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Dialect drama about dance hall girl
By Nie Xin

SHANGHAI dialect is getting trendy and making its way on stage - despite the fact that it's now less spoken in daily life.

The latest offering is a musical drama set in old Shanghai and featuring a legendary belle and sought-after escort who graced the Paramount Ballroom.

Subtitles in Mandarin will not be provided.

The play "Forever Yin Xueyan" will be staged at Shanghai Culture Square from May 4 to 12. Eighteen shows are planned for what is hoped will be only the first round.

It is based on a novella "Yin Yueyan" by famous Taiwan writer Pai Hsien-Yung, who in the 1970s wrote a collection of 1930s Shanghai tales. In it, Yin is a dancing girl - beautiful, elegant, and forever young. She is a fixture in the ballroom but for many men, she is unattainable, unaffordable.

"Yin belongs to heaven but not reality," Pai wrote in his Mandarin tale.

The creature of fiction, always gowned impeccably in an elegant qipao, has come to represent old Shanghai.

The play naturally is about a young man who falls hopelessly in love with Yin.

The drama follows another production in Shanghainese, the musical comedy "Women Must Have Money." Seventy-two shows were staged at the People's Grand Theater. Fifty-three shows were performed in Mandarin, 19 in Shanghainese. The dialect tickets sold well. Around 70,000 people saw both shows. The tickets sold for nearly 10 million yuan (US$1.61 million).

"I am very confident that performing in Shanghainese dialect will be a new culture trend," says Zhou Yi, the producer of "Women Must Have Money." He also produced the Shanghainese talk show "Laughing over 30 Years" featuring Shanghainese stand-up comedian Zhou Libo.

As for the new play, writer Pai tells Shanghai Daily, "Yin Xueyan is the product of this city - delicate, low-key luxurious - and this is the most important reason I decided to present this story on stage in Shanghainese dialect."

Pai moved to Shanghai with his family in 1945; the family later moved to Hong Kong and settled in Taiwan in 1952.

"As a little child, I had never been to the Paramount where dancing girls in elegant qipao went in and out. The beauty and charms of the scene mixed East and West," he recalls.

He longed to venture inside the forbidden palace and his childhood memories inspired him to write "Yin Xueyan," the first novella in his series "Taipenese."

In the upcoming drama Yin will be played by Huang Liya, a local TV and film actress and well-known Huju Opera (Shanghai Opera) performer.

The young man frustrated in love, Xu Zhuangtu, will be played by local actor Hu Ge.

"I hope to present the real spiritual value of this city through this play and draw more attention to the charms of Shanghai's culture and the aesthetic value of this dialect," says director Chen Jun. "Like all languages, Shanghainese is changing all the time, closely connected with the development of the city. The language has the rhythm of the city."

This is the second cooperation between Pai and director Chen since the Yueju Opera "Sister Qing" in 2005.

Well-known composer Jin Fuzai created the music.

Recordings of popular songs such as "Queen of the Low Voice" by famous singer Bai Guang (1921-1999) will be played.

Yin's qipao were designed by William Chang, a Hong Kong film editor, production designer and art director. The artist was honored as best art director at the Cannes Film Festival for Wang Kar-wai's "In the Mood for Love" (2000).

'Forever Yin Xueyan'

Date: May 4-12, 7:30pm

Venue: Shanghai Culture Square (597 Fuxing Rd M.)

Tickets: 80-580 yuan

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