Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella” highlights female power

Lu Chang China Plus Published: 2018-06-13 18:12:01
Share this with Close
Messenger Messenger Pinterest LinkedIn

Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella” highlights female power

Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella”debuts in Beijing. [Photo: China Plus]

Broadway musicals have been gaining increasing popularity in China in recent years, and many of them have been adapted into Chinese versions and have been quite successful in the Chinese theaters.

As another mandarin version of the award-winning musical "Cinderella" has been winning a lot of admiration in Beijing and Shanghai, insiders say content innovation is the key.

"Cinderella" is the well-known fairy tale of a young woman forced into a life of servitude by her cruel stepmother and self-centered stepsisters. Her dreary life doesn't stop her dreaming of a better life, and with the help of her fairy godmother, she transforms into a princess and finds her prince.

A Broadway favourite, the musical version won 9 Tony Award nominations and has been popular on world stages for half a century.

Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella” highlights female power

Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella". [Photo provided by sevenages]

Now, for the first time, it has been adapted into mandarin and debuted in Shanghai and Beijing earlier this month.

American director Joseph Graves says this time, audiences will meet a different "Cinderella."

"One of the twists in our version is that our Cinderella is a very strong and powerful young woman, who is not just out to snag a prince and become a princess. She really wants to understand what is important for her in her life, and how to make her own decisions and her own choices."

In the original story, the prince's subordinates finally find Cinderella with her lost glass slipper, she marries the Prince, and they live happily ever after, just as in all traditional fairy tales. 

But maybe it doesn't have to end this way. What will happen if Cinderella decides to choose her own destiny, rather than just sit and wait in her house praying for something to save her?

Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella” highlights female power

Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella”debuts in Beijing. [Photo: China Plus]

Audiences watching the Mandarin version could find answers. 

Actress Xu Yao, who plays "Cinderella", says a Cinderella character with a strong, independent personality is inspiring.

"Unlike the original "Cinderella", this one changes from being passive to active. Like many modern women nowadays, who have their own minds and dare to pursue their dreams, she can become a role model and inspire audiences. I think every girl can find some part of herself in this Cinderella, more or less."

Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella” highlights female power

Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella”[Photo provided by sevenages]

As well as the new-style character, the choreography is another highlight of the show. With modern techniques of light and sound, the pumpkin carriage transforms just as Cinderella turns into a fully dressed princess from a girl in rags, like "magic" on the stage.

Importing western musical theatre to China and making it work for Chinese audiences can be very challenging, but despite the cultural differences between Chinese expectations and western expressions, whether this localization process can keep the original flavour has been much debated.

Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella” highlights female power

Mandarin version of musical “Cinderella” [photo provided by sevenages]

Producer Hou Tianyang says the problem doesn't exist as long as the translation and dubbing is professional. Localized works can play an active part in nurturing domestic audiences.

"I think as a category of art, the musical is still relatively niche in China, and what we've been trying to do is to open this market and turn it into "mass entertainment". We've been targeting family audiences and couples, where they can watch a mandarin version of a musical just like going to the movies. We've won lots of fans of the mandarin version musicals these years. Some people are even fans of the original versions, but once they watched the mandarin version, they can always find something new."

A number of Chinese production companies have been tapping this market for years. Several localized works have been quite successful, including the Mandarin versions of Cats, Mamma Mia, Avenue Q and the Sound of Music.

An increasing number of young people are trained as musical performers in college as interest of musicals growing in China. However, director Joseph says all-round talent is still far from enough.

"We have a lot of terrific actors in china, a lot of terrific singers and a lot of terrific dancers, but very few people who do all three of those really, really well. So we constantly search for those people who are what we call 'triple threats' in the west. And there are some in china, but it's a limited group. "

Even though there is still a long way for the Chinese musical industry to go, veteran directors like Joseph Graves are optimistic about the future of this imported art form in China.

"There are enormous numbers of very talented performers in china. They're just not used to western musical theatre expression. We are moving in exactly the right direction here. I think in the next fifteen to twenty years, the best musical theatre in the world will come from china, and people from London, America will be coming here to copy our musicals, not the other way around. But right now, It's very important that people begin to understand the traditional musical theatre principles of the west and that is a slow process, but a process that is growing and getting better and better all the time."

The mandarin version of the musical "Cinderella" will run in Beijing until June 18th, and will travel to Shenzhen in July. 

Written by Lu Chang

(Yang Yong voices this story)

Related stories

Share this story on