Mamma Mia! China Opens Tonight in Beijing – Read Variety feature

Producers take a chance on ‘Mamma Mia!’ in Chinese

The Abba musical has been chosen as the first blockbuster show to be staged in Chinese, writes CLIFFORD COONAN in Beijing

CHINA’S DANCING queens are gearing up for the curtain to rise on the first Chinese-language production of the Abba musical, Mamma Mia!, in Shanghai tonight, and producers are confident they will thank them for the music.

It is the first time a blockbuster contemporary show like Mamma Mia! has been presented in Chinese in China. It is being staged by a local company in a new translation under the direction of the creative team who put on the musical in London.

Chinese audiences have really taken to western-style musicals such as Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, and The Lion King but they are performed by international touring groups.

To really make them stick in people’s minds, the musicals need to be in Chinese, and this is the first time it will be done by a group where the rights are licensed to a Chinese company.

While the show’s creator, Judy Craymer, will be celebrating a theatrical first and hoping the winner takes it all, she’ll also be watching to see how Mamma Mia! works in Mandarin.

Craymer is banking on Chinese audiences embracing classics such as Super Trouper, Lay All Your Love on Me, Voulez Vous and SOS in the way that audiences have all over the world.

China is where the money, money, money is these days, but Craymer says getting the musical to the stage was pioneering work.

“There’s virtually no infrastructure for commercial musical theatre in China, so finding the talent we needed – the actors, technicians, stage crew and musicians – proved extremely difficult,” she says.

“Locating a theatre to accommodate us took a long time and even translating the lyrics into a tonal language was a major challenge.”

Craymer adds that it is “amazing that Mamma Mia! has been chosen rather than something more traditional”.

“The previews are going very well – the audiences are having a fun time, clapping and singing along,” she says.

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