West End musicals to premiere in Chinese

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 September, 2007, 12:00am

Mainland audiences will get a chance to see Chinese-language versions of famous West End musicals such as Cats, Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera with the signing of a deal in Beijing yesterday.

Legendary British producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh and China Arts and Entertainment Group will produce Les Miserables in Beijing in November next year with an entirely Chinese cast, and the show will tour the mainland after its Beijing run.

The musical will be staged next to Tiananmen Square at the National Grand Theatre, a controversial signature building commissioned for staging world-famous shows.

The English-language version of Les Miserables, a story familiar to mainlanders, attracted a huge audience to its run in Shanghai in 2002.

Sir Cameron and China Arts general manager Zhang Yu said they expected the Chinese version to be another big success.

'I cannot guarantee anything, but judging from my decades of experience in show business, this Chinese version of Les Miserables will surely be a huge success in China,' Mr Zhang said.

The Era, a musical produced by Mr Zhang's company which opened in Shanghai in 2005, was staged for the 797th time on Sunday night - and bookings show no sign of falling off.

'As long as we have good products, Chinese audiences will be there,' Mr Zhang said.

His company's joint venture with Sir Cameron was the best possible deal because 'when you want to stage a show, you'd be happy to work with the best person in the industry'.

Sir Cameron said the joint venture, of which he owns 49 per cent and China Arts owns 51 per cent, was 'hugely exciting' but he would have preferred to run the show alone, if only the central government had allowed.

'I was invited to Beijing in 2005 and told personally by culture ministry officials that I have to co-operate with a Chinese partner to put on my shows here,' he said.

The venture is expected to bring most of Sir Cameron's famous shows to the mainland in coming years.

A Chinese Mamma Mia! is expected to follow Les Miserables, with other famed shows such as The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Mary Poppins and Disney's The Lion King expected to follow in the next few years.