Earlier this year, plans for a Chinese musical loosely based on the life story of former NBA PG Stephon Marbury (“Coming Soon To A Stage (That Probably Isn’t Anywhere Near You) : ‘I Am Stephon Marbury'”), were mentioned in this space, but suffice to say, the finished product might’ve exceeded your wildest expectations and mine. Bejing based American journalist Will Ford took to Sports On Earth to weigh in on the opening of “I Am Stephon Marbury”, calling the show, “unlike anything I have ever witnessed.”
The story, which follows a pair of aspiring musicians trying to make it in Beijing, is a bizarre, comedic tale which forces basketball metaphors and wisdom from Marbury’s life at every chance it gets. The protagonist duo is inspired to enter a musical competition after playing a game of pickup basketball with a completely random assortment of friends. The production’s star, Mike Sui, an American actor in China with impeccable Chinese, implores, “We all have to work together, just like a basketball team.” Moved by basketball’s life lessons, the group of friends choreographs a musical dance performance with cheerleaders, basketball players dressed in Hawaiian-style uniforms, and an odd assortment of traditional Chinese costumes.
Throughout their Beijing journey, starting at the airport when they arrive on the same day as Marbury, the musicians sporadically cross paths with the All-Star. At one point, in a pedestrian underpass, Marbury asks the two broke musicians for some spare change to buy, appropriately, a subway ticket. Each time the dulang passes, his face is covered by a hoodie, leaving our aspiring musicians unsure whether the figure is Marbury. In the finale of the play, Marbury reveals himself to our two musical hopefuls, one of whom is reeling from the tragic death of his father, as was Marbury once in his own career. Like an omnipotent force of the universe, Marbury tells them he has been watching over them all along. He appears first in Mike Sui’s dream on a projector, head floating in the picture, which makes Marbury look more like a devilish overlord than an inspirational figure. But never mind: he delivers a speech, one inspirational catch phrase after another (often translated incorrectly depending on the phrase), that touch on overcoming various challenges of human existence.
Later in his recap, Ford mentions the last time he attended a play on Broadway, the Tony-award winning cast of “August Osage County”, “received many standing ovations, but not nearly as many, or as loud, as the applause that is being showered on Marbury.”