Fri, Jul 22, 2005 - Page 14 News List

Butterfly lovers return to the stage

By Diana Freundl  /  STAFF REPORTER

True love finds a way in The Butterfly Lovers, a stage revival of the 1963 film The Love Eterne, staring Ling Bo.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DA DA ARTS

The 1963 film The Love Eterne (梁山伯與祝英台) thrust Ling Bo (凌波) into stardom and made huangmei musicals an important genre in Chinese-language cinema. Forty years later the legend was reincarnated in a stage rendition of the show. Now the musical's popularity is being tested again in an island-wide tour of The Butterfly Lovers, opening tonight in Taipei.

Riding on the success of the 2003 revival and hoping to attract a younger generation of theatergoers, Da Da Arts is reuniting actors from the original film and stage version and pairing them with a few younger TV celebrities.

The star of both the film and theater version, Ling Bo, together with Hu Chin (胡錦) from the stage revival, will return in their roles of Liang Shan-bo and Chu Ying-tai, the star crossed lovers.

To appeal to a younger audience local television and film personalities, Guo Zhi-chien (郭子乾) and Yang Lee-ying (楊麗音) have been cast in the parts of Liang Shan-po's valet and Chu Ying-tai's maid respectively.

Ling, now 66-years-old, is embedded in the memories of women who watched her grace the screen as the young scholar in The Love Eterne. Four decades later, her facial expressions, movements and singing are as skillful as ever, said Da Da Arts producer, Melisa Jiao (焦惠芬), in an interview this week.

"Lin Bo is forever to be the leading lady as Liang Shan-bo there is nobody else could substitute her role?. The live performance is difficult for these aged actors, who have to memorize all the lyrics not to mention all the choreography, and it is difficult to get everyone together to rehearse and to perform on stage. But if we could get the original cast, then why not?" Jiao added.

The butterfly lovers, or the Legend of Liang Shan-bo and Chu Ying-tai as it was previously titled in the 2003 production, is regarded as the Chinese equivalent of Romeo and Juliet. Chu Ying-tai, born into a wealthy family, disguises herself as a man so she can attend school, where she befriends the handsome Liang Shan-bo, the only son in a poor family.

When Chu's secret is finally reviled to Liang the two fall in love, but are too late; it has been arranged that Chu will marry the son of a powerful court official. The ill-fated lovers die of broken hearts only to be reincarnated and reunited as butterflies.

The film The Love Eterne was so popular in Taiwan that many people can still sing the arias from memory. The question nowadays, is whether or not the popularity of huangmei musicals will continue. According to Da Da Arts organizers its days are not numbered.

"More teenagers are enjoying the show. Some have seen the original film or musical version on TV and many are fans of Ling Bo," Jiao said referring to a press conference where fans of Ling were invited to attend.

As of press time, most tickets for the Taipei dates were sold out. For more information on the show and additional tour dates check the Web site at www.dadaarts.com.tw.

Performance notes:

What: The Butterfly Lovers (The Legend of Liang Shan-bo and Chu Ying-tai)

When: Tonight and Tomorrow at 7:30pm with a Saturday matinee at 2:30pm

Where: CKS Cultural Center National Theater (國家戲劇院) at 21-1, Zhongshan S Rd, Taipei (台北市中山南路21-1)

Tickets: NT$1,000-NT$2,500 available online at CKS Cultural Center Box Office or online at www.artsticket.com.tw

Telephone: (02) 3393 9888

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