Ancient Chinese folktale returns to NYC

Updated: 2014-07-01 03:57

By Elizabeth Wu in New York (China Daily USA)

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China's world-renowned female percussion group the Red Poppy Ladies is returning to New York City this summer for a three-month run of Mulan the Musical.

"After a year of preparation, we're thrilled to be bringing Mulan the Musical back to life and back to New York City," said director Zhou Li. Mulan made its US debut off-Broadway in December 2012 to critical acclaim.

"They have made lots of improvements in the last two years in terms of choreography, drums, dance, and martial arts performance; the storyline has also been changed a little. The show will use the best light systems from China," said Wei Zhou, a spokesman with Weiber Services, which is in charge of marketing for the show.

Li, has been with the Red Poppy Ladies for 15 years. "China's culture deserves positive publicity, instead of just comedy, which is taking over as a mainstream form of accepted culture in China," he said at a news conference on Monday in Manhattan.

Mulan recounts the 1,600 year-old Chinese folktale made famous by the 1998 Academy Award-winning Disney animated film with the same name.

It is the classic story of a Chinese peasant girl who disguises herself as a man so that she can take her ailing father's place as a soldier in the emperor's war against the Huns. After years of successfully concealing her true identity, Mulan's secret is ultimately revealed and she is worshipped for her courage and loyalty.

"Even though the legendary story is ancient, it remains relevant today," said Li. "Its message of bravery, leadership, loyalty and the importance of family are universal."

Mulan stages the story in 14 scenes using a synchronized drumming and choreography, pantomime, dance and plot summaries (in English) displayed on large projection screens. The 12-member Red Poppy Ladies troupe, including Du Qianqian who plays the lead character Mulan, thumps on large tub drums, tables and the floor with bare hands and sticks.

Beijing's Red Poppy Ladies percussion group was founded in 2000 and has participated in more than 2,500 performances around the world since then, including at the Sydney Opera House, the Cairo Opera House, the Kennedy Art Center, and the Vienna Golden Hall.

Red Poppy first attracted attention in 2001 in the CCTV Spring Festival Show. The troupe's proudest moment was performing in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Mulan's run at the La MaMa Ellen Stewart Theater in Manhattan's East Village will end on Sept 13.

Ancient Chinese folktale returns to NYC
China's Red Poppy Ladies perform Mulan the Musical at La Mama Ellen Stewart Theater in Manhattan for the media on Monday. The show runs until Sept 13. Elizabeth Wu / For China Daily