LIU SANJIE | Hong Kong, HK Cultural Centre

This dance-drama adaptation of the ancient Chinese legend, well known from the iconic musical film (1960), was a smash hit in mainland China earlier this year, and has been met with roaring success in the 1,734-seater Grand Theatre of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre.

The choreography (Ding Wei) is amazingly fast-paced throughout, fusing classical ballet with folk dance, circus-style acrobatics, and even some breakdancing. Most of the scenes tell the same story: “We do have fun here on the banks of the River Li”, with festive clacking of bamboo sticks, and frolicking about in the clean, sunny water.

Skilled farm girl Liu Sanjie (Pan Lingjuan) and talented fisherman A Niuge (Liu Jia) develop a tender, passionate relationship, brought to a sudden, tragic end by the Butler (Ho Ho-fei) of her rich, jealous suitor, Mo Huairen (Huang Lei).

The original, pre-recorded score (Li Cangsang) is a masterwork in its own right, fusing the iconic songs and themes of the film with modern, filmic orchestration, one moment John Williams, the next Alan Menken, with some moments of slap bass and disco drums, and even some jazz soloing on Chinese Ehru violin.

As Li Zijun says, Chairman of Nanning Art Theater, “While displaying the traditional Zhuang values of generosity and grace, this adaptation also presents a new, modern Liu Sanjie.”

For five performances only until 2 December 2018.

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