It’s nearly impossible for consumers these days to determine value for money and quality of show prior to seeing it, since it’s become easy to market a show these days by merely licensing the original Broadway or West End productions logo with their performance license, and to include the pedigree of the original production in the marketing of the tour. For example, often in China we see “Tony Award winning musical” branded on marketing for non-union shows. While it may be true that the original production by the same name (and logo) won a Tony Award, it has no relation whatsoever to the the musical production currently touring. Indeed, I’ve seen many a show in China at major theatres labelled as Broadway tours that were actually on the Actors Equity do not work list (“black list”).
In general terms, one single Broadway or West End musical production may spin off, over time into multiple tours — typically starting with a high quality tour in North America or the UK while the show is playing on Broadway or in the West End, or immediately after it closes. Once this tour has done it’s rounds, often a cheaper tour is developed to play slightly smaller theatres/cities, using a scaled down set and company. After this tour has it’s done it’s rounds, the show is often put out for licensing, allowing 3rd parties to create a version of the show, licensing the original logo, and touring to even smaller markets and international cities using a much smaller set and company. This process repeats for as long as the market can sustain.
USA based professional union musicals are classified by the producers and union associations based on the productions weekly base guarantee (the fee paid by the local presenter to the shows producer). For example, and in generalized simplistic terms, from best to worst:
|Broadway (in New York)|
|1st Class Broadway Tour||USD $450,000 or more|
|Musical Tour Tier B||USD $400,000 – $449,000|
|Musical Tour Tier C||USD $350,000 – $399,000|
|“Bus & Truck” Tour Tier D||Less than USD $350,000|
|Non-Union Professional Tour|
|Non-Union Semi-Professional Tour|
Internationally, it gets murkier, generally West End of London is the pinnacle of quality, followed by a 1st class licensed “sit down” production in a global city (such as Amsterdam, Toronto, Hamburg, Tokyo or Melbourne). Thereafter, usually the 1st class tours are next best quality — for example, British, European or Australian touring productions. Thereafter, the 2nd class tours are next best, using largely companies of actors and crew from places like South Africa, Eastern Europe or Mexico — often non-union, yet semi-professional. What follows, and often the lowest quality productions are those utilizing non-union and often precariously paid companies of actors and staff.
SOME presenters in China, capitalize on this confusion and mislead the general public by marketing a low quality non-union show as if it was the original Broadway or West End production which has never been the case. This is doing significant damage to the Broadway brand in China, and is dramatically hurting the audience development of the market. I plead with Chinese presenters to be honest in the marketing in future. However, I predict this issue will get worse as China places lower cost, regardless of quality as a priority, and as more theatres open, with more shows competing with each other.
Unfortunately, MOST of the musicals seen in China too date fall into the blue/purple/pink zone. (and a couple at the very, very bottom of the chart)
May 18-20, 2012 at the Shanghai Cultural Plaza for two days for the the closing of the 29th Shanghai Spring International Music Festival. Russian non-equity touring production
October 2011 at Shanghai Oriental Art Centre followed by tour of Beijing, Chongqing, Wuhan, Chengdu, Shenzhen. Presented by Show Time Asia Group in association with Zorro Limited. West End spinoff non-equity touring production
|KISS ME KATE
The planned August-October 2011 Tour of Wenzhou, Ningbo, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen was cancelled on Sept 26 following poor (25%) ticket sales in Beijing. Presented by Beijing Exhibition Center Media Co, Produced by Hebei Silang Performance Agency Pty Ltd/NSW Brave Touch Productions using an Australian cast. Australian non-equity touring production
2009/2010 tour of Suzhou, Minhang (Shanghai), Xi’an, Nanning, Wuhan, Fuzhou and Beijing. Produced by Phoenix Entertainment, presented by Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment in conjunction with local presenters. USA non-equity touring production
|HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL
June 2009 at the Shanghai Grand Theatre, for 24 shows with 32 International Cast and 10 Musicians. Returned in 2010 for a tour including Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Zheng Zhou, He Fei, Chongqing, Wuhan, Beijing. South African non-equity touring production
2008 tour of Xi’an, Zhengzhou, Chongqing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing. Produced by Broadway Asia. Asian non-equity touring production
2008/2009 tour of Tianjin, Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Xi’an, Beijing, Huhhot, Tianjin. Produced by Big League Theatricals, presented by Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment / local presenters. USA non-equity touring production
July 2008, Shanghai Grand Theatre for 2 weeks, then Beijing for 1 week. Produced by Broadway Asia. USA non-equity touring production
2007 tour of Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Hefei, Ningbo, Changsha, Wuhan, Beijing. Produced by Troika Entertainment and Broadway Asia Entertainment, presented by Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment / local presenters. USA non-equity touring production
|LE PETIT PRINCE
A French-language musical, Le Petit Prince, by composer Riccardo Cocciante, at Shanghai Oriental Art Centre in July 2007. European non-equity touring production
International Tour production produced by Judy Craymer, at the Shanghai Grand Theatre from July-August 2007, then Beijing for two-weeks the Poly Theater in August. European non-equity touring production. A Chinese language version opened in 2011
|THE KING & I
Made its Asia premiere in Shenzhen, China, on April 25, 2007. Also played in Hangzhou. Produced by Broadway Asia. Asian non-equity touring production
|THE LION KING
Shanghai’s Grand Theatre from July 18, 2006 for 13 weeks (101 performances/160,000 audience members and RMB 72 million in box office). Presented by The Shanghai Grand Theatre / The Walt Disney Co., Australian production came with 52 performers and the set arrived in 2 special Boeing 747 air freighters prior to continuing to South Africa (Shanghai was a stop off for the tour). Australian 1st class equity touring production
|WEST SIDE STORY
2006 Beijing, directed and choreographed by Joey McKneely and produced by BB Promotion, for the Fourth Beijing International Theater Festival by the Chinese Ministry of Culture, China Federation of Literary and Art Circles, Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and the Beijing municipal government. German non-equity touring production
December 2005 Beizhan Theatre, Beijing followed by Shanghai, starring Hong Kong actress and singer Karen Mok. USA non-equity touring production
|BURN THE FLOOR
October 2005 in Beijing at the Great Hall of the People, followed by Shanghai. Presented by China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG). Returned to tour China in 2009. European non-equity touring production
|THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
Shanghai’s Grand Theatre in December 2004 in Shanghai – it’s sellout run was assisted by the film version which was in wide DVD distribution at the time.
Australian 1st class equity touring production
December 2004 for 3 performances only, Beijing, The Great Hall of the People, Tian’anmen Square presented by Beijing GHTY Culture and Art Corporation.
USA non-equity touring production
|THE SOUND OF MUSIC
2004/2005 national tour cities included Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanning, Harbin, Shanghai, Beijing, Xiaoshan (Hangzhou), Xi’an, Tianjin. Produced by Troika Entertainment and Presented by Broadway Asia / local presenters. USA non-equity touring production
Initially toured during the SARS epidemic. When CATS went on sale, the Shanghai Daily newspaper reported that ticket sales records were broken when about 5,000 tickets were sold in a single day. Has returned and toured multiple times to multiple cities throughout China. Australian 1st class equity touring production. Mandarin language production opened in 2012
Starting in Beijing October 2003, Riverdance has done multiple, multi-city tours of China. Presented by China Performing Arts Agency (CPAA). Not a musical theatre show, but an Irish dance spectacular. European non-equity touring production
Victor Hugo’s novel, “Les Miserables” was a Chinese best-seller – as a result it arrived in 2003 already branded – coupled with a strong marketing campaign it sold out. Was the first 1st Class English language full book musical to play in China since the Communist takeover in 1949. West End equity touring production.
|NOTRE DAME DE PARIS
Played in December, 2002 at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for 5 performances then in Shanghai January 22-26, 2003. Asian debut for Notre Dame De Paris, and grand finale of the French-Canadian musical. Presented by Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group. European non-equity touring production
|BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
1999 Mandarin language production in Beijing for 4 weeks