Jan 5, 2006

Asian tour of Rent in Beijing

The Asian tour of the musical Rent (吉屋出租) played in Beijing for a few days this week. I went to the final night's performance. Ticket prices were from 100 – 1000 RMB, comparable with what you'd find in the US. I estimate the theater could accommodate about 2,700 people, but only 800 or so were in attendance. This meant that regardless of what ticket you had bought, people could move up into the first 20 rows or so. It reminded me of taking a crowded passenger train in China. You can buy a really cheap standing-room only ticket, and then when one of the passengers in the soft seat area disembarks, you can sit there. First-come-first-serve.

For many, if not all of the locals, the draw was seeing HK pop singer Karen Mok (莫文蔚), who played Mimi. Quite a few people were taking (flash) photos when she sang her numbers. On the sides of the stage were a vertical LED displays showing a Chinese translation of the lyrics. The subtitles were going at blindingly fast speed, like half a second per sentence sometimes. I'm not sure that the show would be very enjoyable for non-native English speakers. The translations were pretty much accurate but it lost the musical quality and wit.

As far as the performances in the show, I would mostly agree with the comments on this forum. That is, Karen Mok was ok, but she's obviously not the appropriate actress to play Mimi. However, her presence makes the production economically feasible in Asia. The rest of the cast ranged from a few stand-out performers to some others that are just so-so.

The only other negative thing I'd mention is that the venue's acoustics were unsuitable for a musical that is heavy on rock and roll. It was an oval, pillbox-shaped auditorium with hard, smooth walls all around. The fact that it was under one-third full didn't help the reverberation.

Overall, it was an enjoyable show and I'd recommend it as long as you're tickets are on the cheap side of the scale.


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