On Tuesday, July 1, Hong Kong will return to Chinese rule after 156 years as a British crown colony. Not only is a huge outdoor celebration planned, featuring a chorus of 800, but a new play will open in Beijing to coincide with the historic agreement.
Karen Arndt, stage manager of the outdoor gala, told Playbill On-Line rehearsals have been "very up-and-down" on the stage show, with one day bringing relatively cool, overcast skies, the next baking the participants in 95-degree heat. "We had about ten children faint, and people weren't happy," Arndt said. "But weather was better the following day, and they closed off traffic near the site so we didn't have military and delivery vans driving through the rehearsal." Dignitaries expected at the concert include Prince Charles and Madeline Albright. Lea Salonga, the original Kim in Miss Saigon, will also perform at the outdoor celebration.
A new play will also open to coincide with the Hong Kong change-over. According to Reuters/Variety, Gui Lai Xi (Please Return), directed by Lu Ang, premiered June 28 in Beijing and stresses Chinese identity. The show is currently running in Shanghai and will come back there for five more performances after the Peking run ends, July 3. The Beijing engagement replaces a work by the People's Liberation Army that -- according to Ang - was "executed by the authorities" for reasons unknown.
Gui Lai Xi follows a Shanghai businessman whose mentor is Sun Yat-sen, founder of modern China. Among the leaders met in his travels are Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiao Ping. "This is the first time for an old Deng Xiaoping to be depicted in a play," Ang told Reuters. "It couldn't be done while he was alive." Nevertheless, the message of the very nationalistic, pro-government piece is, "Everyone should have a sense of responsibility towards the Chinese race," said Ang.
"People expect there to be a very heavy propaganda element to the play," added Ang, "but there isn't. We've tried to make it as much of a work of art as possible." --By David Lefkowitz