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(From left:) Edmond Wong, Bey Logan, Ip Ching, Wang Hongming, Robert Vicencio and Raymond Wong at the press conference for the musical production of Ip Man. Provided to China Daily
The life of the legendary martial-arts master Ip Man has been told many times in the movies and on TV screens in the past few years. A musical production of Ip Man will join the heat in 2014.
Japanese musician Kawai Kenji, composer for the movie Ip Man, is writing new scores for the musical, alongside Briton Martin Koch, a musical conductor-composer whose works include Billy Elliot, Les Miserables, and Chicago. According to playwright Bey Logan, the musical will focus more on Ip Man's inner emotional life, including his heartwarming romance with his wife.
Although kung fu fighting is arguably the most anticipated part of the show, it'll only constitute about 30 percent of the entire musical, says Logan. The British writer and producer has been involved with many action movies in Hong Kong since the 1990s.
"The kung fu fighting we have will be spectacular, and a highlight of the show, but it still has to deliver as a musical, with a great story and songs, even without the martial arts element," he says.
The musical production involves a huge investment of no less than $12 million. According to Robert Vicencio, the producer, it is "probably going to be the most expensive musical in China".
It will be staged first in English, instead of Chinese, at the premiere in Singapore in 2014.
On Dec 12, the production announced in Hong Kong that Ip Ching, the son of Ip Man, will be the chief consultant.
Producer of the movie edition, Raymond Wong, and his son Edmond Wong, the playwright for the movie, have also been signed on as advisors for the new musical.
The music and stage design are underway. Casting will start in the coming months, maybe through a reality TV show, says Vicencio.
Ever since Vicencio relocated to Shanghai 10 years ago, he has wanted to develop the musical and entertainment industry in China.
The veteran Australian theater and film actor, who is also a producer, used to act as General Thuy in the musical Miss Saigon. He and Wang Hongming from Beijing have founded the W Squared Live Entertainment Ltd to produce Ip Man, the musical.
Wang used to work for Frontier's Group, and was actively involved in the introduction of foreign musicals and other theater productions.
About four years ago, Vicencio and Wang decided to create an original musical of China.
"We saw the potential, witnessed the rise of musical theater and saw the wave building up in China," Vicencio says.
But on the other hand, there has been no fresh epic on the musical scene for a long time.
In other aspects of the entertainment world - such as the movie industry - there has been a trend of integrating Chinese elements. But in the musical industry, Asian actors' roles have been limited and appeal only to a niche market in Asia.
When the movie Ip Man was released, Vicencio and Wang found it to be the perfect subject. "It's an epic with potential," Wang says. "And it's best if it can be produced by someone with experience."
New TV series, movie sequences and other productions about Ip Man have kept the subject fresh and relevant.
"Ip Man has become a genre rather than just a subject," Vicencio says, quoting from a friend. He is glad to see another movie about Ip Man, The Grandmasters by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, as the opening movie at the Berlin Film Festival.
Ip Man (1893-1972) was from Foshan, Guangdong province, and a master of the martial-arts school Wing Chun. He later moved to Hong Kong and opened schools to teach the martial arts. His most famous student was Bruce Lee.
(China Daily 01/18/2013 page18)