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“Baked! The Musical” comes to Evanston’s Theo Ubique Cabaret Theater

todaySeptember 5, 2023 4

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The first time is the charm for Jord Liu and Deepak Kumar. “Baked! The Musical,” for which they cowrote the book, lyrics, and music was one of eight musicals selected out of a field of over 500 shows for the prestigious National Alliance for Musical Theatre Festival of New Musicals in 2022.

Now the all-Asian musical, the first show the pair has written, will be staged at Evanston’s Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre from Sept. 7 to Oct. 8.

The show tells the story of habitual overachiever Jane Huang who needs to earn money because she didn’t receive the scholarship to her dream college that she was expecting. The high school student’s solution is to build a drug empire.

Her parents don’t pressure Jane academically but that doesn’t matter to her.

“Even when they don’t thrust these high expectations on you, you kind of find them,” Liu explained.

Kumar and Liu went to high school in Michigan and also to the University of Michigan together. They both became music directors of a cappella groups in college.

“I think in the back of our minds, we always wanted to collaborate on something together,” Kumar said. “We never got to do anything like that in college. It was only a year after college when we both went into the real world and got jobs that had nothing to do with music that we realized we needed to do something.”

Deepak Kumar is the co-playwright, co-lyricist, and co-composer of “Baked! The Musical,” Sept. 7-Oct. 8 at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre in Evanston.

Liu noted that Kumar was working on his Ph.D. and she was working as a software engineer at that time. The pair began talking about their shared experiences in high school and college.

“At the time, it seemed like we wanted to tell a high school coming-of-age story loosely based on the kind of high school experiences that we had,” Liu said.

She’s quick to declare that neither she nor Kumar sold pot in high school.

Liu explained that this show “contrasts with a lot of other high school stories in that the main character is an academic achiever but is also cool.” Jane Huang even gets along with her parents, who own the bakery that partly accounts for the name of the show.

Jord Liu is the co-playwright, co-lyricist, and co-composer of “Baked! The Musical,” Sept. 7-Oct. 8 at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre in Evanston.

“At the time in musical theater, there were tons of shows that were featuring high schoolers,” Kumar related. He cited “Dear Evan Hansen,” “Be More Chill,” “Mean Girls: The Musical” and “Heathers: The Musical.”

Kumar said that they observed, “That high school experience may be true to those writers or most people, but it didn’t really reflect that high school experience we went through where people were mostly nice and parents aren’t out to get you. But still there are these other tensions. How to grapple with failure, how to grapple with success, how to be good to yourself but also the people around you.”

Both Kumar and Liu had musical backgrounds but they had to work hard to learn the other aspects of creating a music“Deepak read every book on it,” Liu reported.

They started working on the show in 2017. At the time, Kumar was living in Urbana-Champaign and Liu was living in San Francisco so they worked remotely.

They had a workshop in Chicago in 2019. In 2020, “Baked! The Musical” had a sold-out run at the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, where it won awards for Best Lyrics, Best Lead, Best Supporting Actor and Best Ensemble.

After that, they did rewrites online for a couple of years. That was followed by the performances of 45 minutes of the show with the National Alliance for Musical Theatre in 2022 and several readings.

Despite having busy schedules, the two authors have been very involved in the rehearsal process at Theo Ubique.

Liu is an exhibit developer at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, designing exhibits and creating prototypes. Kumar is an incoming professor of computer science at the University of California San Diego.

Kumar admitted, “If we had known how hard it would be to write a musical, we never would have started.”

Sunnie Eraso is undoubtedly happy that they did write the show because she plays the lead role of Jane Huang in the Theo Ubique production.

Sunnie Eraso stars as perpetual overachiever Jane Huang in “Baked! The Musical,” Sept. 7-Oct. 8 at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre in Evanston.

The recent Northwestern University theater graduate had just been in another predominantly Asian show, “In the Recent Past” at Lookingglass Theatre, when she auditioned for “Baked.”

“As an Asian artist, it’s really wonderful to get to know the Asian arts community in Chicago,” Eraso said.

The actor described Jane Huang as “a driven, smart, high schooler who is more than just driven and smart. She is also a really caring friend, she’s a caring daughter. She has a lot of family-centric values. She cares a lot about what her parents think and want.”

The main aspect of Jane’s personality, though, is the fact that she is a driven individual, Eraso indicated.

“She will find out how to reach her personal level of success,” the actor said.

Eraso said she learned a lot about the intentions of the authors and the history of this play by spending time with the writers at rehearsals.

Eraso believes that audiences will enjoy this show because, “It is a new fresh voice in musical theater,” she said. “And it’s telling a story that’s grounded in heart; that’s grounded in family. Past all the comedy, past the catchy tunes, it’s got a really strong beating heart of family and care.”

Performances of “Baked! The Musical” are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, and 6 p.m. Sundays, plus 1 p.m. Oct. 4, at 721 Howard St., Evanston. Tickets are $46; $41 seniors; plus $30 for an optional prix fixe dinner before the show from Kol Fine Asian Cuisine & Lounge. For tickets, call 773-939-4101 or visit theo-u.com/baked.

Myrna Petlicki is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.



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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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