Beijing Olympic – Broadway in Beijing

Following the successful run of Mamma Mia!, and with productions of Cats and Les Miserables in the pipeline, Beijing is experiencing a rush of musical extravaganzas. In November the acclaimed Broadway musical 42nd Street will have a six-night run at the Beijing Exhibition Center Theater.

The musical is based on the 1933 hit film starring Bebe Daniels, Warner Baxter and Ginger Rogers, which was nominated for an Oscar and saved Warner Brothers from bankruptcy. The story of 42nd Street revolves around the production of a Broadway musical. Strapped for cash, the director (played in the Beijing production by Paul Gregory Nelson) gets funding from a wealthy patron who also happens to be in love with the fading star cast in the lead, Dorothy Brock (played by Natalie Buster). On opening night, Dorothy breaks her leg and one of the chorus girls, Peggy Sawyer (played by Kristen Martin), is selected to stand in. She steals the show and emerges as the star.

The film of 42nd Street offered a powerful dose of escapism from the sufferings of 1930s America, then in the grip of the Great Depression. The all-singing and all-dancing nature of the musical film, combined with the grittiness of the backstage scenes, lifted people’s spirits as well as reminding them of the hardships of life.

The original Broadway production of 42nd Street, which ran for over eight years, won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1981, and in 2001 a new production won another Tony for Best Musical Revival. This latest production – set up exclusively for China – is directed by Mark Bramble and choreographed by Randy Skinner, both of whom worked on the 2001 revival. The production has had successful runs in Shenzhen and Shanghai, and will play in Xi’an, Tianjin, Hefei and other cities before hitting the Chinese capital.

Chen Jixin, chairwoman of production company Nederlander New Century, believes the musical’s story of triumph over adversity will resonate with Chinese audiences. “42nd Street shows that through diligence and persistence people can turn their dreams into reality,” she says.

Charles MacEachern (who plays Billy Lawlor) says the production’s dazzling song and dance numbers will captivate the audience, especially the mass ensemble tap routines involving up to 50 dancers at a time, which are something Beijing has never seen before. Evergreen songs like “Lullaby of Broadway” and “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” by legendary tunesmiths Harry Warren and Al Dubin are very much part of the experience, and will help to bring the magic of Broadway to the Beijing stage.

42nd Street will play from Nov 13-18 at the Beijing Exhibition Center Theater (6835 4455). RMB 80-880. Tickets at 400 706 0688 or 5128 8888


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