Chicago cuts tour short

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By ZHANGKUNin Shang­hai zhangkun@chi­

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.

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