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Chinese version of Cats feature abundant Beijing elements like bird cages in the stage design. Provided to China Daily
Cats, an award-winning musical by British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, will soon captivate Beijing audience with a Chinese version.
After its premiere in Shanghai in August 2012, the musical has toured cities including Guangzhou and Chongqing and will celebrate its 100th show in Beijing.
According to British director Jo-Anne Robinson and music director Fiz Shapur, who worked on the musical for more than 30 years, the biggest challenges are the translation and localization.
The second longest-running show in Broadway history, Cats has been translated into more than 20 languages including Korean, German and French.
The musical has performed in China twice since 2004 - both times in English.
"The Chinese version is more than the original by combining dialects, actions and local culture," Robinson says. "Changes have been made. For example, like the population of China, we have more cats in the show than others."
To cater to local taste, the show has added a Chinese cat that performs kung fu and wears traditional silk costumes. The dancers will also be performing acrobatics.
In terms of stage design, the director has incorporated Beijing elements, such as bird cages, tanghulu (sugarcoated haws on a stick) and Peking duck.
Some songs will be sung in Beijing dialect. The lyrics of Jellicle Song for Jellicle Cats, based on T. S. Eliot's poem, has been translated by Xue Fan into Chinese four-character idioms. The result is simple and catchy.
Lu Yun, the chief designer of the musical, says all the costumes have been designed and made by teachers and students from Central Academy of Fine Arts. The costumes use Chinese elements from silk to calligraphic images and the color red, a symbolic color.
Thought has also been given to the makeup to ensure it suits Chinese actors. "Every actor has a unique makeup according to his or her face and costumes," Lu says.
Cats is not the first Broadway musical to be translated into Chinese. In 2011, Mamma Mia, a smash hit musical based on the songs of ABBA, performed before an appreciative audience in Mandarin.
According to the Chinese director of the musical, Liu Chun, the experience of bringing in Mamma Mia paved the way for Cats, including finding the right actors, technicians, stage crew and musicians.
Liu Yang plays the role of Grizabella, or Glamour Cat, and she will perform Memory, arguably the most recognized song of the musical in China.
Ding Zhenying, a graduate of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, who fits the description of Demeter, a skittish female cat, was selected within 30 minutes into the audition.
Organizers say the popularity of Broadway musicals in the Chinese language is growing.
In Guangzhou, Cats sold more than 12 million yuan ($1.94 million) of tickets, which did better than Mamma Mia.
The organizers will continue localizing one hit musical a year, including classics like The Sound of Music and Phantom of the Opera.
(China Daily 12/21/2012 page18)