Stairway to Stardom: The Road to Fame is Paved With Pain

Stairway to Stardom

The trials and tribulations of Su Cheng (Song Yi), an aspiring actress whose road to fame is paved with obstacles. She must survive the jealousy of her peers and the intrigues of the entertainment circle, but also her childish, domineering boss, Duan ChengXuan (Push Puttichai Kasetsin).

Though you are arrogant, narcissistic, conceited and annoying, I still like you. It’s probably because I’m nuts, too.

Stairway to Stardom

After The Untamed turned me into an emotional wreck, I really needed something completely different to get over my beloved WangXian. Well, spoiler alert: I’m still not over it. But while Stairway to Stardom wasn’t the show of the year, it certainly had its pros, to the point that I ended up bingeing it—or, well. As much as you can binge when you’re at work from 9 to 6.

The slowest burn of slow burns frequently tittered on the edge of boring. Why? Because the male lead was an immature jerk, and while his antics were funny at first, his persistent need to pull Su Cheng’s pigtails bordered on outright bullying quite a few times, and certainly frustrated me on more than one occasion.

Yet, what helps you root for him in the end is the realization that this person is, in fact, the most genuine character you’ll find anywhere. Basically, this man doesn’t hide. He’s not bound by the conventions of society, or the expectations of his peers. He does what he wants, when he wants to do it, says what he means, acts impulsively. He’s a jerk, but he’s also really moving as a character, and his backstory actually does make sense of his behavior.

(Push Puttichai also had the best facial expressions.)

Meet My New Girl Crush, Su Cheng

Right as this dynamic was about to get old (after 15 episodes of various pointless antics, I think I was entitled to my boredom), Su Cheng up and showed that this drama DOES have really good points. Mainly, I was impressed by a scene that demonstrated exactly how independent and self-respectful she is, as she proudly declares her love and calls out a man too cowardly to reject her to her face. “Liking you is my business,” she proclaims with her head high and tears running down her cheeks, “it has nothing to do with you!”

Even surrounded by jerks, even with her relationships crumbling around her through no fault of her own, Su Cheng stands tall all the way, and never gives an inch. Faced with domineering men equipped with far more wealth and influence she could ever dream of, and who could potentially ruin her, she never falters, and instead forges forward and gives as good as she gets.

It. was. beautiful.

On the other hand, I do have to admit that her candor and kindness got a little annoying at times, especially when she kept trusting the same people who had already betrayed her several times before.

Good Acting, and a Strong Message

Both actors and voice actors did a really good job here. I was especially impressed by the crying scenes, which actually sounded like crying, and by Zhong Dan Ni, who played Liu Mengtian.

While I was expecting a show about wannabe actresses fighting for the top spot, I certainly didn’t think I would be getting 48 episodes about the darkness of the entertainment industry. Between the girl who sells her body to whoever can get her fame, the stifled young man who suffers from severe depression and chafes under his tyrannical manager’s rule, and the dizzying changes in public opinion fed by manipulative sharks…

Stairway to Stardom had something to say, and wasn’t scared of conveying a brutal message. I, myself, know nothing about the entertainment industry, but this show felt like a slap to the face, exposing the shady deals the public never gets to know about, as well as the excruciating path the people in those circles must walk to reach and stay at the top.

Yan Xi in Stairway to Stardom

Yan Xi

Okay, I admit, I kinda got the mother of all crushes on this kid. He just tugged at all my heart strings.

I mean… look at him!

Yan Xi as Yan Chufei in Stairway to Stardom
Beautiful cinnamon roll too good for this world, too pure.

Production

How should I put this.

The first time the male lead opened his mouth and the VA’s voice came through my speakers, I seriously considered dropping the show right away. It wasn’t so much the missing sync between his lip movements and the audio—the reason being that he clearly wasn’t speaking Chinese, but more of the metallic quality that his “voice” held.

What I mean by that is that the quality of the sound comes and goes. Characters hug, and their conversation is muffled. They stand still, and for some reason you can hear plastic crinkling. The male lead speaks in a room full of conversing people, yet his voice comes out crispy and clear… as if… he were…in a studio? Huh.

It… wasn’t great. In fact, I got flashbacks to Devil Beside You, which I watched… some ten years ago, or so?

On top of that, I wasn’t very fond of the strange whitewashed quality they kept giving to the important scenes: I could barely see anything at times, it was a little annoying.

However, what I really liked about Stairway to Stardom were the video-game scenes in which you can see Su Cheng gaining levels, or the way thought bubbles pop up by the character’s heads to illustrate what they’re imagining. Some of them were really cute and funny, and those scenes overall added a light and fresh tint to the show.

A Special Mention

…to this song, the lyrics of which cracked me up every time.

God please don’t let him show up

I really don’t want to see your face

I don’t understand how someone can be so obnoxious

[…]

You’re still a fool, always a fool

You only have the IQ of a 3-year-old

You never stop making trouble, can’t think straight

And only have the EQ of a 3-year-old

Stairway to Stardom
Song Yi and Push Puttichai Kasetsin in Stairway to Stardom

All in All

While Stairway to Stardom had its faults and certainly could have been a few episodes shorter (I fast-forwarded a lot), it’s got to be one of the best dramas I’ve seen about the entertainment world. Why? Because while romance was an important part of it, it still wasn’t the central pillar of the show. Su Cheng’s dream is, first and foremost, to be an actress, not to get married.

Therefore, the emphasis is on her career, with entire scenes from the dramas she’s shooting. I actually found myself really taken with her character’s relationship with the male lead in her show Encounter With the Dragon. Too bad it’s not an actual show, because I’d have liked to check it out.

Oh, well.

In any case, this was a surprisingly good time. I didn’t think I would enjoy it half as much as I did.

Yan Xi and Song Yi in Stairway to Stardom

Title: Stairway to Stardom

Country: China

Starring: Song Yi, Push Puttichai Kasetsin, Zhong Dan Ni, Yan Xi, Orlando Bloom

Aired: 07/09/2017 to 07/28/2017

Number of episodes: 48

Genres: Romance

Where to Watch: Youtube

My grade:★★★☆☆

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