Disclaimer: This is the first time that I've ever paid money to watch a musical. I clearly don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to modern musicals. Don't listen to me.
According to the pamphlet that was thrust into my arms as I entered the theater, I did not see the first iteration of "Waterfall." The script has undergone several changes since the show's debut in Pasadena. In an effort to add some depth to what is a fairly plain and old-fashioned love story, efforts have been made to further flesh out the political and social ramifications of regime change in both Siam/Thailand and Japan in the run-up to World War II. Unfortunately, "Waterfall" struggled to pull all of these separate strands into something coherent.
The clearest example of this is the opening song that served as an awkward information dump. Despite his considerable charms, Bie Sukrit (a pop star from Thailand) did not enrapture me while belting out a textbook entry on Siam's transition to a democracy. At some point, you would hope that the audience would at least have encountered a promotional blurb about the basic premise of the story so they wouldn't feel the need to do something like that.
Other bits of story and character development are introduced and then not really followed up on. Emily Padgett's character, the American wife of a Siamese diplomat that catches Sukrit's eye, has an entire song dedicated to her desire to become more demure and closer to her idealized version of a "proper Thai wife," and this is never spoken of again. Once Sukrit's character becomes a seasoned diplomat himself, his major diplomatic victory (avoiding war with the United States) is completely left to the imagination, other than a jokey aside. I don't remember if they even gave a name to the woman that Sukrit's character ended up marrying.
Jumbled story and clunky lyrics aside, there was some fun to be had here. The set designs and transitions were very elaborate and visually striking, including the eponymous waterfall that looked as if it were ripped directly out of a theme park. The costumes were all great and successfully evoked the different contemporary styles from Siam, Japan, and the United States. One of Sukrit's friends at an expat bar (played by Lisa Helmi Johanson) in Japan had a couple of fun, energetic songs that explored the struggles that she faced as a Japanese-American woman that was shunned in her own country. Honestly, I wish that the entire play had been about her story, because the romance between Sukrit and Padgett was tepid and even little off-putting at times; the middle section can be summarized by Sukrit not taking "no" for an answer.
Like my first experience with a stage play, I probably just need to find a "good one" of these to better understand the appeal.