The last night in Shanghai of Les Miserables, the world's most popular musical based on Victor Hugo's novel, prompted rapturous applause from the audience.
The three-hour show, staged in the Shanghai Grand Theater on Sunday night, was gauged a success as it drew packed audiences, who even crowded into the aisles and carpeted stairways.
The performance dispersed the concerns of many theater-goers that they would have trouble understanding the musical. "It moved me to tears. I was really fascinated by the charm of the masterpiece," said Cai Yun, an audience member from the Chinese capital city of Beijing.
Les Miserables performed in Shanghai used both cast and scripts adapted from the London and Broadway versions.
Colm Wilkinson, who played the leading role of Jean Valjean, put more emphasis on emotions than stagecraft. Shanghai musical critics considered his performance conveyed well the depth of the hero's personality and perceptions.
Javert, a policeman hounding Jean Valjean, was played by Irish actor Michael Mccarthy, whose performance also won over Shanghai audiences.
Wang Xiaochen, a lively Shanghai girl, made her debut on the last night playing little Cosette. The company staging Les Miserables traditionally invites a local child to play Cosette on the last night wherever the musical is performed.
Though never having had any professional singing lessons, Wang stood out from hundreds of candidates at the audition, thanks to her sweet voice and touching acting.
"We have nothing to be afraid of, except that the audiences won't like us," said the musical's producer Cameron Machintosh just before Les Miserables opened in Shanghai on June 22.
In fact, nearly 40,000 tickets for the three-week run in Shanghai ranging in price from 100 (US$12) to 1,200 yuan (US$145) all sold out in the first week.
According to the Shanghai Grand Theater, the 21 shows of Les Miserables earned box office returns of 12 million yuan (US$1.5 million), a record for a show staged in China.
Pleased with this success, Machintosh's company is planning to introduce to China next year another musical, The Phantom of the Opera, one of its four most celebrated productions.
Wei Song, deputy director of the Shanghai Opera Theater, noted that Les Miserables not only showed an excellent play to Chinese audiences but also highlighted the gap between western and home-grown musicals. The latter were short of capital and good scripts plus top-class musical and dancing talent.
After a dream season in China, the production continues its Asian tour, moving to Seoul in the Republic of Korea (ROK) for four weeks.
(Xinhua News Agency July 8, 2002)