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August 27, 2011

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The best of Broadway in Shanghai

SHANGHAI Culture Square is set to open with a bang as a collection of Broadway's greatest hits will be performed in "Ultimate Broadway," writes Zhang Qian.

Shanghai Culture Square will open with "Ultimate Broadway," a musical that features hit songs from a collection of successful shows that have featured on Broadway over the years.

Running from September 23 to October 9, the show is co-produced by Shanghai Grand Theater and GWB Entertainment Company.

Project director Fei Yuanhong says trying to figure out how to open the new venue was not easy.

"We have had discussions for a long time about a proper musical work to open Shanghai Culture Square," Fei says. "Eventually, we decided that presenting an amalgamation of great songs from different musicals would be the perfect start."

Popular arias like those from "A Chorus Line," "The Phantom of the Opera," "Cats," "South Pacific," "Gypsy," "Wicked," "Les Miserables," "Chicago" and "Mamma Mia!" will all be a part of "Ultimate Broadway."

The musical will feature stars such as Brad Little, Eden Espinosa, Kevin Kern and Ria Jones in leading roles.

The musical's dancers are composed of professionals from London's West End and Chinese students selected from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and Shanghai Theater Academy.

An orchestra of 43 musicians will play live while quick-changing lighting, projections and stage props will provide backdrops for each scene. According to Fei, the venue's water stage will also be used.

After five years of construction, Shanghai Culture Square is finally ready to open and officials hope it can become an Asian Broadway.

The underground theater can seat 2,010 guests and features state-of-the-art audio facilities under each seat.

Torben Brookman, producer of "Ultimate Broadway," first visited Shanghai in 2001, when musicals were still largely unfamiliar to most Chinese. He witnessed the quick development of musicals here in the past 10 years as spectators responded enthusiastically to shows like "Cats," "The Phantom of the Opera" and "High School Musical."

"I have seen Chinese crews improve their skills in the past few years," Brookman says.

With "Ultimate Broadway" serving as a greatest hits type show, he hopes spectators will enjoy the "musical collage."

Brad Little, star of "The Phantom of the Opera," says he is excited to return to Shanghai. He was here for "Phantom" at Shanghai Grand Theater six years ago.

"That was the start of my Asian career," he says. "I performed in Hong Kong and Taiwan in the following years, but the first stop, Shanghai, is always special for me."

Little is looking forward to performing at Shanghai Culture Square as well as working with other great Broadway stars.

"I have cooperated with Eden Espinosa; all I can say about her is, wow," Little says. "She is just great."

Little also says he admires the other stars, though he has not worked with them. And he says it will be interesting to share the stage with Chinese artists.

Little will sing "Music of the Night" from "Phantom" along with his other popular songs like "This is the Moment" from "Jekyll & Hyde" as well as numbers from "Beauty and the Beast."

Little's performance in the South Korean musical "Tears in Heaven" has amazed many Asian spectators, and he says he would be honored to take roles in future Chinese musicals.

Ticket prices for "Ultimate Broadway" range from 80 yuan (US$12.50) to 1,280 yuan, with an average price of about 280 yuan.

Zhang Jie, general manager of Shanghai Culture Square, says the wide price range is designed to give more people the chance to see the musical.

Date: September 23- October 9, 2:30pm, 7:15pm, 7:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Culture Square

Address: 36 Yongjia Rd

Tickets: 80-1,280 yuan

Tel: 6217-2426, 6217-3055


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