Musical about Jews in Shanghai to hit Broadway

The musical tells the story of the more than 20,000 Jews who fled to the city from Europe to escape Nazi persecution.
Musical about Jews in Shanghai to hit Broadway
Ti Gong

A still from the musical "Jews in Shanghai."

A local produced musical about Jewish refugees in Shanghai before and during World War II is to be staged regularly in New York and Shanghai simultaneously.

The producer of the musical titled "Jews in Shanghai" signed a memorandum of understanding with the American Broadway-based Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment on Monday to present the historic show to Broadway audiences.

"We hope more people, even the whole world, can learn about the history through our musical Jews in Shanghai," said Xu Jun, the musical's director.

According to the MOU, the musical will make its Broadway debut in 2019 and will run for two years. It will be staged in New York and Shanghai simultaneously to prepare for a future worldwide tour, said Chen Zhongwei, president with the Shanghai Heng Yuan Xiang Theater Development Company, the producer.

The musical tells the story of the more than 20,000 Jews who fled to Shanghai from Europe to escape the Nazis. They were welcomed and sheltered by Shanghai residents, who were in turn offered help and support by Jewish residents when Japan invaded China, said Xu.

This period of time demonstrated the kindness, tolerance, and love of Chinese people that should be respected by Israel and deserved to be known by more people, said Nadav Zysblat, deputy consul general of Israeli Consulate in Shanghai.

The musical proved a hit when performed in Tel Aviv in March to mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Israel, Zysblat said.

"We hope the musical can be promoted worldwide through the Broadway platform along with the warmth and light behind the story," Zysblat added.

Musical about Jews in Shanghai to hit Broadway
Ti Gong

The stage still of the musical "Jews in Shanghai."

Presenting this story demonstrates Chinese people’s respect for human rights and is no less powerful than the two United States atomic bombs dropped on Japan, said former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Determined to base the story on fact, the production team spent almost two years collecting information for the script. They visited historians in Shanghai and Israel and talked with Jews who had lived in the city.

One story the team decided to focus on revolves round a young Jew who was sheltered in Shanghai and taught local workers how to make faulty grenade fuses in a Japanese military factory, saving many Chinese soldiers' lives.

The production team was also told that Jews learned to sing Shanghai rhymes and locals often invited them to dinner at Chinese New Year, said Xu.

The musical’s composer Peter Kam said he was intrigued by how two very different sets of people came together.

“Shared suffering in the war was probably the major reason for them to look for encouragement and support from one another. That serves as the key in my composition for the whole musical,” he added.

Traditional Jewish and Chinese music elements are mixed in based on the plot and both English and Chinese languages are used.

Five Israelis perform in the musical including actress Sivan Kissinger, whose grandmother was aboard the last legal refugee ship allowed by the Nazis to leave Germany.

Musical about Jews in Shanghai to hit Broadway
Ti Gong

The performers and producers of the musical.

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