An Orphan of Zhao (the first collaboration between Stephin Merritt and Chinese theater director Chen Shi-Zheng) was a westernized update of a 13th-century black comedy about massacres and retribution — an experiment in form and content not unlike Tarantino’s Kill Bill, released the same year. Merritt’s ongoing work with the Magnetic Fields is ample proof that he can craft witty, catchy material around various singers and themes. But the three stage musicals he’s scored for Chen Shi-Zheng allow his music to serve broader political and personal agendas. Merritt’s new CD, features 26 songs from three Cheng/Merritt plays where the guiding vision comes from a cosmopolitan director schooled in the production of Chinese opera. In mood and modes, the record alternates between Brecht, Sondheim, and Gilbert and Sullivan. Meditative melodies reveal more similarity than difference between various ethnicities. By employing predominantly Anglo performers operating within a traditional Chinese aesthetic, Showtunes represents a new kind of multicultural American musical.