Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Today in Theatre History: Musical Theatre Goes Global


In  the “Today in Theatre History” series, we take a specific event in theatre history and use it as a starting point for discussion about aspects of theatre – past, present, and future.

On April 10th, 1994 the hit-musical Les Miserables, opened at the Hiten Theatre in Osaka, Japan.
Click here to listen to a recording of "One Day More" performed by the Japanese cast.
The Japanese "Les Mis" cast performs "One Day More."

Japan? Last time I checked Les Miserables was not a Japanese musical.” Correct. However, what many people don’t realize is that there is a steadily growing musical theatre world outside of the United States. Musicals are no longer solely an American, or even British, art form.

Look at the Shiki Theatre Company in Japan – they’ve been producing original musicals since 1962. Look at the Shanghai Grand Theatre which in 2011 produced the first all-Chinese production of “Mamma Mia,” or even the partnership between the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF) and the Korean Daegu International Music Festival. And not only are these shows being produced and performed in their countries of origin, but Korean musicals are touring to Japan, Japanese musicals to Taiwan, etc.

COMPARE: Broadway "Mamma Mia" vs. Beijing "Mamma Mia"

"Butterflies" was China's first Broadway-style musical.
How is it that something so “quintessentially” American is finding its way into the hearts and minds of people all across Asia? The culture-specific evolution of the art form speaks for itself:
Asian countries are not only latching on to Western stories and scores, but they are now expanding on that foundation and creating their own works: “As countries have yearned for independence, musicals have had to accommodate their particular tastes. American and British productions have been staged in other languages, and new markets have been created and know-how accumulated. Now these countries are starting to make the things that people want to see.”

Who knows, perhaps in coming years the musical will no longer be defined as an American art form, but rather as an international art form. Best keep an eye out.

For our 2013 SigLab project, Signature Theatre will be spending July 9th-27th workshopping a new musical called “Spin,” based on the hit Korean comedy, “Speedy Scandal”:

Faded pop star Evan coasts through life. However, when a surprise daughter and grandson arrive on his doorstep, Evan must choose between the gift of family and the glittering appeal of fame. Spin is a humorous, charming and heartwarming tale about what really matters in life.”




In this blog post we’ve focused on the expansion of musical theatre into Asia. However, the musical theatre movement in many other countries and continents is alive and well! Click here to learn about Theatre Communication Group’s international Music Theatre NOW Competition.


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