Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dinner and a Show

On one of the nights we were in Shanghai, we battled the rush hour subway traffic leaving Pudong and headed into Puxi for a pre-show dinner and a musical:
And I thought NYC subways were bad!  This is the crowd to get to the tollbooth!
For dinner, we ordered XO stir fried beef with tender asparagus shoots:
 bacon wrapped taro sticks:
 and one of the restaurant's house specials - beautifully plated "four taste" chicken (chicken paired with mushroom, carrot and bacon slices):
Doesn't he look like he's still flying?  My dad asked, "but what happened to his legs?"
Yes, don't freak out, his head was perfectly preserved.
Then we went to the theater for our first musical theater experience in China, full of anticipation and not at all sure what to expect.

The show was called "Do Women Really Need Money?" which to me already foreshadowed all kinds of musical acts in bad taste.  Shanghai, and China in general, has been a maelstrom of materialism as of late.  The general perception is that the society is obsessed with wealth, money, fame, status, material status, material goods, etc. etc.  This musical may have been an attempt at turning the tables and showing that love truly does trump a new bag or another fancy dress.

The musical traces three girl friends, following their romantic interests and careers as they grow up .  (I tend to be embarassingly lenient in my regard for musicals, especially romantic comedies masquerading as musicals about girl friends, love interests, etc. etc.)  But, guess what, in this case my instincts were pretty much spot on.  

Even I could not really stomach the flat musical numbers, with subjects like "If I had a million dollars" and "What would I do if I had more money," or conversations amongst the characters like "Let your wife buy as much as she wants and don't you dare complain!"  The most disturbing part of the show was that the creators seemed to be trying to be open minded and empowering, when in reality they still portrayed all kinds of stereotypes.   I mean, it's not feminism if the wife can throw a temper tantrum to convince her husband to buy her things, if he is the sole source of income and holds all the money.  ...and don't even get me started on their cloying, cutesy voices.  Blergh.

The production itself aside, I was thrilled to be a part of a local Chinese audience during a musical.  What an experience:

First, we could not find our seats - and that was not only due to the complete lack of instructions from the usher and the bizarre numbering in the theater (odd numbers completely on one side and even numbers completely on the other), but primarily due to the fact that our seats had been occupied by another party.  The show began and the usher nonchalantly stood there, shining her flashlight on the guilty parties, as she evicted them from the very center of the very long row.  At that point I did not even want to climb over all of the people to get to our seats!

When Michael tried to squeeze past the schoolgirls, they could not stop giggling  - let's just say that he was the only white person in the theater.

Second, many members brought in their own food and snacks.  We smelled sausages and cured meats in the row behind us.  The schoolgirls next to us had brought in something crunchy.

Third, as expected, people were texting all throughout the show.  At several points, the man next to me crouched down low in his seat and had entire telephone conversations.  To be fair, he was very quiet and you could barely hear him.  And he was very considerate - when his third phone call came in, he climbed over everyone (remember, we were in the very center of a very long row) to leave the theater.  Now that's courtesy.

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