Often enough, when you mention international musical theatre, you get mentions of blockbuster shows performed in Broadway and the West End.

However, there are also many places in Asia with a huge, untapped market for musical theatre. China, for example, has a huge audience that’s longing for the magic of song and dance on stage.

KL-based performing arts company Dama Asia’s upcoming Musical Theatre Programmes in China is an initiative to give local performers an opportunity to explore a foreign market.

“In China, there’s a need for musical theatre education. The musicals market has not matured there yet, but they are starting to be appreciated. There’s a lot of effort to bring up appreciation for musicals. It’s a scene with much potential for growth there,” says Khor Seng Chew, Dama Asia co-founder.

“Musical theatre also needs a lot of people who are trained for the behind-the-scenes work. There’s a demand for backstage expertise and experience in China,” he adds.

Dama Asia, with the help of its partner institution UniArt Universal Culture & Media Co. Ltd, an arts and culture organisation in Beijing, is working on a series to introduce musical theatre to Chinese primary schools.

They will be working on two main projects, to be implemented in the second half of 2019. At the moment, Khor mentions that facilitators are needed to conduct musical theatre workshops and educational workshops.

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Dama Asia artistic director Pun Kai Loon briefing teachers in an arts session in Beijing. Photo: Dama Asia

“We are giving preference to Malaysians despite also putting out feelers in Britain. We hope to have a good mix of people. Preference also will be for people who are bilingual, able to speak Mandarin and English,” said Pun Kai Loon, fellow Dama Asia co-founder.

The first project called Project A will feature a Musical Theatre Summer Camp for children. For this programme, Dama Asia is looking for actors, singers, dancers and directors to be theatre coaches.

This programme is for children aged six to 12, comprising workshops in Mandarin with musical songs in English. There will be four camps, each held in a different region, each lasting a week from July 30 to Aug 24. Each camp session will include a five-day workshop, culminating in a public performance on the last day.

The idea is not to just train children to be musical theatre performers, but to also to teach them related skills (like playing musical instruments).

“It will give them added knowledge of musical work. Whether they want to pursue a full-time career is up to them. The incidental development is more important, the self development and character building. You will learn to build confidence, build creativity and expressiveness, and understand teamwork,” says Pun.

Project B, on the other hand, is a long-term engagement programme spanning between one and two years, with the possibility of renewal. This will involve teaching musical theatre syllabus to Chinese primary school teachers, and will start this September.

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A musical theatre training session in Beijing led by instructors by Dama Asia. Photo: Dama Asia

“We are looking for people who want to spend a year out of the country, to work in China. What’s interesting is because they are committed to only five days of work a week, we will allow them to participate in any show or production in China,” says Khor.

Those interested will have to first undergo 8-10 hours of Dama’s workshop training programme (by Dama coaches) in Kuala Lumpur. For successful applicants, visas, flights to China and accommodation will be provided. Priority will be given to those who are looking to commit to long-term.

Dama Asia has definitely been making inroads in China in recent years. In early May, it worked with Chinese arts organisation Shenzhen Dinghan Culture Co. Ltd to produce a children’s musical, performed by Chinese actors with an all-Malaysian creative and production team. The show called Hansel And Gretel premiered at the Poly Theatre in Shenzhen on May 5.

Dama Asia has also been working with performing arts company Beijing Daostrategy Consulting Co Ltd in organising international musical study tours. The tours, launched at the end of 2017, enables Chinese theatre owners and managers, investors, producers, directors and creatives to learn more about the Western theatre scenes through trips to Broadway, the West End and Edinburgh.

More info on the Musical Theatre programmes in China, contact 012-233 5166. Email: dama@dama.asia. FB: Dama Asia.