Phantom swoops through Shanghai

Updated: 2013-07-05 07:22

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai (China Daily)

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 Phantom swoops through Shanghai

The Phantom of the Opera is on its Asian tour. Shanghai will be its final stop. Provided to China Daily

The Phantom of the Opera will haunt the city of Shanghai once again this winter - and theater lovers could not be more excited. It's five months before the premiere, but almost half the tickets are already sold.

The groundbreaking musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber will be performed 60 times at the Shanghai Culture Square from December to February.

Shanghai Culture Square has launched an innovative multitiered pricing system for ticket sales, with three rounds having taken place since May 25. "Tickets less than 480 yuan sell out within hours every time," says Fei Yuanhong, director of programming at Shanghai Culture Square.

Directors of the theater suggest people book tickets early to secure their first choice of seats and favorable prices.

Ten years ago, The Phantom of the Opera was performed 100 times in Shanghai Grand Theater. "I remember the last round of 10 shows, so many people wanted to see it that the scalpers raised the ticket price several times higher," says Fei, who worked at Shanghai Grand Theater at the time.

Fei's job has allowed him to see the musical more than 50 times - probably more than anyone else in China. He says the new production has "richer colors, enhanced mysterious ambience and optimized stage designs".

"I was constantly asked, 'when will the Phantom come back to Shanghai'. Two years after Shanghai Culture Square opened to public, we can present the authentic Phantom of the Opera here," he says.

Phantom is the longest running show on Broadway, and was the first production to celebrate its 10,000th performance on Broadway in February 2012. The musical has won numerous theater awards since its premiere in London's West End in 1986 and New York's Broadway in 1988.

"It's the crown of the musical industry," Fei says. It is a large, high-cost production, and the producer, Really Useful Theater Company by Cameron Mackintosh, has been discreet with tour plans and strict with quality control. It has taken 10 years for the Phantom to return to the Asia-Pacific.

The Asian tour started in Manila, the Philippines, last year, then went to Seoul, South Korea, where it is currently in the middle of a three-month run. It will travel to Bangkok, Thailand later this year.

The production company researched the musical market and theater facilities in several cities on the Chinese mainland and decided to take the show only to Shanghai.

Phantom swoops through Shanghai

"We might have the show's last performance in the Asia-Pacific," Fei says.

Phantom tells the story of young soprano Christine Daan who is obsessed with the "Phantom", a mysterious disfigured musical genius who wears a mask and lives in the theater.

Starring in the Asian tour will be American Brad Little, who has appeared in more than 2,000 performances and was the lead actor in Shanghai 10 years ago. Female lead Christine Daan will be played by Australian actress Claire Lyon.

"Last time Phantom was in Shanghai, 90 percent of tickets sold, which was incredibly good box office performance for the industry," Fei says.

Tickets will be sold in five rounds, with a 3 to 8 percent price rise each time. The theater has decided to adopt the system not only because of its confidence in the popularity of the show but also to encourage audiences to book their tickets as soon as possible.

(China Daily 07/05/2013 page18)