Review- Golden Lotus, the Musical


By: Lynn Gong

Deviating from the original novel, Golden Lotus, the Musical composed by George Chiang represents a more unambiguous love tragedy with a more acceptable heroine. While briefly presented, the heroine’s frivolity or sexual desire (which characterizes the original novel’s version of her) is downplayed by turning her into a pathetic victim of beastly male appetites and the corrupted society, probably in a way to underscore her loyal love to Wu Sung. Although, it reduces the complexity of the original novel, this adaptation makes the story more accessible and preserves the arching transformation of Golden Lotus.


Articulated in the universal language of music with straightforward lyrics, the musical does well in transforming a classic Chinese tale into one that is comprehensible to a larger audience. Among the many original songs, “A World Away” sung by Harriet Chung qualifies as a good pop love song. The story’s overall rendition has clear traces of some of the greatest Western musicals and literature. The solemn music background reminds you of Notre Dame de Paris, (though I think it would have worked better if the lyrics had rhymes or used more refined and varied vocabulary). The scene in which Wu Da’s ghost asks for revenge reminds you of Hamlet. It is also enjoyable to see a daring use of different modern techniques, like symbolism or parallel narrative in the score. 


Cast-wise, Harriet Chung brings a refreshing quality to Golden Lotus with her beautiful voice and graceful ballet moves. Billy Sy, who portrays Wu Da did some wonderful scenes of being beaten up by Xi Men. His final struggle before death has a Chinese-Opera style beauty to it. The actor for District Intendant, Scott Watanabe, stands out for his deep, somber voice that suits perfectly for his character and produces impressive singing (and villain laughter). 


In terms of settings, the genius use of multimedia screen and the Y-Theatre stage is worthy of praise. The large translucent curtain screen presents some changing visual images while slowly revealing the characters and setting behind it to officially begin the scene. Creating interesting layers, it also nicely frames the setting and characters behind it into a painting. The Y-Theatre stage is unique in stretching out two long paths from the usual square stage. It was therefore used to announce some surprising entry of different characters and to play more than one scene at the same time. However, despite the creative team’s effort in minimizing audience’s anxiety, there were constant scene changes and awkward pauses between them that disrupted the flow of the overall piece.


My main dissatisfaction is that this musical does not go beyond the superficial Chinese elements. The traditional Chinese costumes designed by Moe Mo are effective. There is some nice use of Chinese instruments implemented by George Gao and George Chiang in the music. But, beyond the surface, the production failed my expectation of creating a deeper understanding of Chinese sensibilities. People looking for more subtle "Chineseness" might be disappointed. It would have been more successful a production if the Chinese elements were more harmoniously blended and used less for experiment’s sake than for bringing out the emotions in the story.  


That said, with its many bold elements and fusions, this ambitious musical offers a pleasant range of styles and performances. Setting its world premiere in Hong Kong, Golden Lotus, the Musical is an encouraging attempt to cross cultural and language barriers. In trying to convey and reinterpret a classic Chinese tale to the modern English-speaking community, it is essentially successful.

Golden Lotus, the Musical is playing through September 14th. For more information, click here.


Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 5.0


  • Zhan Sun
    16 September 2014

    Hmm, not sure what the reviewer was listening to but the entire musical seemed to have rhyming lyrics.
  • Janet Sek
    16 September 2014

    the music was beautiful. will there be an album released? if so where can I get it
  • Piqu
    18 September 2014

    I thought the music was really quite nice. Yes, it was a bit of a cliche of Chinese culture and it could have gone deeper but it was a musical! I don't think we were looking for something to completely change our minds on what it means to be Chinese. I know personally, I was just looking for a good time. And I got one.
  • Sam Ma
    27 September 2014

    I don't recall Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables as presenting French culture in a meaningful way. The creators of Golden Lotus tell this Chinese story in a way that is accessible to all people just like the other great musicals do. It's Chinese enough, even the reviewer said a scene was like Chinese Opera. To expect more from a musical is wishful thinking. the adaptation was wonderful and the show was very entertaining.

Post New Comment