A few common threads run through 2 musicals of different stripes – The Mercury News

For shows that have so much in common, “The Four Immigrants: An American Musical Manga” and “Lizzie” aren’t very much alike.

The former show, which opened this week on the TheatreWorks Bay Area stage, and the latter, which opened this week at City Lights Theater Company, both center around four characters. Both are musicals set around the turn of the 20th century, and both are based on true stories about outsiders. But that’s where the resemblance ends.

“The Four Immigrants” uses vaudeville-style music to tell the story of a quartet of Japanese men who immigrate to San Francisco in 1904. “Lizzie” uses rock music to tell the story of Lizzie Borden, who was infamously accused of ax-murdering her parents in 1892.

“The Four Immigrants” is based on a 1931 comic book of the same name by Henry Kiyama. Playwright Min Kahng says he found it intriguing that Kiyama, a fine artist, would use what has come to be known as a graphic novel to share his story about immigrating to a new country with three friends.

“One fascinating thing about the book is that he told his story in a style that was popular in his day,” Kahng says. “As for his style of art, you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell that it’s a story about Japanese characters.”

The playwright says Kiyama’s style choice played a role in…

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