Broadway in Shanghai

4 Nov

One of the benefits of watching more Chinese television (instead of my Philippine satellite TV) is that the ads are more relevant for daily life.  About a month ago I saw an ad for “The Ultimate Broadway Experience” in Shanghai and after contacting one of my friends, decided to buy tickets.

I love Broadway and musical theater and it is one of the things I miss from the States.  When I was in grade school my parents took me to see Phantom of the Opera with friends of the family and I remember how grown up, sophisticated I felt listening to the music, absorbing myself in the story.  One year in Chicago, I purchased an entire season (6 or 7 shows) pass to the Broadway in Chicago series, which if you went during the middle of the week was incredibly affordable.  When I went to New York last year I made sure to fit in a show (Memphis) and I enjoy Glee’s musical theater episodes more than the others.

So, Broadway was coming to Shanghai – what to expect?

Last year I was invited to a Mozart concert by a friend – we paid 200 RMB each for tickets (about $30 USD) and found that it was more like a Suzuki recital for beginning violin students than any type of concert I would ever pay for.  Would this be a similar experience or would it be more of the Maroon 5 concert – a great release from the pressure of Shanghai life?

The event took place at the Shanghai cultural center – the same place that I went to see Shrek earlier this year.  This time I remembered to take a couple of photos of the beautiful glass mural that decorates the entrance hall.  I don’t have any photos of the performance itself being a well disciplined theater goer who knows that photography is not permitted.

View from above of the mural

View from the ground level before heading into our seats

I enjoyed the show – the performers obviously had performed on Broadway before and their voices let me relax into a whirl of musical theater.  We had purchased tickets at the middle price point and wound up sitting in the second row, looking directly at the actors – we were so close that we could see the tattoo on the ankle of one of the leading ladies.

Format-wise the show was a medley – they had taken well known Broadway hits from the last twenty to thirty years and combined them.  There were four principal singers and then a back-up cast of maybe 10 which was then supplemented by I’m guessing a group from one of the Chinese universities with a focus on the performing arts.  That group of folks was maybe another 20 people.  For a final, adorable addition they also had a children’s choir sing two numbers including the intro to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat which is one of my all time favorites.

The only element that didn’t quite work was that the theater was probably less than half full.  I did go to the Sunday evening performance so there had been a matinee earlier in the day, but it felt strange to have so many empty seats.  My friend (who has been in China nearly as long as me) and I talked about the fact that we thought this audience was very well behaved compared to other events we had attended, but the empty theater made us feel a little sad.  That said – 5 years ago I don’t think the event would be here at all, so progress has been made.

Leaving we had a final smile.  There was a line of people waiting in line for autographs after the show.  That made me feel more hopeful that the call of musical theater will continue to sound in China.

Autograph seekers (from above)

What’s the last performance you attended?  Was it a new one or an old favorite?  What culture do you wish was easily available where you live?

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13 Responses to “Broadway in Shanghai”

  1. Mona November 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Being a lover of theatre of any kind, I smiled as I read your post.

    • gkm2011 November 4, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      Thanks! It is great that Shanghai has more and more opportunities.

      • Mona November 4, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

        I find myself missing Shanghai.

  2. roomaomao November 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm #

    I went to see the London Philharmonic play in Shanghai and one guy in the front row kept trying to film. The ushers would spot him and shine a laser at his camera from the back. After they did this about 10 times , an usher stood right in front of the filmer with a large sign saying no filming (in Chinese of course) . The guy still didn’t get the idea and kept filming! Insane!

    Anyways , that cultural center is right by house. I always see it from the outside. Now I’ll have to go see from the inside!

    • gkm2011 November 5, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

      It is a good venue, keep your eyes open for other shows. As far as the behavior I think it just needs time.

  3. sarahinguangzhou November 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    Yes I went to a few concerts at GZ opera house and it was always half-empty. There were a few cheap seats that sold out amazingly fast and the rest were too expensive for most Chinese people. I was told ‘only you rich foreigners can afford to pay 200rmb for a ticket’. The few Chinese people who did buy the more expensive tickets looked a bit out of place. They spent most of their time taking photos.

    • gkm2011 November 5, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

      The ticket prices do seem high to me too, it’s only when there is mainstream support will things take off.

  4. valerie November 5, 2012 at 7:36 am #

    The Paris Ballet was in Chicago over my sister’s birthday so I took her there as a present. It was an excellent show and the dance to Ravel’s Bolero was excellent (I highly recommend it if it comes your way!).

    • gkm2011 November 5, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

      Wow, I haven’t seen a ballet for a while. I’ll keep my eyes open.

  5. Naomi Baltuck November 5, 2012 at 11:55 pm #

    We love theater. Last Friday we went to a really interesting production of The Ramayana, fresh with lots of humor. But we enjoy the occasional trip to New York to see Broadway plays, and when they come to Seattle, we see them here. Damn Yankees, Alladin, White Christmas, Jersey Boys, The Thirty-Nine Steps, On the Town. We have tickets to see Elf, War Horse, The Glass Menagerie, and several others. I am glad they are bringing musical theater to Shanghai. I’m sure it will catch on.

    • gkm2011 November 6, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

      I get great joy from musical theater. There’s something magical about walking out after a great performance, skipping along while humming songs from the show. The children’s choir really brought me hope – catch ’em early!

  6. eof737 November 6, 2012 at 7:53 am #

    What a beautiful space… Hope you loved the show too. 😉

    • gkm2011 November 6, 2012 at 8:25 pm #

      I did – their voices were wonderful. It reminded me too how lucky I’ve been to see so many musicals over the last 15 years or so.

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