PANDA! opens in Las Vegas

Updated: 2014-01-13 06:36

By QIDONG ZHANG in Las Vegas (China Daily USA)

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The Venetian and Palazzo Las Vegas debuted PANDA!, a first-ever Chinese show to take up residency in Las Vegas, on Jan11. The 47-member troupe led by acclaimed Chinese director An Zhao opened to worldwide audiences just two weeks before the Chinese New Year.

Produced by China Jingwen Records and Global Panda Entertainment, and directed by Zhao, who helped produce opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, PANDA! is a spectacle combining high-flying acrobatics, thrilling martial arts and Chinese music and dance.

"It's an authentic Chinese show with Chinese magic, Chinese opera, Chinese dance and choreography, but we input a lot of Western cultural concepts so that audiences from both East and the West can enjoy it as a great entertainment performance. Our cast of world-class performers will also prove to everyone that talent is borderless," said Zhao.

The show was put together in five months by acrobats from the China National Acrobatic Troupe. The martial arts performers are from the birthplace of kung fu, Shaolin Monastery Kung-fu Monks Troupe, while the dancers are from the China Da Qing Dance Group.

"If you were awestruck by the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, this show is for you," said John Caparella, president and chief operating officer for The Venetian, The Palazzo and Sands Expo. "It's an amazing show, very authentic Chinese, and the elements of acrobat technology are very different."

Fai Wong, producer of the show and president of Global Panda Entertainment, said he and his team members put the puzzle together piece by piece across the continents for two years, with a total investment of $12 million.

"The show is the best thing that ever happened to Vegas, bringing the spirit of Chinese culture onto a mainstream stage in America. There are about 60 circus shows in town, but never a show that is completely done by the Chinese. I believe it's extremely important we present Chinese culture on a global stage. We are making history today, it's definitely a milestone for the Chinese," said Wong.

The story is about hero panda trying to win back his love, peacock princess, after she is kidnapped by demon vulture. He gets help from a Shaolin martial arts master who teaches him kung fu.

The climax of the show is when real-life Shaolin kung fu fighters take acrobatic tumbles with swords, knives, three-jointed pikes, and break bricks in half with bare heads.

According to Keith Salwoski, executive director of public relations at the Venetian and the Palazzo, the revue will take up the Cirque du Soleil slot for an open-ended run, changing its content every six months to a year based on audience response.

"The feedback from the audience has been superb in the last few days and we are very pleased to have invited this fantastic team to perform at the Venetian. Everyone is already talking about the show in town and it definitely has a word of mouth potential," said Salwoski.

Livia Wu, director of operations at Global Panda Entertainment, said PANDA! is the first show in Vegas that can admit children under six.

"We've witnessed so many touching moments of children lining up with their parents, anxious to watch the show, and enthusiastic to hug a ‘Panda'. I believe we will capture the market and audience in Las Vegas," said Wu.

Xiao Xiayong, culture consul at the Chinese consulate in San Francisco said the fact that a Chinese show is presented on an American mainstream stage has symbolic meaning to the Chinese, Chinese Americans and Americans. "The culture phenomenon is so encouraging that we hope to see more of it coming," he added.

Jeff Civillico, an American who watched the show said the visual effect is "stunning".

"A lot of the acrobatic movement is so difficult that it makes you feel you need to hold on to your chair to watch it," he said.


<EM>PANDA!</EM> opens in Las Vegas

The Venetian and The Palazzo Las Vegas debuts PANDA!, a first ever Chinese show to take residency in Las Vegas to the world audience on Saturday. Qidong Zhang China Daily

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