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Hit Musicals to be Staged in Mandarin
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Chinese audiences are to be given world renowned musicals, including "Les Miserables",  "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera" from next year, in Mandarin by a new Sino-British joint venture, China Musical Theater Company.

The Chinese version of "Les Miserables", the company's first production is expected to be staged in November 2008, and the company will start a nationwide casting this October, said British producer and investor Cameron Mackintosh.

"Our first task in China is to find translators who can make the stories that we have already told in the West in English sound as real and true in Mandarin," he said.

China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG) and Cameron Mackintosh Limited signed a contract in Beijing on Monday to establish the China Musical Theater Company.

It will produce Chinese versions of hits, such as "Cats", "The Phantom of the Opera", "Mamma Mia!",  "Miss Saigon",  "My Fair Lady",  "The Lion King" in the next ten years, as well as to train local directors, writers, actors and theatrical technicians.

"We aim to promote the musical theater and boost the development of musical theater industry in China," said Zhang Yu, CAEG general manage.

He said the Chinese versions would try to maintain the original character of the shows, instead of demonstrating "Chinese characteristics".

Mackintosh said he had brought an international cast to Shanghai, performing the "Les Miserables" in English and with Chinese subtitles, in 2002 and the enormous success encouraged him that there is a future for the musical theater in China.

"It was the first inkling that this kind of musical storytelling was the kind of thing which the Chinese would enjoy," he said.

Mackintosh said the company would not skimp in producing top-ranking musicals so the Chinese audience could enjoy them in the same way as their Western counterparts did, although they planned to attract audiences with prices of 300 yuan (US$40) on average.

With 40 years' experience in producing musical theater, Mackintosh has staged hundreds of productions including "Les Miserables",  "Cats" and "The Phantom of the Opera" the three longest running musicals in Broadway history, as well as "Miss Saigon" and "Little Shop of Horrors".

(Xinhua News Agency September 17, 2007)

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