NEW YORK » Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment on Wednesday agreed to manage and produce a live show in a specially built $65 million theater in central China that will celebrate the world-famous terra-cotta warriors, a high-profile step for America’s live theater giant into the world’s most promising consumer market.
The heads of Nederlander group and the Shaanxi Qinhuang Grand Theater Performing Arts Co. signed the contract at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway as two actors in elaborate costumes for the show looked on. The show is expected to begin performances next spring.
Called "The Legend of Emperor Qin," the show will feature music and dance in a high-tech 2,000-seat theater. The 70-minute show will play daily in the Xian complex that has grown around the ongoing excavation of the terra-cotta warriors sculpted during the Qin Dynasty. Organizers hope they can increase performances to two per day and, later, tour a stripped-down version around the world.
The show will be the brainchild of some of the members from the creative team behind the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games — composer Klaus Badelt, writer Sun Haohui and director Zhao Ming. They will be able to use a 600-square-meter LED screen, one of the largest in China.
"A show and a theater like this calls for the very best," said Wang Yong, chairman of Shaanxi Qinhuang Grand Theater Performing Arts Co. He signed the agreement with Robert Nederlander Sr. and his son, Robert Nederlander Jr. — the chairman and president, respectively — of Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment. "In 70 minutes, you will be able to see the 200 years of the Qin Dynasty. It will be very, very exciting visually and emotionally."
Discovered in 1974, the army of terra-cotta warriors built to guard the tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, is one of China’s biggest tourist draws, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. In all, the tomb’s three pits are thought to hold 8,000 life-size figures of archers, infantry soldiers, horse-drawn chariots, officers and acrobats, along with 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses.
The Nederlanders, who in 2005 formed the first cooperative joint venture in the live entertainment field between a foreign company and a Chinese company, have helped tour "42nd Street," "Aida" and "Fame" across China. They also helped bring the first Chinese show to Broadway in 2009, "Soul of Shaolin."
Ticket PRICES for the new show in Xian have not yet been determined but the producers said they anticipated a sliding scale, meaning discounts for schoolchildren and full-price VIP packages for a premium.
"When I look at the right conditions for success, this has everything: perfect location, state-of-the-art theater, a wonderful show and it’s an integral part of an exhibit that gets millions of tourists every year," Nederlander Jr., a third-generation member of the entertainment family, said in an interview before the event. "It’s ideal."
At 6 feet to 6 feet 5 inches tall, the terra-cotta statues weigh about 400 pounds each and are intricately detailed. No two figures are alike, and craftsmen are believed to have modeled them after a real army.
Qin, who died in 210 B.C., created China’s first unitary state by conquering rival kingdoms. A figure of fear and awe in Chinese history, he built an extensive system of roads and canals along with an early incarnation of the Great Wall of China while unifying measurements and establishing a single written language, currency and legal statutes.
The Nederlanders hope they can add even more excitement to the terra-cotta site with their new show, which will have big dance numbers and computer animation. "This gives you chance to enhance the experience," Nederlander Jr. said.
–Mark Kennedy / Associated Press