The year 1998 seems marked for The Sound of Music -- 53 days before the opening of its revival on Broadway, a Chinese version will also be staged on the other side of the Earth.
Beijing's The Sound of Music is produced by a couple of newlywed stars-- Wang Gang and Cheng Fangyuan. Wang Gang, who will be Capt. von Trapp in the musical, is a celebrated TV presenter and actor, famous for his outstanding eloquence and humour. Cheng Fangyuan, who will play Maria, was the first pop song singer to win national recognition.
The Sound of Music is the most popular American musical in China. The filmed version, which was made in 1965 and introduced to China in the early 1980's, has charmed several generations.
Some critics had worried the staged musical would turn out to be a parody. But Beijing Television released televised episodes dispelling the misgivings, when Cheng Fangyuan hosted a hot line on the musical and some audience members asked her the same question. Cheng replied, "No one doubts my singing and Wang's acting, but many doubt my acting and his singing. I am not in a position to comment on myself here, what I can tell you is I am quite confident and eager to portray the role. As for my husband, Wang, his singing is as good as his acting, if not better. Don't forget his sister is a good vocalist, and he had appeared [singing] in a TV musical program at the New Year's Eve entertainment last year."
Cheng also disclosed that portraying Maria had long been her dream, and she's glad it will soon come true. When asked about the children of Capt. von Trapp, Cheng said, "They are very adorable, unique and humorous. They are future stars." Sources say that there are complaints from the public about the ticket price, with highest being RMB 480 yuan, or US$60. Even some well-to-do families would not buy tickets at that price for their children. But organizers insist the price is reasonable. They say the highest price comprises only a small fraction of the seats, whereas the lowest only cost RMB 40 yuan.
Sound of Music runs at 7 PM Jan. 19-27 at the International Theatre of Poly Plaza, Dong Si Shi Tiao, for tickets call (010) 65001188 ext 5682.
-- By Wang Ling