Well, it’s better than any version of “The Rum Tum Tugger” from any production of CATS anywhere. Ever.
That is Stephon Marbury staring as himself in a production of “I am Marbury” in China, a play about the impact Marbury had on the lives of some young Chinese artists. Remember that Marbury has led the Beijing Ducks to two Chinese Basketball Association titles and is a big star there — they built him a statue in the city. Well, that’s what I think the play’s about. I actually speak zero of the seven Chinese dialects, I assume this is Mandarin (spoken in Beijing) but I have no idea.
In the final scene of “I Am Marbury,” the new Chinese musical based on the life of Stephon Marbury, Stephon Marbury delivers a soliloquy about Stephon Marbury. But it’s not just about Stephon Marbury: “I am Marbury,” he intones. “You are Marbury. We are all connected.” After each line, a chorus of Chinese actors repeats the sentence in Mandarin. He goes on: “I am a champion. You are a champion. But it was all yesterday. We will never stop working hard. We will never be satisfied. We will always keep moving on….”
“I Am Marbury,” an allegorical tale of two Beijing street musicians who get selected for an “American Idol”–style singing competition. Allegorical, because their ups and downs mirror the oscillations of Marbury’s own career. When the pair first arrives in Beijing with a guitar case and a dream, they encounter temptations, including a brothel Madame and a sleazy agent. During one of their musical performances—rendered, somewhat confusingly, as acrobatic basketball games—the nameless protagonist gets a phone call saying his father has died, a reference to a similarly tragic experience Marbury had while playing for the Knicks. The band eventually lands in court, a scene meant to evoke Marbury’s testimony in a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former Knicks executive against coach Isaiah Thomas. The protagonist quits the show and slips into an existential funk, only to be pulled out by the disembodied voice of Marbury, who comes to him in a dream just after winning his second championship with the Ducks. “Live in the moment,” Marbury says, his face looming on a screen above the stage. “Be positive. Believe in yourself. Don’t follow others. … Everything comes from lessons from God. Stand up. Rise up. Cheer up!” Inspired by Marbury, the hero reunites with his band and, through teamwork, they win the song contest.
Still better than any production of CATS.