New musical delivers tribute to unsung heroes

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A musical will soon put the spotlight on couriers, a group of unsung heroes, who dash here to there, to make people's lives more convenient.

Singer Ayanga (center) performs at a livestreamed news conference for the musical On the Road in Beijing on Nov 13. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Adapted from the eponymous TV series, the musical On the Road centers on Yao Yuan, a courier at a private delivery company, who built his own express delivery and e-commerce business.

By zooming in on the story of an individual, the musical aims to portray the hard work of a generation of young people, and reveal changes in Chinese society in the past 20 years.

A livestreamed briefing for the musical On the Road was held on Nov 13 at the Cultural Palace of Nationalities in Beijing, where the cast gave a sneak peek of the musical by performing three songs.

Produced by Beijing Performance and Arts Group and performed by the Beijing Dance Drama and Opera troupe, the musical is due to premiere in Beijing on Dec 24 and tour Shanghai and Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, early next year.

"We are committed to producing works of our own culture," director of the musical Xiao Jie said. "Just like in this production, we are taking Yao Yuan as the symbol of a group, to present the emotional pursuit and expression of the numerous ordinary and unsung people."

According to a 2019 report from China Post and Express News, the number of couriers in China has increased by 50 percent from 2016 to 2018, and the total number of couriers has exceeded 3 million.

"From the courier industry we can see the rapid development of our era, the tremendous progress of the Chinese economy and society, and the drastic changes in people's living standards," said Dong Ning, chief producer of the musical.

"Couriers are the guardians and creators of our happy lives. We are proud of them and therefore chose to dedicate our stage to the behind-the-scenes heroes around us."

The protagonist stars musical performer Ayanga, who for the first time participated in the composition process along with Peter Kam Pui-tat from Hong Kong, also the production's music director, and Zhang Xiaozhen. Ayanga's compositions include the musical's signature track hechu shi yuanfang ("where is the far side").

"I am a newcomer in musical composition. This for me is a very good learning opportunity and a huge breakthrough. Guided by so many masters, I feel in the future I will have more space to create and be bold," Ayanga said.

"With music, I wish to convey to the audience the spirit of courageousness and fearlessness, and to bring hope to all those who are striving to make their dream come true."

To stage the show, the cast has been investigating the logistics industry and the work involved in express delivery on the spot.

While the general impression of express delivery is individual people riding an electric tricycle and delivering packages in person, Ayanga said, he was amazed by the cutting-edge technology after visiting the factories.

During the briefing, the crew gifted their most precious ticket, the central seat in the first row, with signatures from the cast, to Yang Jingshan, who has recently been awarded Beijing's "most honorable courier", for forming a volunteer group and bringing supplies to those in need.

Yang said he is very much looking forward to attending the musical, in particular to seeing how the musical presents the work of couriers, who shuttle through the streets and deliver the packages to customers without delay.

To get to know the work of couriers in detail, the crew will randomly select three ticket-buyers in Beijing, and the performers will deliver the tickets in person.

Apart from theater performances, this production will also work with streaming platforms to bring musical lovers an all-round experience, by launching webcast events and an online version incorporating performances and the backstage scenes.

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