Dates: 4 May - 20 May 2004
: The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts

Reviewer: John Jane



Music: Hao Wei Ya; Choreography: Zhang Jian Ming; Set Design: Tu Ju Hua; Lighting Design: Tommy Wong
Production: Moon Lee Law; Story: Dennis K. Law, MD


The palace of Emperor Qin
After two years in creation at a production cost of some three millions dollars, Dr. Dennis Law’s much anticipated epic stage musical, Terracotta Warriors finally opened at the Centre in Vancouver for the Performing Arts last Tuesday (May 4th) for its world premiere.

Dr. Law prefers to define Terracotta Warriors as a “multi-culture extravaganza”. Since the entire production is set in China during the Qin dynasty, the ‘multi-cultured’ description may be a stretch. But spectacular it most certainly is. 18 lavish stage sets, hundreds of elaborately detailed period costumes and a huge cast make this exotic show a ‘must-see’ event.

The story line is far more complex than Western audiences might expect in a typical Broadway style musical. I recommend patrons read the programme notes prior to the performance.

Terracotta Warriors is adaptated from the story of the oppressive rule of Emperor Qin Shi Huang, and the misadventures of his beautiful concubine, Meng Ying. The story is told through the actions of the comically conniving eunuch, Zhoa Gao and incidental lyrics (in Mandarin) by soprano Chen Xiaoduo.

There is also a fine original musical score composed by Hao Wei Ya; which is pre-recorded and delivered through the theatre’s sound system. The orchestration serves as a soundscape, rather than provide any narrative to the story.





Two offstage musicians, percussionist Wang Jue and pipa player Cai Jin enhance the on-stage action with live music (The pipa is a Chinese version of the Western lute).

Pipa player Cai Jin

Juggling, acrobatics, martial arts and fight sequences are all performed to Fan Dong Yu and Yan Jie’s precise action choreography. Dancing is sometimes frenetic and other times very dramatic. In a scene in the second act, the middle-aged Queen Mother (who looks no more than twenty) and conspirator Lu Bu Wei engage in a provocative sexual encounter portrayed entirely through dance choreographed by Zhang Jian Ming.

An ancient vocal technique known as ‘Qin Qiang’ is used in the first act for dramatic effect. The sound, produced by a solo female voice can be likened to a ‘falsetto wail’.

The ‘Dance of the Terracotta Warriors’ in the final scene may well be worth the price of admission alone. Terracotta warriors come to life as Emperor Qin is vanquished.

Dr. Law should be commended for his vision and courage in bringing this exciting event to Vancouver theatre-goers.

© 2004, John Jane