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At 16, Welly Yang’s first professional acting job was Ito, the Japanese houseboy in Mame, in which Miss Dennis crows, "Life is a banquet!" Nowadays, his life truly is a banquet: The Wedding Banquet. As the artistic director of Second Generation, which produces Asian American shows, Yang has turned Ang Lee’s 1993 movie into a new musical. The Village Theatre is presenting its U.S. premiere now through Oct. 26 in Issaquah, Wash., and Oct. 31-Nov. 16 in Everett, Wash.

What’s more, this Broadway actor and impresario stars in the tuneful adaptation. He plays Wai Tung, a gay Taiwanese-American who marries a Chinese girl (Dina Lynne Morishita) to please his parents, even though he really loves his Caucasian boyfriend (Tyley Ross). Yang’s thrilling tenor especially soars on "This Is True," Wai Tung’s compelling coming-out song ("I love who I love, I live how I live").

The Wedding Banquet features book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey and music by Woody Pak, his collaborators on the 1999 Asian-American rock musical Making Tracks. Now directed by John Tillinger, this project began about five years ago. Yang, who was born in Brooklyn to Taiwanese parents, says, "I loved Ang Lee’s movie. It’s got conflict, humor and sex — everything we need in a great musical." But the 5-foot-8 producer realized that "we needed to open up the film and make the story sing. Now we have a gospel tune and a tai chi number, and the ending comes full circle. But we’ve stayed true to the spirit of the movie: A family is where love is."

Wai Tung isn’t the first gay character that Yang has played. He was a wonderful Whizzer if ever there was in the National Asian American Theatre Company’s 1998 revival of Falsettoland. Yang, who’s dating Morishita, his show’s lovely leading lady, says he believes in his musical’s message: "Whether you’re gay or straight, love is love."

In August, The Wedding Banquet made its world premiere in Lee’s homeland, Taiwan. Yang says, "You could hear the audience gasp when me and Tyley kissed." It then played Singapore. To avoid an R rating from local censors, the show ended with a baby christening, instead of the gay wedding it currently has, and deleted a romantic kiss between the male leads. "Even so, we were a hit," he says. "We sold 25,000 tickets in Singapore and another 10,000 in Taiwan." From there, it went to Washington, and now some producers are scouting it in hopes of bringing it to New York.

If his plate weren’t full enough, Yang leaves The Wedding Banquet on Oct. 16 (Michael K. Lee takes over the role) and returns to the Big Apple to do The Karaoke Show. Based on Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, it’s from the creators of The Donkey Show. It’ll run Saturdays at the Supper Club, starting Oct. 25. Yang says, "I play Anthony, this womanizer, and I rap to Nelly. It’s very funny." Plus, he’ll produce Second Generation’s Concert of Excellence on Dec. 1 at Lincoln Center, where 30 Broadway stars will honor Ismail Merchant, Jadin Wong and Lisa Ling.

Yang, 30, enjoys being an actor and an activist. When he was 20 and played Thuy, the villainous Viet in Miss Saigon, the understudy role of Chris, the leading Caucasian hero, opened up. He asked to audition for it, but the producers never saw him. "Everyone thought I was cuckoo. Now, wait a minute. Caucasians have played Asians for centuries. Suddenly, an Asian wants to play a white role, and I’m crazy? That’s why I founded Second Generation. For so long, our stories have been told from the Western point of view. Now it’s our turn to create roles that define Asian America."

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