worthy recipient of the Michael Ross Award.