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Old Japanese musical being revived in China with tour

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-04-24 06:53

The Chinese version of Japanese musical The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man will tour the country this summer.[Photo provided to China Daily]

When Zhao Yongbin began to study musicals as a major at the Beijing-based Central Academy of Drama in 1995, he did not know what musicals were.

For the 30 students in Zhao's class, which was the first one to major in musicals in the country, musicals were a new art form.

In 1996, along with his classmates, Zhao had his first experience of performing in a musical, the Chinese version of The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man, one of the most popular musicals of Japan's Shiki Theatre Company.

Artists of the established Japanese company visited Beijing to help the students rehearse.

The musical, based on a children's novel of the same title by the late American writer Lloyd Chudley Alexander, was staged more than 40 times in 1996 at the Central Academy of Drama. The troupe also visited Japan later that year for three shows at the Shiki Theatre Company.

"For us, the musical was an art form that we had never seen in Chinese theaters then," recalls Zhao.

"The Cat Who Wished to Be a Man opened our eyes and helped us understand the art form. It laid a solid foundation for us - the first group learning and performing musicals in China."

Now, two decades or so later, the Chinese version of the musical will be reproduced and will kick off a national tour from Beijing in June.

Zhao, a teacher at the Central Academy of Drama and a director, in 1996 performed the lead character of Lionel, a cat who becomes a man with the help of a magician. He will direct the new production.

The musical will feature actors who performed in the 1996 version as well as young Chinese musical talents.

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