Phantom is here

By Xu Jingxi ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-10-21 07:27:33

Phantom is here

The musical The Phantom of the Opera is touring Guangzhou and Beijing, and the 90 million yuan production is one of the most expensive to target the country's growing market for musicals. [Photo/Guangzhou Opera House]

The Phantom of the Opera, a hit musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, staged its first show in Guangzhou city in Guangdong province on Sept 22. The southern Chinese city is the second location on the mainland, after Shanghai, to host the show that is scheduled to be staged in Beijing in November.

The Guangzhou Opera House has a giant chandelier and takes the look of 19th-century Paris while hosting the musical that is being staged through Sunday.

The investment on the show in the two Chinese cities cost 90 million yuan ($14 million), a record for the country's market for musicals, according to Tian Yuan, general manager of Beijing-based One World Culture Communications, a subsidiary of China Arts and Entertainment Group that organized the tour.

"The Chinese market for musicals has grown a lot in the past 10 years, which is part of the reason why we dared to introduce such an expensive production," Tian says. "Theaters have also sprung up across the country with heavy investments from the government."

The Phantom of the Opera is regarded as "the diamond on the crown" of Webber's musicals, Tian says. It debuted in London's West End in 1986 and has been staged more than 74,000 times in 27 countries, attracting at least 130 million viewers, before coming to Guangzhou.

"The show is magic. I mean that both literally and in terms of the emotional involvement of the audience while watching the incredible story," says Philip Godawa, the musical's director.

And, it isn't far-fetched. The stage setting, for instance, suddenly changes from the dressing room for Christine, the musical's heroine, to a subterranean "lake" enshrouded in mist.

Six large candelabrums rise from the stage floor, making for strong visual effects. The Phantom and Christine sail across the lake on a boat to his lair beneath the opera house.

It took 22 days to assemble the complex stage at Guangzhou Opera House with 23 containers of props and clothes. The stage floor with 150 "secret" doors was specially made and delivered to Guangzhou by air.

Shanghai Grand Theater was the only theater that Really Useful Group, the producer of The Phantom of the Opera, could find in China to meet the demands of stage setting when the musical made its mainland debut in 2004, Tian says.

The musical returned to Shanghai in 2013, and chose Guangzhou Opera House this year as it was willing to modify its stage for the show, while the newly built Beijing Tianqiao Performing Arts Center seemed like another good venue as the country's only theater designed for musicals.

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