Cole Horibe hits Broadway as Bruce Lee

Oct. 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY WAYNE HARADA / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Cole Horibe, a Honolulu dancer who gained acclaim on the Fox TV competition “So You Think You Can Dance” last year, will portray kung fu legend Bruce Lee in a new Broadway drama “Kung Fu” by renowned playwright David Henry Hwang.

Hawaii dancer Cole Horibe first gained notice on Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance" and will star on Broadway as Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang's "Kung Fu." (Courtesy Fox)

Hawaii dancer Cole Horibe first gained notice on Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” and will star on Broadway as Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang’s “Kung Fu.” (Courtesy Fox)

The production, to be directed by Leigh Silverman, will receive its world premiere in a Feb. 4 through March 16 run at the Irene Diamond Stage at the Pershing Square Signature Center at 480 W. 42nd St., several blocks from Times Square.

“When I received news I could be playing Bruce Lee in David Henry Hwang’s world premiere of ‘Kung Fu,’ my initial response was that this was simply fate,” he said. “I have so many similarities to Bruce Lee and have always shared his dream of combating the Asian male stereotype in Hollywood cinema.

“Next occurred the realization of what a tall order it is to be the actor representing the legendary martial arts icon that is Bruce Lee.  But the honor of being chosen to portray Bruce Lee far exceeds the intimidation.”

Yes, he’s anxious, able and willing to bring Lee’s story to the legitimate stage. As he said via Twitter: “I am incredibly honored, ecstatic, eager, and grateful for this new chapter in my life.”

Playwright Hwang, whose credits include “Chinglish,” “Golden Child” and “M. Butterfly,” said of Horibe in a statement: “Obviously, a huge challenge inherent in ‘Kung Fu’ was finding an actor who could credibly portray martial arts icon Bruce Lee. It was my wife, Kathryn, who first saw Cole on ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’ Knowing I was writing this show, she excitedly called me over. Cole’s electrifying martial arts and dance performances immediately riveted me. He shared Bruce’s charisma and even resembled him physically.

Cole Horibe (Courtesy Fox)

Cole Horibe. (Courtesy Fox)

“Later, in his auditions for ‘Kung Fu,’ he brought the same raw talent to his acting that he’d shown so brilliantly in his dance. We feel incredibly blessed to have found in Cole a star who can bring a legend to life.”

“Kung Fu” will be a portrait of Lee’s remarkable, though brief, journey from troubled Hong Kong youth to martial arts legend and his struggle to define himself as a martial artist, husband, father and man. (Lee died in 1973 at age 32.) The production will embrace dance — a strength of Horibe’s — along with elements of Chinese opera, martial arts and drama.

Horibe, 28, will be reunited with his Emmy-nominated choreographer from “So You Think You Can Dance,” Sonya Tayeh, who will choreograph the production.

Horibe was a “So You Think You Can Dance” contestant during season nine, finishing third among the male dancers with a powerful and dramatic style described as “martial arts fusion”; he was eliminated from the show Sept. 5, 2012.

He began his training as a dancer but transitioned into martial arts and studied acting to enhance his chances of gaining roles in the genre. Thus, the “Kung Fu” signing galvanizes his career goal.

Signature Theatre, the producer of the project, has set ticket prices at $25, part of the organization’s groundbreaking Signature Initiative: A Generation of Access, a program that ensures affordable tickets. Comparable Broadway tickets are at the $150 level, and even higher at VIP or premium status with such hit shows as “The Book of Mormon” and “Kinky Boots,” two current hits.

For tickets, visit or call the box office at (212) 244-7529.

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Honolulu dancer to play Bruce Lee

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