CULTURE 'Beauty and the Beast' musical dazzles Chinese audience

CULTURE

'Beauty and the Beast' musical dazzles Chinese audience

Zhang Rui | China.org.cn

14:04, June 16, 2018

Actors perform at the "Beauty and the Beast" musical premiere at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre in Disneytown of Shanghai Disney Resort, June 14, 2018. [Photo courtesy of Shanghai Disney Resort]

The new Mandarin version of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" performed for the first time in Shanghai on Thursday featuring stunning costumes and stage designs, nostalgic sentiments and modern interpretation.

The "tale as old as time" captivated hundreds in the audience, receiving a standing ovation at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre in Disneytown of Shanghai Disney Resort. The energetic performance by Chinese actors, splendid and multi-layered stage designs, magnificent costumes and familiar old tunes is a production that could resonate with Chinese people of all ages, said Thomas Schumacher, president and producer of Disney Theatrical Productions.

"Witnessing a Broadway stage musical is like witnessing no other form of entertainment, and it brings us great joy to offer that experience to guests in Shanghai," said Philippe Gas, general manager of Shanghai Disney Resort, at the musical's premiere last night. 

Actors perform at the "Beauty and the Beast" musical premiere at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre in Disneytown of Shanghai Disney Resort, June 14, 2018. [Photo courtesy of Shanghai Disney Resort]

The production tells the story of Belle, a young girl first repelled by, and then attracted to a seemingly horrifying yet good-hearted Beast, who is actually a young prince trapped within a beast's body due to a curse requiring him to find real love. The Mandarin version comprises an approximately two-hour program with a 15-minute intermission.

The production was adapted from a fairy tale published by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1790. Walt Disney Animation Studios produced an animated feature in 1991, and its iconic music won the Academy Award for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for its title song. 

The classic animation has become a model for musicals that later premiered on Broadway in 1994. Thus far, the musical has been one of the longest-running for 13 years, and since licensing of the title began in 2004 it has toured 37 countries and regions and entertained more than 35 million people with over 28,000 performances in 17 different languages. 

Actors perform at the "Beauty and the Beast" musical premiere at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre in Disneytown of Shanghai Disney Resort, June 14, 2018. [Photo courtesy of Shanghai Disney Resort]

The Chinese production represents the second collaboration between Shanghai Disney Resort and Disney Theatrical Productions and integrates the classic tale with talented local cast members, including young singers Guo Yaorong as Belle and Sun Dou'er as the Beast from nation-wide auditions. Singer Xu Meng, who plays Mrs. Potts, sings a touching recital of the show's iconic title song. All dialogues and songs have been adapted into brand new Chinese translations which factor in local humor and modern interpretations. 

Rob Roth, director of the original Broadway production, once feared the cultural gap between the Chinese local cast and Broadway team, but after he saw the rehearsals and performance, he eventually was satisfied. He felt the same watching the Chinese version as the authentic Broadway production, calling it an exciting surprise.

But the Chinese version is still something different. For example, Stanley A. Meyer, the show's scenic designer, said the enchanting and complex stage design of the Mandarin production is one of the most beautiful versions ever designed and is unique and specially made only for Shanghai.

Linda Woolverton, playwright for the show, believes the love and redemption story is universal and the Chinese version is the best of all versions she has worked with. She revealed she had added five new songs and more scenes to the Chinese version to provide more layers to the relationship of Belle and the Beast, while other supporting roles will also have seen their evolving appearances change due to the curse - a big difference from the animated version where they have fixed forms as furniture.

The Mandarin version of the musical has started its public shows since June 15.

The whole cast joins for the curtain call at end of the "Beauty and the Beast" musical premiere at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre in Disneytown of Shanghai Disney Resort, June 14, 2018. [Photo courtesy of Shanghai Disney Resort]

Philippe Gas, general manager of Shanghai Disney Resort, and Chinese actress Sun Li pose for photos on the red carpet for the ceremony of the "Beauty and the Beast" musical premiere at the Walt Disney Grand Theatre in Disneytown of Shanghai Disney Resort, June 14, 2018. [Photo courtesy of Shanghai Disney Resort]


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