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Comet set to light up Shanghai

By Zhang Kun | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-01 07:52

Highlights are performed in late November for the upcoming show. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

Grodin, a veteran musical actor who has played leading roles in The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and Evita, says he was surprised to learn of a Chinese company creating a new production of The Great Comet in Shanghai.

"There are well-accepted musicals such as The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables," he says. "But the SGT and its partners chose to take the risk and produce The Great Comet. This convinced me that the city of Shanghai is ready for high-quality theater art such as this.

"Seven years ago, I saw the show in New York, and our music director was conducting and playing the piano. I watched his energy and I said to myself I had to work with him, sit next to him and make art with him," he adds.

The challenge of playing the protagonist was another reason why Grodin wanted to be a part of the production.

Matias describes the opportunity to work in China as "a dream come true" and says he heard many things about the Chinese enthusiasm for musical shows back in the US.

Treat says: "Something happens when you collaborate with people who are from a different culture. We always knew that we wanted this production to have a unique Shanghai style ... so I think you are going to see a version of this musical which holds on to all of the kind of storytelling that the original Broadway show did, but is infused with a really opulent, elegant, glamorous sense of style that we can only find in Shanghai."

Ye Zile, the visual director of the production, also released a series of new conceptual images at the news conference. Inspired by the imagery of the great comet in the show, he presented the characters as planets in the cosmos.

"Each character goes around in his or her own orbit, and when they meet, beautiful things could happen, or there could be devastating impacts," he explains.

The stage design for the Chinese production will be managed by award-winning artist Pilyoung Oh from South Korea, who will remove 400 seats from the front rows to expand the performance area.

Four rings of seats, each representing an aristocratic household in the musical, will be placed among the performers on the stage to create the setting of a Russian ballroom. While the remaining audiences will still watch the show from the perspective of a framed stage, those sitting among the actors will find the performance happening around them.

Malloy, the original writer of The Great Comet, will travel to Shanghai next month and participate in the preparations for the new show.

Praised by the New York Times as "the most innovative and best new musical to open on Broadway since Hamilton", the original musical was adapted from a 70-page segment of Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace, and was originally shown off-Broadway at the Ars Nova in 2012.

The Broadway production, which was presented at the Imperial Theatre from November 2016 to September 2017, bagged several awards, including two Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards and four Theatre World Awards.

If you go

Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

Dec 29-Jan 1, Nine Trees Future Art Center.

Add: D1, 99 Shuhuan Road, Fengxian district, Shanghai.

Jan 13-Mar 3, Bocom New Bund 31 Performing Arts Center.

Add: 777 Gaoqing Road West, Pudong new area, Shanghai.

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