Shenyang City Has the Potential for Broadway
The Broadway musical The Phantom of the Opera recently closed its curtain in Shanghai after one hundred performances. Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, the famous Broadway leader, is now aiming toward the prominent northeast cultural city of Shenyang. Toby Simkin, Vice President and Executive Producer of Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, was interviewed by the reporter as he arrived at the Shenyang International Airport.
Toby Simkin has worked on over 120 productions in Australia, The United States, Canada, and England. He has completed successful marketing campaigns for musicals including Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, and The Sound of Music. Mr.Simkin’s produced shows have won 5 Tony Awards and the shows that he has contributed to hold a total of 243 Tony nominations and 96 Tony awards. Mr. Simkin is also extremely interested in fostering the cultural exchange between the east and west. He co-produced the “Three Tenors” in Vancouver and managed an international tour for the Shanghai Ballet Company.
Selecting Five Partners in China
Reporter: This is your first time in Shenyang. Can you please tell us what the goal of your trip is?
Toby: Shenyang is my eleventh stop in China. I’ve already visited Hangzhou, Ningbo, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Changsha, Wuhan, Shanghai, and Beijing. My goal this time is to introduce a series of Broadway musicals, while searching for potential partners and the opportunities to invest and manage different venues. I will dedicate my time here to discussing the possibility of performing musicals in Shenyang, inspecting the features of the Liaoning Theater and deciding whether the two are compatible. I will also inspect Shenyang DFP and population capacity, as well as the strength of the tourism economy. Since musicals can be extremely costly to produce, we have to consider all of the factors before selecting a city.
Reporter: What are the requirements you are looking for in a city? How do you feel after having visited ten other cities?
Toby: The criteria that I am looking for in a city include suitable population, good economic environment, the ability to fill the house,and a venue of appropriate size. The local collaborators that I will be working with closely must possess a global view. Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Beijing have great potential and I hold high expectations for Shenyang as well. I did some research on the cultural and economic development of Shenyang before I arrived here and Shenyang has the right environment. Through this assessment, we will form a theater alliance with five of China’s theaters to establish long-term cooperation. Additionally, we will invest in some theater renovations to make the audience experience more enjoyable.
42nd Street and The Lion King Might Be Coming to Shenyang
Reporter: The Sound of Music was in Shanghai for 8 shows and was very well received. If Shenyang has the privilege of working with Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment, what productions can we expect to see?
Toby: 42nd Street will be the first musical that we introduce, followed by The Lion King next year.
Reporter: Why these two shows?
Toby: I feel that The Sound of Music does not have the ability torepresent the intensity typical of Broadway musicals. The Phantom of the Opera will remain popular forever. We choose the production according to Chinese audiences’ needs and something that they can accept and enjoy. The main focus of 42nd Street is music and dancing, with minimal dialogue. To compensate, we will have a very detailed printed program that describes the story and each scene. 42nd Street is one of the top 10 shows on Broadway and has one of the largest casts. It’s a very satisfying and enjoyable production with great music, beautiful choreography, and an overall beautiful design. It is the story of young actress who gains fame overnight. Many musical numbers are Broadway classics. Of course we will adjust the number of shows to reflect the needs of the market.
Reporter: “Broadway” has become synonymous with modern American music. In recent years, Cats, Chicago, The Phantom of theOpera, and The Sound of Music all have been introduced in China. Chinese audiences understand that musicals need a process to come together. How do you summarize the artistic beauty and features of Broadway musicals?
Toby: Broadway musicals are easy to understand and extremely entertaining with beautiful scenery and costumes. Today’s technology, combined with sound and lighting, creates magnificent show effects. Performers who sing and dance on stage stimulate the audience. Musicals are a combination of dancing, singing, and acting. It is extremely entertaining and attractive. Broadway musicals originated in the mid 19th century and have a strong influence on American theater and performing arts. The Broadway musical has become one of the pillars of New York’s culture. Every year, millions of people from all over the world come to New YorkCity to appreciate Broadway musicals.
Reporter: Broadway musicals have trained many famous Hollywood stars. Some outstanding Chinese actors have appeared on the Broadway stage as well.
Toby: Yes, Wang Luoyong, and Fei Xiang, among others. Many major Hollywood stars began with Broadway training and then moved onto the big screen. For example, Hollywood leading lady Ms. Julie Andrews began with The Sound of Music on Broadway,then the director brought it to the big screen and made her an idol of the 1960s. Even though she is over 60 years old, she played the lead role in Victor/Victoria on Broadway. Many Hollywood celebrities also feel honored to perform on Broadway.
Introducing Chinese Arts To the World
Reporter: Do you like Chinese theater? For instance, PekingOpera?
Toby: I like some of it, but I can’t say Peking Opera is one of myfavorites. Other than theater, I enjoy many other Chinese art forms.Unfortunately, the opportunities to appreciate Chinese art are fairly rare in major US cities.
Reporter: The mission of your trip is to find partners who will bring musicals to China. Are you also looking for ways to bring Chinese cultural art forms to the United States or other countries?
Toby: We do have a plan for this and we think 2008 will be a great turning point. At that time, the world vision will focus on China for the Olympics and we hope to import more American art forms toChina while simultaneously exporting Chinese art to the world.
Yesterday, the Liaoning Theatre reported that Mr. Simkin is extremely satisfied with the theater facility. He believes the venuemeets the standard and Shenyang has the charm of an ancient city.Therefore, there is a great possibility that Nederlander WorldwideEntertainment will choose Shenyang to be one of its partners inChina. Liaoning Theatre has indicated that if both companies decide to work together, it will incorporate the Broadway advanced management style as well as the theatre operation experience