Mamma Mia! British musical revolution comes to China

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BEIJING, Sep 17 (Reuters) The British producer behind the West End and Broadway hits ''Cats'', ''Les Miserables'' and ''Mary Poppins'', among others, said he is bringing a revolution to China by introducing the Chinese versions.

Cameron Mackintosh today set up a joint venture with China's biggest performing arts agency, China Arts and Entertainment Group (CAEG), affiliated to the Ministry of Culture, to bring western classic musicals to China.

The first production, ''Les Miserables'', based on Victor Hugo's classic, will be play in Chinese with Chinese performers will open at the new National Grand Theatre in November 2008, CAEG said.

Chinese versions of musicals including ''Mamma Mia!,'' ''Phantom of the Opera,'' ''Miss Saigon,'' ''My Fair Lady'' and ''The Lion King'' would follow, he told a news conference.

''It could be no more appropriate that the musical about revolution and the survival of the human spirit, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, is the opening show in China,'' Mackintosh said.

''Hopefully, as the (assistant) minister kindly said, it will be a complete change in culture in China,'' he said, referring to Ding Wei, assistant Minister of Culture, who said the joint venture had historical significance for the development of China's musical theatre.

''In five to ten years, I hope Beijing and Shanghai will become the third or fourth musical market after New York and London,'' Ding said.

Mackintosh said all roles had been localised to bring down costs, and that he wasn't looking to make money.

''What appeals to me is to create wonderful shows and great jobs for people in China who are interested in music theatre,'' he said.

Andrew Lloyd-Webber's ''Cats'' was the first world-class western musical to be shown in recent years.

In 2003, the only venue big enough to accommodate the Irish chorus line in ''Riverdance'' was the Great Hall of the People.

REUTERS SKB PM1740

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