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The Great Theater of China Set to Reopen by End of Year

The Great Theater of China near People’s Square is set to reopen by the end of the year after a major renovation.

The theater at 704 Niuzhuang Road in downtown Huangpu District was built in 1929 as one of the city’s four major Peking Opera venues.

The Ever Shining Cultural Group has appointed RHWL Architects to lead a team that will convert the Shanghai China Grand Theatre in Shanghai’s Huangpu District into a musical theatre for international scale modern musicals.

Norman Bragg, Principal Director at RHWL Architects said: 
“Shanghai is becoming an increasingly popular destination for musical theatre performances. Most recently Cats and Mamma Mia! have been staged here and many more shows are hoped to transfer as part of their international tours if there are suitable venues to accommodate them.
“Our approach focuses on the restoration of the façade and entrance while inside creating state-of-the-art facilities that remain faithful to the original concept, but are commercially viable and suitable for modern audiences.”

Believed to have been originally designed by British architect, FE Milne, LRIBA, the theatre first opened in 1930. In 2005 it was confirmed as one of the fourth group of outstanding historical buildings in Shanghai and the second group of registered immovable cultural relics in the Huangpu District. It has been closed for two years but its historic value is protected by a Grade 3 listing.

Under the plans being put forward by RHWL Architects, the theatre will be refurbished to create a modern venue that could accommodate long running musicals following launches elsewhere in the city.

The theatre auditorium would be restored to create a 1,200-seat, three tier venue, creating ideal conditions for major international modern musicals with the audience as close to the stage as possible. There would be a new orchestra pit to allow for larger orchestras for international opera and dance shows; a new ‘get in’ for performers, a new backstage area, administration offices, and services’ cores connecting from major plant rooms above.

The stage house would be increased in depth giving 11.5m between the new proscenium arch line and the rear wall allowing the minimum stage area required for international musicals. The fly tower would be increased in height with new stage flying equipment installed.

The auditorium interior design would maximise the required technical functions while creating a feeling of welcome and visual warmth. Side boxes would extend from each tier level giving visual interest and ornate wooden wall screens employing Chinese inspired patterns would surround the audience to the rear, incorporating the acoustic absorbing and diffusing elements required. The star element from the original theatre would be exploited throughout the design and the culmination of the space would be the dramatic ceiling incorporating a central elliptical dome with the show lighting bridge positions around it.

Externally, the building’s façade would be restored including balconies, cornices and windows, which would be retained or adapted to recreate the original 1930s design.
Subject to fulfilling local planning conditions the theatres owners wish to start work on site on 1st July 2013 and open the new theatre in December 2014.

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