What: Shanghai Repertory Theater Presents “A Christmas Carol”
Where: Chinatown, 471 Zhapu Lu, near Haining Lu 乍浦路471号, 近海宁路
When: Tonight, 7:30PM
Having missed the initial performances (and finally starting to feel something of the good old Christmas spirit), Shanghaiist decided to check out Shanghai Repertory Theater’s post production of A Christmas Carol last night. Having heard nothing but good things about the cast and the play, we were pretty excited to see it, and the fact that it was having an encore at Gosney & Kallman’s Chinatown only added to the intrigue.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen A Christmas Carol, and we tend to forget exactly why we’re so drawn to it. To put it lightly, Shanghai Repertory Theater reminded us in spades with an overwhelmingly heartwarming rendition. It was like Dickens on overdrive: Scrooge was crotchety, Bob Cratchit was an exemplar of optimistic vivacity, and little Tiny Tim charmed our socks off with unfeigned innocence. In the course of a short hour and a half, we forgot the cultural importance of the play, and entered into the virtues and vices of mankind, something that Dickens was aiming for long before his play became the centerpiece of the Christmas canon.
The talented international cast, whose accents varied from British to Chinese (and the indiscernible space in between), lent the production a welcome breath of fresh air. And with so little time to coordinate the change of venue (Rosita Janbakhsh, the producer, mentioned that the cast blocked the entire play at Chinatown in about four hours), there were a few hiccups in staging and sound. Yet something about the the venue, with its unassuming stage and aura of informal entertainment, tuned us into the spirit of the performance in a way that a more polished production might have missed. In fact, it seemed like the most human rendition we’ve ever seen, which made the sorrow that much more painful, and the joy that much more exuberant.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the show was the haunting presence of the ghost of burlesque yet to come: as Bob Cratchit waxed familial, there was a haunting glimpse of his alter ego, Chinatown Charlie, under the facade. Having never been to Chinatown, we were thrilled to wait for the second half: Chinatown’s burlesque show. In a matter of minutes, Chinatown Charlie transformed from a lovable family man into a quick-witted rake with a acerbic tongue, and brought the scantily clad Chinatown Dolls with him to cement the change.
We’ve been to some burlesques back in New York, and wondered exactly how Chinatown could pull off a burlesque that was both scintillating and tame enough to appease government censors. What we got was a truly vaudevillian show: Sinatra songs, shimmering costumes, dance routines galore, and even old video shown by Mr. Gosney himself, who couldn’t resist getting in on the act. Our personal favorite routine is a version of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes” sung in Shanghainese: since childhood, we’ve been waiting for the chance to relive the opening scene of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and Chinatown’s show is indisputably the closest we’ll ever get to the glitz and glamour of 1930’s Shanghai.
If you’ve got nothing to do tonight, we would highly recommend trekking out to Zhapu lu and enjoying a night peppered with the extremes of wholesomeness and debauchery.