Referring to musicals, Chinese people first think about works of Broadway such as Cats, Les Miserables, the Phantom of the Opera and so on. The profits of classic musicals are far beyond that of movies. For example, according to the statistics, the total box office of the Phantom of the Opera reached $5.6 billion, while that of the Lion King was $6.7 billion.
The domestic musical market is rising. At present, most of the best-selling musicals are from foreign countries, such as Seven Ages which was invested by China Media Capital. The company is famous for introducing Avenue Q and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. Their B round financing is in the process, which is estimated to be finished in the latter half of 2015.
Domestic original musicals have been developing over the two years and many musicals have earned over millions Yuan, such as Shanghai Beach produced by JDF. In January, the company had announced its B round financing with 30 million Yuan, reaching 50 million in total of two rounds.
With the development of musical market, there appears segmental vertical market like “parent-child musicals”. For instance, the 2012 play Attraction: show in the Bird’s Nest is still on play in the Water Cube.
However, musicals still belong to a small market in China and parent-child musicals take an even smaller part of it. According to the data by China Association of Performing Arts in 2014, the total box office of musicals and concerts was 1.09 billion Yuan with 19,000 shows in the whole year.
But CMBN has noticed that children’s play was another blowout in the 2014 show market based on the data with 18,500 shows, increasing by 50.41% compared with 2013. The average price was 100 Yuan, which was 25% higher than that of 2013. The box office was 740 million Yuan, rising by 80% of the former year.
There were two main reasons for the increase: first, the government had reduced the number of shows, thus local show agencies had to look for programs in the market. For children’s play were at low cost and low risks, it was welcomed by those institutions; second, parents were mainly the generation of 1980s after the reform and opening up. Their improved education level helped to form culture consumption awareness and stimulated the demands of children’s play market.
When Beijing Yanghua Culture Company, known for its drama and play, was focusing on musicals, it focused on parent-child musicals. Their first parent-child musical —-The Song of the Stray Dogs—- will be put on at the end of October. The director Zhao Ziqiang thought that parent-child musicals were paid more and more attention for parents cared for the development of their children and encouraged them to watch something that contained thoughts and culture. Parent-child musicals would have a large market.
The following was collected from what Zhao shared:
I think children are the best audience in the world. They don’t know who the big stars are, but they just watch the play with their heart. No matter what literal skills you have used, it is an intuitive and consciousness of work. The audience will judge the play but forget to enjoy the pure work. However, children will watch plays by their intuitive feelings. As an actor, performing for children is the most challenging and enjoyable thing.
There are two reasons to choose mainland actors: first, Taiwan actors have difference from us on culture and language. Unless the role has Taiwan background, it will be difficult for mainland children to understand. Second, Taiwanese speak slower than Beijingers and feel Beijing dialect is too fast for them. Besides, mainland actors can express different feelings and act more vivid to make the show more native.
Second, there are lots of young people learning real musicals in Beijing. Those actors are good at singing, dancing and have energy to perform. Our performers must also have affinity, or he would scare the children. It is hard to find a qualified actor. I feel lucky to have those young people and believe that they can create a different atmosphere and feelings.
Bao Chunlai is an athlete, who has good psychological and physical strength. The play requires actors to jump and sing, which is his advantage. Additionally, he has performing experience, affinity as well as the love for singing. But he was not so confident. We hired several training teacher and found that he was a good singer. Since he is a world champion, he has very good psychological quality. Singing is like competing, both of which require psychological quality to show and enjoy oneself.
Now, parent-child musicals have been paid more attention for parents cared for the development of their children and encourage them to watch something that contained thoughts and culture rather than comics. The parent-child musicals now are mostly episodic shows, and people think that children will be tired to watch the whole performance. These shows have a scene every 5 or 10 minutes, or a game every 15 minutes and then sing a song together, which is separated from the whole rhythm of the show.
We should first have a complete story. It is a whole just as a work of art, dividing into two parts. In the second place, we put many efforts on roles for each role has its own vitality and multiple aspects, which will be remembered by children.
Creation should not be detached from reality, or it cannot be understood by children and parents. It needs to form a real world but brings imagination at the same time. I think this is one of our characteristics, which makes us special. We performed in Shanghai and Beijing before. But it is the first time for us to collaborate with so many excellent young performers. In Taiwan, children are able to enjoy many parent-child musicals, some of which are local shows, or from Europe, North America, Japan, Korea or mainland China. However, I feel that even children in Beijing and Shanghai have few plays to watch, especially for the family.
Music has no borders. We define that parent-child musicals are not only for children but for the whole family. The process is more complex because actors cannot talk too much or children will lose patience after 5 minutes. And we cannot play the game for the whole time. So, how to balance the communication with children and provide good content at the same time? We have a basic formula: a little fun every 30 seconds, a big surprise every 3 minutes. You should not make children feel boring.
The choreography, writing and rehearsing of children’s play are also important. I’ve been in this business for 15 years, but I’m now on the first step and there are 180 more in front of me. I always
take lots of notes and think about the story in the city for children.
Many people in Taiwan asked me: you had put lots of efforts on it, but children would not understand your plays. They just watched them for fun. I responded that I did mind it. Though children could not understand them but some pictures would remain in their mind and form a new memory in the childhood. This was much fun.
Therefore our parent-child musical provide resources for children to create, and they might remember the time when they watch The Song of the Stray Dogswith their parents at 5, 7, or 10 years old. This would turn out to be his own play in his memory. It’s also my theory. I think every child would have his own creation and adapt a lot.
In terms of values, when he has to make a choice after 10, 15 or 20 years, he will remember the stories that he had watched. He will say that this is the meaning of that story. That’s enough for me. It is the most exciting place for parent-child musicals since your creation explodes after 20 years.
(Translator: Ellie; Editor: Chuqian Li)
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