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Stage favorites head to China

Mackintosh to ship out West End show

British producer Cameron Mackintosh has announced plans to stage shows such as “Les Miserables,” “Phantom of the Opera” and “My Fair Lady” in China.

The West End tuners will thus follow touring Broadway hits such as “The Lion King” and “The Sound of Music.”

Mackintosh will stage a Chinese version of “Les Miz” at the National Grand Theater near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in November 2008.

The impresario will also stage local versions of “Phantom,” “Mamma Mia!” “Miss Saigon,” “Mary Poppins,” “Miss Saigon” and “Cats.”

The powerful Ministry of Culture is aboard, and the productions will be undertaken in agreement with state agency the China Arts & Entertainment Group, which is linked to the ministry.

For the time being, the partnership will involve translating existing shows into Mandarin, but in the longer term, the plan is to train Chinese writers, performers and production crews to create original Chinese musicals.

The partnership will be formally announced today in Beijing. An advance statement was released declaring that auditions for “Les Miz” will be held before the end of this year.

Also today, Mackintosh will also meet students at the prestigious Central Academy of Drama.

In June 2002, Mackintosh became the first Westerner to stage a musical in China when he put on an English-language production of “Les Miz” in Shanghai. The show was deemed acceptable because the Victor Hugo novel is popular in China and its message about revolution politically correct.

After many years with only patriotic stage shows such as “The Red Detachment of Women” to raise their spirits, Chinese auds have had the opportunity to see quite a few musicals in recent years, but the tunes have been generally sung in English.

Among the shows performed: “Cats” in 2003, “The Sound of Music” in 2004, “Phantom of the Opera” a year later and “The Lion King” last year.

The musical “42nd Street” is touring seven cities around the country on a 70-date tour taking in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Ningbo, Hefei, Wuhan and Beijing.

Hong Kong pop star Jacky Cheung, who is hugely popular in mainland China, staged a version of his Cantonese dialect musical “Snow Wolf Lake” in Mandarin a couple of years back.

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