China gives its yuan to Broadway

Updated: 2015-06-08 11:25

By Amy He in New York(China Daily USA)

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Winners from Sunday's Tony Awards have something else in common: Chinese backing.

China, with its growing appetite for Western musical theater productions, is beginning to put its money on Broadway. Titles nominated for the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York - Hand to God, Something Rotten! and An American In Paris - all have investment from Chinese companies, according to The Wall Street Journal.

An American in Paris was nominated for 12 Tonys, including Best Musical. The musical, starring Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope, is based on the 1951 movie of the same name starring Gene Kelly.

As of 10 pm ET Sunday, An American in Paris had won four Tonys: for Best Choreogrpahy (Christopher Wheeldon), Best Lighting Design of a Play (Natasha Katz), Best Orchestrations (Christopher Austin, Don Sebesky and Bill Elliott) and Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Bob Crowley and 59 Productions).

Christian Borle of Something Rotten! won Best Featured Actor in a Musical.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won the Tony for Best Play.

Simone Genatt, chairman of Broadway Asia, one of the producers for An American in Paris and a production and distribution company that works primarily in Asia, said that the Chinese are investing in Broadway shows for touring opportunities and to try to learn about the live entertainment business.

"I think they're investing because they believe that these shows will come to China both for touring and licensing opportunities, and also because they are gathering knowledge and information to help expand the business for live entertainment in China, based on the commercial systems that are part of Broadway," she told China Daily.

Broadway Asia is producing the North American tour of An American in Paris and is looking to take the show to China by summer of 2018, Genatt said. China Broadway Entertainment is one of the backers of the Gene Kelly classic, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Genatt said that there has been "a huge arc in growth" in China, both in the expansion of the number of shows performed in the market and the number of cities that are playing the shows, and that's why Chinese companies are looking to be involved in Broadway musical entertainment.

She predicts that An American in Paris will be "hugely successful" in the Chinese mainland.

"We think there are a lot of reasons why we chose this particular show with investment opportunity with Chinese partners; also because it's all about Paris, and the Chinese love the French," she said. "It has extraordinary and beautiful dance and music, and it's a giant romantic story, so I think that from every point of view, it will touch the Chinese's hearts. I think it will be very popular in the marketplace."

Shanghai-based China Media Capital invested in two other Tony-award winners, Hand to God and Something Rotten!, both of which were produced by Broadway Global Ventures. Kevin McCollum, owner of the production company, declined to disclose to The Wall Street Journal how much the Chinese private-equity fund invested, but said that the backing can help the company expand into China.

McCollum said that he eventually hopes to create original shows with writers from both countries that can be a "fusion of both cultures," allowing the shows to be performed both in the US and China, which is part of China Media Capital's goals.

"Because at the end of the day, we want to make our own original shows," Clark Xu, managing director of China Media Capital, told the Journal.

Western musical theater has seen popularity grow in China, with Broadway classics such as Cats and The Sound of Music touring in the country for years. Hits Mamma Mia and Cats have been translated to Chinese.