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Daily Drip

“Farewell My Concubine” is Getting a Broadway Adaptation

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Noted American playwright, composer and lyricist Jason Robert Brown announced on Twitter that casting for main characters has begun for a Broadway adaptation of Farewell My Concubine.

The original novel by Lillian Lee, written in 1985, deals with jealousy, love and the relationship between a successful pair of Peking Opera performers in the early 20th century in China. It was famously adapted into a Palme d’Or-winning film by director Chen Kaige.

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American playwright and screenwriter Kenneth Lin, who is of Chinese descent, is also involved in the project.

Chen’s 1993 film, which starred Gong Li and Leslie Cheung, was the first Chinese movie to win the Palme D’Or at Cannes Film Festival, and is often cited among the best movies ever made. It also picked up a Golden Globe Award in 1994 for Best Foreign Language Film.

According to an image released alongside the tweet, casting requirements for Juxian (played by Gong Li in the 1993 movie), Cheng Dieyi (Leslie Cheung), Duan Xialou (Zhang Fengyi) and Master Guan (Lu Qi) have been released.

Chinese netizens have expressed their pessimism about the prospect of a Chinese story being adapted to an American style, however, following a string of poorly-received projects. Earlier this year, Disney’s live-action Mulan, directed by New Zealander Niki Caro, was slammed by critics and audiences alike. Similarly, the announcement that Ron Howard would helm a biopic on the story of Chinese pianist Lang Lang’s life was also met with pushback from some Asian audiences.

One Weibo user wrote, “to be honest, I’m not very enthusiastic,” while another quipped, “It’s like using Peking Opera to arrange The Shawshank Redemption.”

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The Broadway adaptation of Farewell My Concubine has been in the works for years, according to Broadway News. An open call for casting was also made through Brown’s Twitter earlier this year.

Incidentally, Farewell My Concubine director Chen Kaige has been in the news for other reasons recently, after it was announced that he would join a legendary line-up of directors for the making of patriotic war film, Chosin Reservoir, which is set to release in the summer in 2021. Chen will join Tsui Hark and Dante Lam, as the illustrious trio take over directorial duties from Andy Lau.

Bryan Grogan
    Bryan is RADII's Culture Editor. He is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with an interest in culture stories with a social bent. He once correctly guessed all 151 original Pokemon in seven minutes for an online quiz.