Chinese New Year Spectacular

Date 3 January 2007 @ 2 and 8pm Venue The Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Reviewer Ed Farolan

During the pre-show media reception, I spoke to Ana Chen who represented NTDTV (New Tang Dynasty Television), an independent TV network based in New York. She said that this production hosted by this station has grown from seven performances in five cities in 2004 to almost 60 performances in 20 cities for this year. They'll be performing in San Francisco and other American cities, and then go back east where they will have shows in Ottawa (12 January), Montreal (13-14 January), and the Toronto Centre for the Arts (19-20 January).

The audience to this "spectacular" were mostly Chinese, as expected. In fact, the two emcees of the show (I don't know why their names weren't in the programme) greeted everyone with "Gung Hay Fat Choy" (Happy New Year) to which almost the entire auditorium answered back the same in unison.

The format of the show was similar to a variety program like the old Ed Sullivan show which was a mish-mash of dancing, martial arts, singing and playing the "erhu," a one-string traditional Chinese violin. Although the show was supposed to be spectacular, I didn't quite see anything spectacular about it. Surely, the costumes were dazzling and some of the dances, especially the White Lotus, was charming; however, there were problems with sound and there was a scarcity of lighting effects that would have made this showmore interesting.

The singers (tenor Guimin Guan and Soprano Min Jiang) were very good, but the technical aspects weren't controlled. The volume was too high, and these singers upon reaching the high notes were almost shrieking. In the backdrop, there was a huge screen which projected moving pictures of beautiful Chinese landscapes and celestial scenes. But the artists who danced in front of the screen were lighted in such a way that their shadows showed on the screen, losing the landscape's background effect.

There was also an ensemble of Romanian instrumentalists who joined in the programme. Now one might ask: "What are Romanians doing in a Chinese Spectacular?" I would imagine there weren't enough Chinese songs or dances to complete a two-hour program.

I was also expecting to see other dances, such as the "orange fans" dance and the "female guards" martial arts exhibition, as displayed in their website, but they weren't there. Instead, there were dances and songs with anti-Communist messages. In one of the dances, "Reaping What Is Sown," a Falun Gong practitioner is imprisoned and executed by the CCP (Communist Chinese Party) police, and in the next segment of the dance, two spiritual guardians of the underworld strike and kill them with lightning rods. In the last segment of this dance, the woman is seen in heaven being crowned and in the company of celestial beings.

Another political slant to this show were songs whose lyrics were written by Dalu Dafa Dizi (probably a pseudonym to avoid being hunted down) about the Tiananmen incident: "Tiananmen Square, can you tell me how many followers came here for the many banners were hoisted into the air?"

I felt that this show was clearly a message to the CCP who, in the eyes of the producers, believe strongly that Mao's cultural revolution destroyed Chinese culture and through "spectaculars" like this are attempting to bring back Chinese traditions the way they were.

© 2007 Ed Farolan