Cameron Mackintosh to develop musical theatre in China

Sir Cameron Mackintosh (CM), the world-renowned producer behind West End and Broadway smash hits like Les Misérables, Cats and The Phantom of the Opera is joining forces with the preeminent performing arts agency in China, China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG), to bring Western musicals to China and nurture the extraordinary artistic talent in the country.

Under a ground-breaking joint venture agreement, the partners will stage Chinese language versions of classic western musicals in China for the first time. The inaugural production, Les Misérables, will open at the magnificent new National Grand Theater beside Tiananmen Square in November 2008. Followed in 2009 by Judy Craymer’s smash hit Littlestar production of the worldwide success Mamma Mia!

Longer term, Cameron Mackintosh and CAEG, which is affiliated to the Ministry of Culture, will work to develop Chinese writers, performers and production specialists who will create original Chinese musicals. Cameron Mackintosh will also provide comprehensive training programmes in China and the UK for Chinese performing artists, and offer them opportunities to work professionally to the highest standards in musical theatre.

The creation of this joint venture, The China Musical Theatre Company, signals a milestone in the development of the musical theatre industry in China in all aspects of production and performance. Combined with Cameron Mackintosh’s 40 years of experience of producing the world’s most distinguished musicals and CAEG’s 50 years of experience of theatre management, the new company will bring its productions to a much wider audience and nurture a new generation of performing and production talent in the Chinese market. It also represents a very significant moment in Chinese and Western cultural relations.

Commenting on the tie-up, Mr. Zhang Yu, President of CAEG, said: “It is our great honour to partner with Sir Cameron Mackintosh, the most prestigious musical producer in the world. He brings the finest standard of world-class production and management expertise, which will inspire and stimulate innovation in our own musical theatre market. This initiative will bring fundamental changes to our musical theatre industry by attracting new audiences with affordable and easy to appreciate musical offerings and training a young generation of local musicians and production professionals.”

Cameron Mackintosh said: “This is a hugely exciting project that we are undertaking with China’s finest performing arts agency, and we deeply appreciate the support of the Chinese Ministry of Culture. Since my first trip to China in 1990s, I’ve been fascinated by the country and its people. I’m proud to be able to introduce the very best Western musicals to a country with its own rich musical traditions.”

Mr Ding Wei, Assistant Minister of Culture said: “We welcome Cameron Mackintosh to China to work with CAEG in order to lead the development of the musical theatre industry in China.”

Sir Trevor Nunn and John Caird, the original directors of Les Misérables who have won numerous awards around the world, are returning to direct the Chinese language version. After its Beijing debut, the show will move to Shanghai for an extended run and subsequently other Chinese cities.

Auditions for the Chinese language Les Misérables will be held across China before the end of 2007.

Cameron Mackintosh’s celebrated production, Les Misérables, is currently the world’s longest running musical and will be celebrating its 22nd birthday in London’s West End next month. The musical Les Misérables is an adaptation of the 130-year old epic novel by Victor Hugo, a story that is familiar to Chinese audiences. The novel’s universal themes -- the triumph of the human spirit, love, courage and sacrifice for one’s beliefs – have already resonated hugely with audiences who saw the musical in Shanghai in 2002. 

Following Les Misérables, Mamma Mia!, the smash hit musical based on the songs of ABBA, will be performed in Chinese for the first time. Commenting on this new venture, producer Judy Craymer said: "The English version of Mamma Mia! was highly successful earlier this year in Beijing. I am delighted that the show will now reach a much wider Chinese audience.“

Other world musicals planned to follow are The Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady and Disney’s The Lion King. The joint venture will work with the shows’ original international producers to create Chinese language versions of these musicals and stage them in theatres in Beijing, Shanghai and major cities around China. 

During his trip to Beijing, Cameron Mackintosh will visit the Central Academy of Drama and share his experiences of the global musical theatre industry with both students and professors.

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