Jewish refugees make for musical love story

Updated: 2015-06-12 11:32

By Zhang Kun in Shanghai(China Daily USA)

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 Jewish refugees make for musical love story

Shahar Yishay and Pan Qi will star in the musical Jews in Shanghai. [Provided to China Daily]

A new musical will tell the stories of Jewish refugees' experience in Shanghai during World War II.

It is a story of friendship and unspoken love between a young Jewish engineer and a local college girl who acts as a volunteer to help orientate the refugees. According to the playwright Rong Guangrun, it was inspired by a true story.

"There was a Jewish engineer who worked at a munitions factory owned by a businessman from Zhejiang province," Rong said at the press conference announcing the launch of the musical.

The factory he worked at was forced to produce munitions for the Japanese after they occupied the city. The engineer finds a way to sabotage production, aided by the volunteer, who was later killed along with the businessman by the Japanese military.

Jews in Shanghai will premiere at Shanghai Culture Square on Sept 3, the day China will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of the war.

The performance will be given in English and Chinese. Israel's Shahar Yishay, who postponed his wedding to work in China, and Shanghai actress Pan Qi will play the two leads.

The production company did much of its casting in Israel.

"We saw so many great talents. Some had lots of experience working in musicals," said Xu Jun, the director.

In the interests of verisimilitude, Eliana Perlman, wife of the consul-general of Israel in Shanghai, served as a consultant for the play.

Jewish refugees make for musical love story

"The story about Jewish people in Shanghai is a unique one. It's not just about survival, but also friendship between the two people. The bond between the two of us has never been broken," Perlman said.

The Museum of Jewish Refugees in Shanghai also provided historical photographs and documents.

The press conference took place on the old wharf along the Huangpu River, and a replica bridge, partially destroyed, was built in the background.

"Many years ago, more than 20,000 Jewish refugees landed in Shanghai from right here and started their new life in their adopted country," said Chen Jian, director of the museum.

"In Shanghai, they have left lots of landmark buildings that are still standing today. Jewish businessmen have worked together with the Chinese to help build the skyline on the Bund, an important part of the city's heritage."

Their stories have been told many times on stage and in literature, he said. The latest musical, with a budget of more than 10 million yuan ($1.61 million), is by far the largest production to date.

Fei Yuanhong, artistic director of Shanghai Culture Square, said the musical is on such a heavyweight subject that it is like China's equivalent of Les Miserables.

"The play has attracted lots of interest among the international theater community," he said.