Mainland ready for musical from HK

By Zhang Kun ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-03-17 08:33:35

Mainland ready for musical from HK

Edward Lam, Hong Kong theater director.[Photo provided to China Daily]

A Hong Kong stage adaptation of the Chinese folk tale of the "butterfly lovers" with a modern twist is coming to the mainland soon.

The Art School Musical has been produced by Edward Lam, a Hong Kong-based theater director, essayist and art educator, and will be staged in Shanghai over April 1-3.

When the production premiered in Hong Kong in 2014, critics saw it as a successful case of re-creating an age-old folk tale in the modern-day world.

The musical's main characters are inheritors of cultural relics, and the play is a discussion of art, dreams, life and eternity.

Liang Weishi, an essayist in Hong Kong, praised the production as a "new model for Chinese musicals".

Lam has been active on Hong Kong's cultural scene for more than 20 years. His adaptation of Eileen Chang's Red Rose, White Rose won the best screenplay at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards in 1994. Since then he has been devoted to the theater scene in Hong Kong, working with artists and diverse institutions.

The ancient story of the "butterfly lovers" is about a young woman dressed as a man in order to gain access to a celebrated school. She and a schoolmate fall in love, but the star-crossed lovers are forced to separate, only to be reunited in death, when they turn into butterflies, flying freely and happily together.

The tale has been one of the most enduring and celebrated folk love stories in China. It has been passed on from generation to generation over more than 1,000 years.

The most famous adaptation is a violin concerto of the same title by Chen Gang and He Zhanhao in 1959.

Yet Lam was inspired by a Chinese film adaptation by Li Han-hsiang in the 1960s, titled The Love Eterne.

Lam was impressed by Li's presentation of heroine Zhu Yingtai as an independent and intelligent woman who is ready to learn and love.

In Lam's play, the modern-age Zhu no longer has to dress as a man in order to be admitted to a public school, but it is the hero, Liang Shanbo, who constantly hides his true self behind an invisible mask to gain respect, win his loved one's heart and simply boost his self-confidence.

Lam attributed the tale's enduring popularity to the rarity of youthful love in a traditional patriarchal society.

The pursuit for individual values and freedom is "never outdated", he says.

All the songs in the musical, other than Self Portrait by French poet Francois Villon, have been composed by Chen Jianyi from Taiwan.

Jordan Cheng, from Macao, and Margaret Cheung, who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Australia, are two among the play's 18 main actors.

Although both have developed a successful portfolio while performing in musicals, this will be Cheng's first mainland stage event.

If you go

7:15 pm, April 1-2; 2 pm, April 3. Shanghai Culture Square, 597 Fuxing Road Middle, Xuhui district, Shanghai. 021-6472-9000.

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