Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Glimpse of Visionary Strategy in China’s Musical Theatre Industry

An interesting statement made in the article Your Strategy Needs a Strategy is “Chinese business environment overall has been almost twice as malleable and unpredictable as that in the United States, making shaping strategies often more appropriate in China.” This brought me to think about which strategic style would better apply to China’s musical theatre industry, an emerging market with vast opportunities and challenges.

Instead of shaping strategy, in this case, I would agree more with a visionary strategy, which is appropriate in predictable environment that people have the power to change. The musical theater industry itself in China is immature and slowly developing given the borrowed art form from Western culture in the past decades. It is predictable because everyone in this industry sort of knows that the end goal is to have a successful market of musical theater in China that is rippled with many high-quality and popular original musicals, rather than currently prevailing touring troupes from overseas countries in major cities across China. Therefore, professionals have the potential to predict the path to realizing that identified future given existing successful examples in Broadway and West End. And it calls for bold strategies to get things on the right way.

Speaking of organizations that have such bold strategies to change or guide this industry, United Asia Live Entertainment (UALE) first came up to my mind, an entertainment company from Shanghai that produces musicals and large-scale concerts in Chinese area. It’s a pioneer in producing Chinese translated versions of overseas classical musicals by purchasing production licenses, translating scripts (lyrics and lines) into Chinese, employing exclusively Chinese artists and cooperating with overseas companies to learn about the successful operation model of musical production. Its pilot production Mama Mia! in 2011 achieved a huge success and has been toured twice nationally. This bold strategic planning blew fresh air to the musical theater industry in China. Following UALE’s successful example, another self-initiated theater company Seven Ages came out in Beijing which has already produced Chinese versions of Avenue Q, I, Don Quixote (Man of La Mancha), and How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying since 2012.

Though not original works, these new attempts did enable domestic artists and management people to think more widely, receive professional training and explore an operation model that would be more appropriate to China’s musical theatre industry. As stated in UALE’s company profile, “it marks that the industrialization operation of China’s musical has officially taken the first step.” Actually, after UALE’s success in Chinese versions of Mama Mia! and Cats, it has also been continually producing original musicals after its lessons learned from producing translated musicals.

People in this industry are still exploring and visioning. Even through translated musicals, they are still learning best practices towards the future they want to shape and small changes across this industry are gradually happening.


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