It’s truly the British theatrical invasion of China for the remainder of 2018, with only 1 musical show coming from the USA tour (Kinky Boots), 1 from Australia (STOMP), and all other theatrical productions — CATS, Chicago, Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Macbeth and the Rent 20th Anniversary tour — are British touring productions. Likely due to substantially lower cost of production from the UK, however, it’s a pity Chinese audiences are being sold (misled) “Broadway” and getting something entirely different.
Shanghai (and China in general) has a sad and murky history of many very low quality Australian, USA, South African or European touring musicals being presented and sold under the “Broadway” label. Some of the British touring productions are either good or even excellent quality, but they should be called “musicals” and not refer to coming from Broadway — indeed, some of the best musicals originated in London such as CATS, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon etc… so my ongoing plea to the to the Chinese bookers and presenters… be honest – be fair in developing and educating local audiences!
As I have often spoken about in speeches for the Ministry of Culture and theatrical associations within China in the past 14 years, for China to succeed in future with a flourishing musical theatre market that can proudly stand up against international offerings, it’s critical to develop it’s audiences to demand quality. Without quality, the Chinese musical market will be doomed. “Good enough, close enough” is not a long-term smart solution. Only with demands for the highest quality of shows by audiences, can the Chinese musical market compete with global markets.
As a Broadway / West End producer with 3 decades of experience, working producing, managing or marketing over 175 Broadway shows, (today calling Shanghai one of my homes) in my opinion:
- separate from this years Mandarin language productions (of greatly varying quality) ranging from Beauty and the Beast to The Sound of Music,
- while we wait for the all-essential 1st class International quality Chinese musicals to be developed (none too date but hopefully soon),
- the Chinese market needs to develop musical audiences by offering a range of international productions (and quality) — Broadway and West End and even some lower quality touring productions too alongside locally developed Chinese musical offerings.
Then local Chinese audiences can decide for themselves the value for money, and be in a position to compare & understand about quality and excellence. This will push Chinese creatives (& investors) to think differently, and think long-term quality.
In 2012 I wrote about this frustrating con game within China, where shows are being sold to the public pretending to be something they are not. In 2013 I gave a speech to 500 theatre managers and Ministry of Culture officials about the urgent need to focus on QUALITY. Nothing has changed, and indeed, the situation is getting worse.
Still to this moment, the quality of productions touring through China is generally poor, and no actual Broadway 1st class touring show – has played in China — I hope this will happen in my lifetime.