Tonight we attended the Grand Theatre of Guiyang‘s production of ‘Cool Guiyang’. This Broadway style stage show celebrates the many ethnic minority’s present within Guizou. From the very first number it was evident that no expense was spared in the production. The entire back wall of the stage and four different sets of legs (theatre speak for borders around the stage at various intervals to mask entrances and exits) were full color video screens with blindingly brilliant output.
Through large clouds of stage fog a giant waterfall with actual falling water emerged upstage as well as a second waterfall that rose hydraulically from the pit downstage . Costumes were elaborate. The dancing was exceptionally clean and precise and there was even a choral number with some very difficult tuning which was performed live. So often productions like this will use all canned music, but this production used actually live, a cappella vocals from the cast mic’d by overhead microphones.
The announcer was as suave as is comprehensible and seemed to have the audience in the palm of his hand. Now, I say ‘seemed’ because the comedy of the evening is that we all had NO IDEA what was being said. The entire presentation was in Mandarin. It was still very beautifully executed and excellently produced. They even had a live keyboard player for incidental music.
There was a leaf player, a knife walker and a man who somehow put his whole muscular body through a hoop the size of his waist. I do get the giggles though after a while of hearing anyone speak in a foreign language, so the evening brought huge smiles from me and then one member of our group took it to the next level.
The host seemed to be looking for volunteers from the audience for some sort of game. He was looking all over the audience for apparently males to volunteer. Daniel Winguard stood up waiving his hands volunteering to join in the fun. Now, I would have thought the fact that he had NO IDEA of what was going on would have dissuaded him, but apparently not. We were already roaring with laughter at the very thought of him volunteering, but sure enough – he was chosen to go up on stage.
There were four other men chosen and five women from the cast were standing upstage with what looked like some sort of costume. The host interviewed each of the other volunteers and then he came to Daniel and asked him something. I have no idea what he asked him, but neither did Daniel so we were dying laughing. There he is standing on stage in front of maybe 800 Chinese people being interviewed in Chinese and he is CLUELESS!
By this point tears are streaming down my face I am laughing so hard. The hilarity of the situation was unbelievable. Our guide Jackie went up on stage to maybe help a little, but there wasn’t much he could do. Daniel was on his own!
The game commenced and Daniel determined he was to attempt to put this costume on as quickly as possible. He was actually able to get dressed before the other men so he won the competition! This meant all the other men left the stage and it was just him, in his costume (which kept falling down around his ankles) and the announcer. The announcer asked him several more questions – which of course he couldn’t answer. Each question was met by roaring amounts of laughter from all in the audience. He was finally offered a prize and escorted backstage.
The whole thing was an absolute riot.
Clearly the whole show celebrates and to an extent ‘sells’ Guiyang to the audience. There is even a ballad all about the virtues of Guiyang sung with beautiful pictures of beautiful countryside.
After the show we were each given yet another generous gift from Mayor Li. This time it was a beautifully produced Cd/DVD of the show. It turns out that the mayor is a musician and poet and composed the music and lyrics for the entire show. He also took all the beautiful photos included as scenery.
The memories do not seem to be slowing down!