Chun Yi - Broadway Meets Beijing
Thu, 28th May 2009

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This is the longest running theatrical production in China visiting the London Coliseum July 29 - 16 August.

Book now with 27 shows there is the potential to reach an audience of 62,000.
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Wanted: 50 athletic, acrobatic, balletic and expert kung fu performers (age 12-21) for visually stunning international production. Ability to inspire, essential. Knowledge of philosophy of kung fu, essential. Capacity to smash wooden staves and iron bars with head, a definite asset.

It’s a tricky casting call, but contrary to all rational expectations, the producers of CHUN YI: The Legend of Kung Fu managed to pull it off. Now, after playing to two million people on four continents, this “viscerally thrilling” (National Post) and “mind bendingly breath-taking” (Eye Weekly, Toronto) show arrives in the UK direct from China. But be quick: it’s here for three weeks only, at the London Coliseum, from 29 July to 16 August.

CHUN YI is a radical departure from previous, more ascetically staged presentations of this potent, ancient art. It’s a full-blown theatrical homage to Kung Fu, with production values which rival the most glittering of orthodox West End offerings. In terms of setting, lighting and sound, CHUN YI offers a multi-layered assault on the senses which equals the assault on credulity of the performers’ Kung Fu skills. Stunning music by award-winning composer Zheng Bing underscores the drama.

The moving story at the heart of the show is told (in English) by an ancient kung fu master to a young boy, fearful of the disciplined life of kung fu practice. The audience joins in this journey of enlightenment, choreographed in a rare fusion of traditional eastern movement, western ballet, modern dance, and acrobatics. It’s all interwoven with a succession of extraordinary, barely believable feats of martial arts.

In this visually intense production, scenes dissolve and fade into rippling silks, performers drift high above the stage, and tumbling actors are seemingly swallowed into pits of fire as the cast gathers ranked on raised gantries to create a meticulously synchronised kaleidoscope of moving images. It’s not just said for the sake of the alliteration: CHUN YI is magical, dynamic, mystical and amazing.

In Beijing, the show has played to packed houses and to audiences of all ages and backgrounds for nearly five years solid since July 2004, and it has earned international critical acclaim. The Vancouver Sun was moved to describe it as “spectacle on a grand scale: heart-poundingly exciting and [performed with] gut-busting energy”, and the Globe and Mail Toronto simply said “[It’s] a breath-taking display: it dazzles”.

There is a notion, drawn from western experience of the Beijing Opera and the State Circus, that Chinese performance is a stiff and formal discipline which lacks the essential sense of story and spectacle which is central to large-scale popular entertainment in the west.

CHUN YI offers an emphatic rebuttal to such thinking. Ray Roderick, the Broadway director who worked with the company to fuse the art of kung fu with Western story-telling explains: “CHUN YI is a simple, personal story with a giant global message – the best of Western musicals do this.”

Michael Crabb responded enthusiastically in the National Post: “Who would have thought that a martial art with 4,000-year-old roots could yield two hours of sophisticated entertainment to rival the best Broadway or Las Vegas has to offer?”

There are many translations of “Kung Fu”. One is “hard work”. In this show, the hard work looks effortless, and the result is pure entertainment. Appropriate, really, given that Chun Yi means “the pure one”.

The production is co-produced by China Heaven Creation and Great World Artists International.


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