January 24, 2008
Chinese New Year less than spectacular
I recently wrote a cover story for our Arts in LA quarterly publication about an Israeli who hosts a Chinese performing arts show, so naturally, when the show came to the brand new Nokia Theatre in downtown, I requested tickets.
From the website’s descriptions and all the press materials I received, the “Chinese New Year Spectacular” promised to be an extravagant display of song and dance representing the glory of ancient Chinese culture.
Here’s an alluring tidbit from the show’s website:
“The splendor and beauty of the east will be majestically brought to life as New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV) presents the 2008 “Chinese New Year Spectacular.” Listed as a “Top Ten” show in North America by Billboard Magazine and rated by the New York Times as “the best Chinese Show of the Year”, the Chinese New Year Spectacular will take audiences of all ages on a magical journey back to China’s treasured Golden Age when the Chinese culture is free from the communist influence.”
The photos were stunning:
In short, I walked into the theater with high expectations.
My first disappointment actually came days before the show - the Israeli I profiled in my article was not hosting that night’s show. Leeshai Lemish emailed me that week to let me know that he had been sent to Toronto to host the company’s show there. In his place was a nicely rehearsed, well-dressed, not too exciting Chinese host.
The show, though beautiful in many respects, was quite honestly less than spectacular. I had to elbow my fiance awake several times and I spotted more than a couple of heads nestled comfortably on the shoulder of their date. Neither was the huge theater - modern and impressive - near capacity on the show’s second night in town.
I’m not saying the show was bad. The dancers were incredibly elegant and poised. The costumes richly decorated and brightly colored. The music soothing. The production flawlessly executed.
It was just very mellow. Maybe too mellow for a Los Angeles audience accustomed to the breathtaking acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil, the no-expense-spared production of “Wicked” and the splashy Justin Timberlake concerts next door at the Staples Center.
Despite the lack of fireworks, I enjoyed the show. But I don’t think it would be everyone’s cup of tea.