Chicago cuts tour short
The Chicago musical tour in China may not happen after all.
It was originally supposed to include more than 40 shows in nine cities throughout China. News of the tour was released in November, attracting enthusiastic Shanghai audiences to purchase tickets worth 5 million yuan ($826,400).
But as of now, all the performances in cities other than Beijing and Shanghai have been canceled. The reason is because many theaters in second- and third-tier cities do not have the expertise to host international musicals.
Joyway Culture Co Ltd, the Chinese organizer of the tour, is working closely with the Broadway group to ensure the successful performances in Beijing and Shanghai.
“But nothing is confirmed,” saysWu Liangyu, the publicist for Chicago in China. “Joyway is working hard with the cast and the production team. We really want to ensure successful shows in Beijing and Shanghai.”
Joyway has added 5 million yuan to the production cost to ensure high-quality shows in Beijing and Shanghai, and it has been in close discussion with the producer Walter Bobbie. Bobbie’s successful revival of the 1975 musical on Broadway won six Drama Desk Awards and five Tony Awards in 1996.
The musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb is set in 1920s’ Chicago. It is about vaudevillian Velma and chorus girl Roxie. Both women are in prison for murder and contending to get their names and stories on the front-page news, for a chance to avoid their death sentences.
It is the longest-running musical revival, and the longest-running US musical in Broadway history. It has toured 26 countries and regions, giving more than 15,000 shows watched by more than 17 million people.
The composer Kander used contemporary American music, such as ragtime jazz, to portray 1920s’ Chicago. The original choreography by Bob Fosse, featuring jazz, tango and tap dance, preserves its sexiness after almost 40 years. Ten years ago, Joyway brought Chicago to China for the first time.
“We are doing it again after 10 years, partly to see how far urban culture and consumerism have developed in China,” says Zhang Ligang, general manager of Joyway.
Not much has changed in China, except for Beijing and Shanghai, it seems.
“We have underestimated the complexity of musical productions touring in China,” Wu says. Many of China’s second- and third-tier cities have built brand-new theaters in the past few years, but they are still inadequate for large international shows, he says.
Hubei’s provincial capital Wuhan and Xiamen in Fujian province canceled their legs of Chicago, in advance. When the cast arrived at Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province, the stage setting was not ready, and they were not given enough time to do it properly.
As a result, a “trial performance” of a “concert edition” Chicago was presented in Fuzhou on Jan 6, when the actors performed the songs and dances onstage without props. Joyway canceled the shows planned for Chongqing, Qingdao and Jinan in Shandong province and Tianjin,
According to Jin Zhaojun, editor of People’s Music magazine, the musical is still a newgenre to most parts of China’s live show market.
“It’s expensive to see a musical production, and it will take some time before people fall in love with the musical theater,” he says.
Every year quite a few Chinese original musical productions are made but “few of them achieve commercial success”, he says.
Since Shanghai Culture Square opened in 2011, winter season musicals have become a regular presence in the city. Phantom was presented for two months before giving up the stage to Chicago.
According to the tour plan, 12 performances of Chicago will take place at Shanghai Culture Square in February.
The musical Chicago will cancel most of its China tour performances except for the shows in Beijing and Shanghai.