Broadway theater has been the Nederlander family business for over 95 years. David T. Nederlander purchased the old Detroit Opera House in 1912. Since then, through three generations, the Nederlanders have been involved in all facets of the live entertainment business in the United States.
Scenes from musical 42nd Street. Actress Kristen Martin plays Peggy Sawyer, the leading role of the show.
Robert Nederlander Jr, a third-generation family member, founded Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment to develop projects for the Broadway and Off Broadway theater circuit. Now, he wants to expand these operations into China.
After the historic visit of China's ping pong team to the University of Michigan more than 30 years ago, Robert Nederlander Sr, father of Robert Jr, headed a delegation of university professors and scholars to China to meet senior governmental representatives and leading administrators. The trip was a great success, and many new friendships were forged.
Three decades later, in 2005, the Nederlanders' ambitious dream finally came true as they collaborated with Beijing Time New Century Entertainment Co Ltd to establish Nederlander New Century, the very first China-foreign joint venture in the theatrical performance industry. It was approved by the Ministry of Culture in China under the Regulations on the Administration of Commercial Performing Arts (Revised Draft).
"It is an important milestone for my family," Robert Nederlander Jr says. "What started as a dream over 30 years ago with the role my father played during the ping pong diplomacy in the early 1970s has now, through years of preparation, led to the joint-venture to producing and presenting Broadway shows in China."
"We established the joint-venture to introduce international theater management practices and production operations in China," says Chen Jixin, the chairperson of Beijing Time New Century Entertainment - the Nederlanders' Chinese partner.
"In addition to introducing Broadway shows to China, the company will seek opportunities to produce and present Chinese shows to tour Broadway," she says.
This year, Nederlander New Century finally launched the nine-city, three-month tour of the Broadway musical, 42nd Street. Following Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Ningbo, Wuhan and Hefei, theater-goers in Beijing will be able to see the show at the Beizhan Theater from November 13 to 18 before it travels to Xi'an and Tianjin.
"42nd Street captures the excitement and wonder of Broadway, and that is why Nederlander new Century has chosen 42nd Street for our inaugural production. It is an uplifting musical that makes you laugh and cheer as you watch heroine Peggy Sawyer struggle to reach her dream of starring in a major Broadway production," Nederlander Jr says.
Since 2002, the musical Les Miserables set a record by staging 21 continuous performances in Shanghai and more than one million people in Shanghai and Beijing have watched famous productions, such as Cats, Lion King, West Side Story, Chicago and Mamma Mia. But this is the first time that several of the nine cities will play host to a Broadway production. And it is also the longest national tour of one production in China. After 42nd Street, Nederlander New Century will present The King and I and Aida next year.
"The joint-venture is committed to establishing long-term relationships with theaters in major cities in China and helping them create a system of promotion, marking, ticketing selling, theater management consultation and customer service," Chen says.
From a book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, music from Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin, 42nd Street is a classic backstage story of a young actress named Peggy Sawyer who rises from a chorus girl to become a Broadway star. The show defines musical comedy, with its spectacular design, score of hit standards, and the most admired tap dancing ensemble ever to tour North America and now China.
Based on the 1933 movie of the same name, the original production of the musical, which opened on Broadway in 1980, ran for 3,486 performances and won two Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It also went on to win the 2001 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
The China tour production is directed by Mark Bramble, the co-writer of the musical, and the leading cast was auditioned in the United States.
Interestingly, the 22-year-old Kristen Martin, who plays Peggy Sawyer, had very similar experience to the role she acts.
Born in the small town Owosso in mid Michigan, Martin inherited her talent for performing from her ballerina mother. After graduating from high school, she went to the American Musical & Dramatic Academy in New York City. She then won the role of Belle in Beauty and the Beast at Hong Kong Disneyland.
Her talent and experiences impressed the director, who says she is a living embodiment of Peggy.
"I feel so happy to tour with 42nd Street throughout China. Here, I have learned much Chinese and made new friends. I enjoy performing and share similar emotions to Peggy. I hope Chinese audiences love our show," Martin says.
(China Daily November 9, 2007)