If you’ve ever flown in to San Francisco you’ve probably passed through Colma without even noticing it. This bleak, overcast suburb, situated off the freeway between the airport and the city, is where San Francisco sends its dead to be buried. In fact, Colma’s cemetery population outnumbers the living 1,500 to 1! Hardly the place to set a musical– yet, perhaps the perfect one. Director Richard Wong and screen/songwriter H.P. Mendoza have channeled the youthful naïveté of Garland and Rooney into Colma: The Musical, the first Asian American movie musical to come along in 45 years. The songs rock and the fog rolls in this ambitious project, which began after Wong listened to Mendoza’s 13-song concept album and exclaimed, “Let’s make a movie!”
Armed with poppy tunes, catchy lyrics and infectious energy, Colma also renders a sincere portrayal of early adulthood in all its joys and pains. Best friends Billy, Rodel, and Maribel find life suddenly askew after they graduate from high school. Billy is a wannabe actor struggling to balance ambition with friendship; Rodel is creative, caustic and soooo in the closet, and Maribel meanwhile seems strangely content living in her hometown.
Although the unapologetically independent Colma was produced on the fringe of what has been codified as “indie film”, Dennis Harvey of Variety says, “First-time feature helmer Richard Wong surpasses expectations for a homegrown project … Colma has a fresher look and feel than many a big-budget studio production.” And, indeed, this landmark film couldn’t have been made any other way. Truly, the folks of Colma have proven that with talent, guts, gumption and good friends, you can put on a show!