To Western audiences, musicals may be a frothy and uplifting way to spend the evening, but like so much else, they are highly politicised in China. For many years, not a chorus line nor a technicolour dreamcoat were to be had. The only musicals you could see were propaganda displays, including the stirring The Red Detachment of Women, a ballet about a fearsome unit of the People’s Liberation Army. Gymnastics displays and acrobatic shows were the order of the day.
For many years Mackintosh tried to stage shows in China but was constantly foiled by bureaucratic red tape. Then, in June 2002, he became the first Westerner to stage a musical in China when he put on an English-language production of Les Mis√©rables in Shanghai. [Full text]
See also “Chinese bureaucrats welcome musicals – with a wry smile” from Richard Spencer’s blog.
[Image of Cameron Mackintosh via Richard Spencer’s blog]