(Peter Marks’s article appeared in the Washington Post, 9/19.)
A week ago, Signature Theatre’s artistic director, Eric Schaeffer, flew to South Korea to stage the company’s hit revival of the musical “Titanic” in Seoul, with a Korean cast. And now, the Arlington-based, Tony-honored group is taking yet another step toward Asia as it dives into an ambitious project to help develop an original Chinese musical — in both Mandarin and English.
The hope for “Road to Heaven: The Jonathan Lee Musical,” says lead producer Ivy Zhong, founder and chief executive of China Broadway Entertainment, is to create the first piece of Chinese musical theater with global reach, starting with a Mandarin version in China and then a production in English in the United States and elsewhere. To that end, her company has recruited a group of American theater professionals, including Schaeffer as director, Richard Maltby Jr. (“Miss Saigon”) as lyricist and book writer John Dempsey (“The Witches of Eastwick”).
Their mission is to turn the songbook of Taiwanese-born singer-songwriter Jonathan Lee — known to fans in China and Taiwan as Li Zongsheng — into a jukebox musical, adapted from a novel by Li Xiuwen. That process began this week, with rehearsals in New York that are to lead to a full reading of the musical on Dec. 12 in Signature’s Shirlington complex, with production costs paid by Zhong’s company.