“Zen Shaolin”, a Chinese theatrical extravaganza in the Hunan Province

I just found out about an extravagant show “Zen Shaolin” that is being performed among the mountains of the Hunan Province in China that looks amazing. With its cast of 500 performers (wow!), locals and “city” performers, Shaolin Buddhist monks, acrobats, Peking opera singers, musicians, dancers and martial artists, they all meld together to create a unique setting for a theatrical show like no other.

The music for “Zen Shaolin” is written by Mr. Tan Dun (composer of the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack as well as the Met Opera hit two years ago featuring Placido Domingo in The First Emperor), this show is reflective of China “redefining” its image — celebrating China’s rich history, beautiful natural settings, traditional art and music, and even religious roots as this show reflects Buddhist principles — thankfully recently blessed by the propaganda department in the Chinese government. A true Cirque du Soleil kind of show, I’d say, with extreme creativity, traditional arts meshed together with a modern sensibility with a hint of Hollywood, I would love to see this show. Apparently, so does a lot of other people, more than 300,000 people have seen it in the last 16 months. After investing $15 million on the theater itself, nestled among the mountains, with government and private funding… seriously, it’s amazing that this amazing gamble on such a show was even considered. If this was a Broadway show, no one produces a show with that kind of budget unless Disney is involved. And how jealous I am that China has the guts to actually fund theater productions — whereas in America, arts funding is highly limited so that investors are very risk-averse in making huge productions, resulting in Broadway producing mostly mediocre shows based on familiar Hollywood movies.

How cool does an actual rolling-stone orchestra sound?

Until a bag of money falls from the sky and I can see this show in person, I can try to get a sense of the show from the New York Times slideshow. Central Park Delacorte Theater, eat your heart out…

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About Jen

I’m a Korean-American living in the bay area, I studied public health and social work in grad school, and I have an obsession for anything theater related, especially ballet and Broadway musicals. I just spent three years in NYC so I am still adjusting to normal winter weather and having a car, and most of the time, I am busy funding my passion for theater with a full-time job in healthcare public relations. On any given day, you can find me watching Project Runway, shopping, doing yoga, skipping to the theater, or looking for the perfect cocktail.
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