Broadway musical Kinky Boots will embark on its first China tour, kicking off the first of 31 shows in Shanghai from July 11 to Aug 5 at the city's newest musical theater, Shanghai Culture Square.
The Chinese productions, which will use the same full cast and range of props as the national touring edition in the United States, will see the musical move to Guangzhou, Guangdong province, from Aug 9 to 19, before heading to Beijing for its final run on Aug 24 to Sep 16.
This is the latest Broadway show to be performed in China, and for the first time, "Chinese audiences will be able to experience a multiple-award winning musical with no time difference from Broadway or the West End," said Li Zhen, vice general manager of Chinese Dream Entertainment (CDE) Live, the company that brought the show to China.
Kinky Boots premiered on Broadway in New York in 2013, and the West End in London in 2015. It tells the story of Charlie Price, a shoe manufacturer who is trying to save the factory he inherited from his father from going under. He forms an unlikely friendship with a drag queen and cabaret performer named Lola, and they end up developing a line of high-heeled boots together. In the process, Charlie finds that despite everything, he and Lola have so much in common, said Lance Bordelon, who will play Charlie in the China tour.
The musical is all about "having a good time celebrating who you are," Bordelon said, "Be it a pair of kinky boots or a new hat, everyone wants to express themselves."
Bordelon and Joshua N. Banks, who plays Lola in the show, were making their first visit to China to attend a launch event on May 28 for the musical's upcoming tour.
The story of Kinky Boots was inspired by true events, and written by Geoff Deane and Tim Firth. It was first made into a British film in 805. The 2013 musical production won six Tony Awards, including best musical and best score for Cyndi Lauper, who was the first woman to win these categories singlehandedly.
In 2016 the play won three Laurence Olivier Awards, including best new musical.
Gao Xiaosong, a songwriter turned talk show host and culture critic, said that audiences will find "the music lingering in their minds long after they watch Kinky Boots", thanks to the efforts of songwriter Cyndi Lauper, a Grammy-award winning singer with a successful career spanning 80 years on the pop music scene. The songs she wrote for the play will easily find resonance with the audiences, Gao said.
"Some people are concerned that Chinese audiences might find the cultural phenomenon of the drag queen strange or unacceptable," Li said, "But as a matter of fact, transsexual performances have always existed in the traditional art of Chinese opera, as well as contemporary shows.
"We are confident that the musical will be a hit in China," she said. In fact, the show racked up 1 million yuan at the box office on the first day of ticket sales for the Shanghai shows on March 9.
CDE Live is a new company founded in 2016, and is a member of the Chinese Culture Group. The core staff members, however, have been active in China's musical industry for more than a decade. "The majority of us were from the 2011 Chinese production team of Mamma Mia," Li said. In the three years that followed, the Chinese version of Mamma Mia ran for 800 shows and another Chinese production of the established Broadway show, Cats, had 80 shows on extensive tours of China. "We visited about 80 cities, as far as Fuling in Sichuan province," Li said. "The two successful plays played an important role introducing musical theater to the wider public in China. The majority of people still have difficulty in enjoying musical productions in a foreign language."
Last year CDE Live created three Chinese musical theater productions: Murder Ballad, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and Little Shop of Horrors. "We didn't just translate the Broadway and off-Broadway shows into Chinese, but we also adapted the stories into a Chinese cultural context," she said. "Eventually the mission of our company will be to create original Chinese productions for the international market."
In the latter half of 2019, a series of six new theaters will be launched in Shanghai's West Bund area in Xuhui district, which will all be managed by CDE Live. By bringing in big productions such as Kinky Boots, CDE Live hopes to learn from the mature operations of Broadway's musical industry, and gradually develop a successful business model combining "show production, theater management and talent cultivation," Li said.