Festival brings a world of musicals to audiences

Updated: Dec 19, 2023 By ZHANG KUN in Shanghai China Daily Global Print
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A scene from the musical Once, presented at Shanghai Culture Square from Dec 7 to Sunday. [PHOTO BY ZHENG TIANRAN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

The Show Life Shanghai International Musical Festival kicked off at Shanghai Culture Square on Dec 7.

Featuring a host of activities, including a showcase of international productions and new original Chinese musicals, workshops for incubation projects, industry forums, as well as a musical singing contest, the festival, now in its sixth iteration, will run until April 1, 2024.

One of the key highlights of the festival is the premiere of Glen Hansard's new production Once, which tells the story of a fateful encounter between a busker and an immigrant in Dublin.

Following the performances in Shanghai, this new West End production directed by Dean Johnson and starring Arthur Darvill and Ines de Clercq will go on to tour Shenzhen, Guangdong province, and Beijing, before heading on to more international locations.

Once features a cast of real musicians who play the instruments onstage while acting.

"We hope we can inspire a generation of Chinese artists who will watch the show and tell their stories in music theater, and create shows like this," Johnson told China Daily before the premiere in Shanghai.

"Taking the show to Shanghai, we really wanted to understand the culture of Shanghai and China, and the different ways we could make the story universal … by really leaning in to the power of language and music."

Once was also the first overseas show at the New Year season of Shanghai Culture Square, which consists of seven productions from the Britain, France, Italy, Russia and Ireland.

A scene from the musical Once, presented at Shanghai Culture Square from Dec 7 to Sunday. [PHOTO BY ZHENG TIANRAN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

The Show Life Shanghai International Musical Festival has become an important platform for the sector, and has significantly facilitated the development of musical theater in China, says Fei Yunhong, deputy general manager of Shanghai Culture Square.

Through its annual cultivation program, Shanghai Culture Square has produced 13 original productions. Among the ongoing cultivation projects is Lady M by British playwrights James Beeny and Gina Georgio, which is a new interpretation of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Directed by Chinese theater artist Xu Jun, the show features an international creative team and marks Shanghai Culture Square's first collaboration with international partners, says Fei. Lady M will premiere on May 9, 2024.

The titular character, Lady Macbeth, from whose perspective the story of Macbeth will be re-interpreted, will be played by Dutch actress Maya Hakvoort, the brand ambassador of this year's Show Life Shanghai International Musical Festival.

She played the titular character in the German musical Elisabeth, which was presented in Shanghai 10 years ago.

In 2019, she returned to participate in a German musical gala show. Earlier this year, she held a sold-out solo concert at the venue.

Starting from March 2, a showcase of original Chinese musicals will take place at Shanghai Culture Square.

Five productions will be presented. The South of the Wall is about the conflict between a father who is a Peking Opera artist and his son who is eager to follow his own musical dreams. The Musical: Classic of Mountains and Rivers is a new sci-fi interpretation of ancient Chinese mythology.

Musical and Love is a jukebox musical theater show, featuring the creations of Fan Chong. The City of Stars starring renowned actor Zheng Qiyuan, is an ode to young urban builders.

And Rouge by Hong Kong-based author Lilian Lee Pik-wah tells a story about how two women, with an age difference of 50 years, treat love and relationships differently.

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