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February 6, 2011

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China to stage 'Mamma Mia!'

SINCE its debut in 1999 at London's West End, the legendary musical "Mamma Mia!" has been translated into 13 languages and seen by 42 million people in 240 cities. Now the show's British director Paul Garrington is working on a Chinese version featuring an all-Chinese cast.

Garrington and his UK team have held three rounds of auditions for the Chinese "Mamma Mia!" He expressed surprise that many Chinese candidates were skilled in singing, acting and dancing. Among them were veteran Chinese actors from Broadway and West End, as well as Cai Xiuqing, a 23-year-old college student who won third place in "China's Got Talent."

Garrington holds a master's degree in drama from London University. He performed in the Royal Shakespeare Company and has directed Shakespeare workshops in Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and across the UK.

He talks to Shanghai Daily about the audition and his understanding of the world-famous musical.Q: Why are you making a Chinese version?

A: Certainly a Chinese audience can better connect to and interact with a Chinese version. The musical has many different language versions. I don't know yet about what changes will be made to the Chinese version but I'm not worried. We will discover what it ought to be during the rehearsals.

Q: What's your standard for selecting actors?

A: The performer should be both a beautiful singer and an accomplished actor. He or she shall be able to sing, dance and act. During the audition, we can locate their potential and instinct on stage.

Q: Not all Chinese candidates good looking or have great stage physiques. For example, Xiuqing is quite ordinary and a little fat. Will that influence your decision?

A: Cai sings beautifully. It's good to meet her. The "Mamma Mia!" story is about real people, not fashion models on the T-stage. We're looking for people who look like everyday people. As long as the actor has solid singing, dancing and acting skills, anyone has a chance.

Q: Will you add Chinese elements to the story?

A: In fact, "Mamma Mia!" has a simple and universal story that transcends cultural boundaries. I think it tends to work at various cultures without changing. Many of its themes and topics about family conflicts, friendship, and mother-child relationship are commonly found in different cultures. The story speaks to peoples' hearts, whatever nationality.

Q: What comes after casting?

A: After we finish casting, we will begin the rehearsal and training process to prepare for the debut and nationwide tours starting in July. It will take a long time, a challenge not only to the actors, but also to our technical departments. We hope the 200 or so tour performances around China will be a smash hit.


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