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March 15, 2019

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Classical Chinese tale of forbidden love meets rock

A handsome scholar, an elfish fox, a devoted water spirit and a justice-seeking Taoist monk are to embrace a deconstructed classical Chinese story of forbidden love, decades of separation and redemption, with contemporary rock music.

As part of its musical season, SAIC Shanghai Culture Square has invited Chinese rock musical “Liao Zhai Rocks!” from Singapore’s The Theater Practice to perform six shows at the end of March.

“I dare to say I had the hardest job in the team, trying to integrate the completely distinctive music and texts through lyrics,” said the musical’s lyricist Xiaohan.

“Our composer, who has been a typical rock musician, was having fun creating all the most contemporary and Western notes based on one-liners like ‘here the lovers encounter’ or ‘here the character is resurrected.’

“Then our playwright, who has a soft spot for Chinese classics, enjoyed his work deconstructing and recreating one of the most well-known Chinese classics.”

Reminded of the task to merge modern Western rock music with a classical Chinese script, she paused for a deep breath, and added, “That was also the fun part.”

“Liao Zhai,” or “Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio,” is a collection of nearly 500 separate tales. It has been the inspiration behind many modern adaptations: novels, dramas, films, songs and art works. Some of the most adapted tales include love stories between a scholar and a ghost, or a fox or a spirit of some sorts. There are also tales of the dead coming back to life and accounts of the mortal trying to achieve immortality.

“I delved into many tales that were less known to most people,” said the musical’s playwright Wu Xi.

“I picked characters here and there from several different tales and tried to create a new plot that is both cohesive in itself and true to the essence of the original collection.”

The essence of the original tale is also where composer Eric Ng, who had little knowledge about Chinese classics, found his connection.

“It’s a lot about searching for what you want despite the circumstances, be it love, freedom, else or whether you are a human or ghost,” said Ng, who has composed for many top Chinese pop singers. “And that kind of fits perfectly with rock, not necessarily in the sense of the music genre, but its spirit and essence of challenging whatever.”

The end result is an intriguing stage highlighted by a talented cast of singers/performers, gloriously spooky sets, and an ensemble of songs from heavy metal to rock ballads.


Date: March 28-31

Tickets: 80-480 yuan

Tel: 6472-9000, 6472-6000

Venue: SAIC Shanghai Culture Square

Address: 597 Fuxing Rd. M


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