“Go to the wood!”
So demanded Bernadette Peters as the Witch in the original 1987 production of Into the Woods. The haunting reimagining of our favorite fairy tales by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine has seen several major revivals, including the 2002 production starring Vanessa Williams and an inventive outdoor production staged by the Public Theater in 2012 with Hollywood heavyweight Amy Adams as the Baker’s Wife. Sondheim (and Disney) fans are all a flutter in anticipation of film version, directed by Rob Marshall and to be released nationwide on Christmas Day. A new Broadway production arrives in 2015 as well. But halfway around the world there is yet another production that is taking China by storm.
The Ovation Cultural Development Corporation, led by Artistic Director Zhou Zhiqiang, has just recently opened its own production of Into the Woods in what is being heralded as the most successful musical locally produced in China since that country began presenting culturally-exchanged Broadway musicals in 1999. Working closely with New York Producing Advisor Don Frantz from Town Square Productions, this presentation of Into the Woods has evolved as a benchmark in the producing of musical theater in that country because it has been produced, adapted, directed, designed and marketed solely by a Chinese company and performed in Mandarin Chinese. The production will play at Beijing’s Pla Theater through Sunday, February 1, 2015 before embarking on a 14-city National Tour to Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tainjin, Chongqing, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Dongguan, Changsha, Wuhan, Xian, Jinan, and Zhengzhou.
The Broadway musical theater art form began to actively take hold in China in 2007 when 42nd Street toured nine cities and played to more than 100,000 people. It was at that time that local artists began to create their own original musicals that led to the producing of the more iconic Broadway musicals in Mandarin Chinese with a core group of performers.
James Lapine visited China recently to see the show and discuss the adaption of Broadway musicals into foreign cultures. In addition to speaking with the Ovation creative team, cast and crew, Mr. Lapine was the keynote speaker at a seminar for the China Musical Theater Association.