Journalist Wei Ruiyan
With the continuous development of Chinese musicals, ask there has been much more demand in the international performance market. From September 2nd to 23th, the Huaxia Musical Performing Troupe toured the United States with the original Chinese musicals, Kunlun Myth and AFUNDI, produced by the Chinese Performing Arts Agency. They performed in Chicago, Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles for 16 performances. This is the first time that an original Chinese musical has toured the United States.
The performances have higher qualities than expected.
Huaxia Musical Performing Troupe’s actors and staff were excited and nervous when they had this opportunity, online to perform their original musicals in the United States, which has more than a 100 year history. On September 2nd and 3rd, the original musical Kunlun Myth performed twice at the Chicago Grand Theater. This musical uses the Western Queen, the God of Water and other characters from the Chinese Kunlun mythology to express the cultural connotation that “Love is the supreme goodness,” by linking the past to the present and heaven to the ground. It also discusses humans’ goodness and evil, and expresses that human beings are appreciated with ordinary love. Kunlun Myth has had more than 100 performances in China. The international director is Don Frantz who served as associate producer on the famous Broadway musical, treatment The Lion King. He has accumulated over 40 years of experience in musical production in the United States.
In order to meet the convenience all of audience members, the show played with the English subtitles. All of the actors overcame more than 10-hours’ time difference and a complete change in diet in order to produce the best performances possible. The staff also were forced to solve challenges involving choreography, lighting, audio, equipment transportation and much more in order to ensure successful performances. What was produced was a magnificent stage, wonderful dancing, melodious music, beautiful singing, costumes characteristic of the host nation. The United States audience members always gave wondrous applause for each performance, and each time all of actors and staff were appreciative.
The performance also received rave reviews from the audience members. American local, Cathy, watched Kunlun Myth’s first performance with her family, and happily said, “This show is really great!” Mr. Zhang, a Chinese descendent who has lived in the U.S. for some time, loves musicals and is quite familiar with Broadway musicals. After watching the show, he said that he was very excited and proud because the Chinese musical performance’s qualities were higher than he expected. Also, the second comedy musical AFUNDI also gained high performance achievement. All of its audience members laughed throughout the whole show, and discussed the plot in the intermission intensely.
The performances in Phoenix attracted official attentions.
From September 9th through the 12th EDT, Kunlun Myth played four performances at the Phoenix Herberger Theater Center. On the first day, Greg Stanton, the mayor of Phoenix, with Bob Robson and Jeff Dial, Arizona state legislators, attended the cocktail party and watched the show. They welcomed Kunlun Myth to Phoenix, and said that the musical gave the local people an opportunity to understand the Chinese culture through theater. They also hoped CPAA would bring more musicals like Kunlun Myth to promote the culture communication with China and the United States, and deepen the friendship with each other.
The poignant love story, Kunlun Myth, touched many female audience members. Liao Dan, a housewife, said after watching two performances, “I was so moved and involved in this story in this evening.” Another audience, Liu Yuguo said she always attends the performances at the local universities’ theaters, but she rarely finds a Chinese production. In 2008, she went to the Beijing National Grand Theater and watched a show which left her with a deep impression. This time, she watched Kunlun Myth and felt that the “music and performance are very good.” Audience member, Yu Houlong, has seen many Broadway musicals. He told the journalist that he felt the rhythm was a little bit slow, so he didn’t enjoy it as much. However, by the end of the show, he smiled and said that the second act was great, and that it not only has a suitable pace, but also shows many more prominent Chinese elements. He decided that he’d like to see more Chinese performances in the future.
Journalists saw that there were many Chinese citizens in the audience as well. After they talked with them, they realized that they did not have many Chinese cultural events in the United States. Therefore, these Chinese audience members felt very passionate after they heard news that a Chinese arts group would have a performance in the United States. So much that they shared the information to each other, and came to watch this performance with their friends and families. Weng Zhaohui, from Fujian, and works in the wholesale food business in the United States, prepared many boxes of moon cakes for the actors and staff in order to express his gratitude and celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival with them. He said, “There are many Chinese people in the United States, and we hope your group will could come here more often in the future.”
Insist on going abroad to promote Chinese culture.
The last stop of the United States tour was Los Angeles with the most performances. From Sep. 15th through the 23th, the troupe performed three Kunlun Myth shows at the Pasadena Convention Center, and then performed five AFUNDI shows. De Lizi Wu saw the performance information on the website two days prior, and bought the Kunlun Myth‘s tickets immediately. She said every year she sees at least 16 shows in the United States. Before Kunlun Myth, she watched only Western productions. This was the first time she’s seen a Chinese musical. She praised “The actors sing really wonderfully, and they coordinate harmoniously with each other.”
Wang Yuyan, the director of CPAA, said “All of reviews from these four cities’ audience members are really great. By the end of the shows, audience members gave wondrous applause for a long time. We used local TV channels, radio channels, websites, newspaper and posters as our marketing materials to promote our productions. We tried to cover the cities in the United States which have many Chinese people on our tour.” He also said that this is the first time CPAA gone abroad to open a musical tour. Also, it is the first time it has partnered with a private troupe to open in the international markets. The reasons why they chose these four cities are based on the theaters’ schedule, theaters’ capacity, familiarity of local cities and other factors.
Now, Huaxia Musical Performing Troupe has positioned themselves in the international market. They performed in Singapore last year, and began touring in the United States this year. They are prepared to go abroad next year in order to continue to promote Chinese culture. This year’s tour of the two original Chinese musicals in the U.S. could not have happened were it not for the vision and international awareness of Wang Yu, the chairman of Huaxia Musical Communication Co., Ltd. She said, “Compared to the United States’ outstanding musicals, many Chinese musicals have a gap in creation, performance and marketing. That is why we need to go abroad to study, communicate, and practice as a team, so that we could gain experiences and grow. At the same time, we also need to build the cultural confidence. According to the Chinese national conditions, we will then use our own method to promote and develop our productions.”