I Leave My Heart in Shanghai

I love Shanghai. It’s a very modern city, with the most amazing collection of skyscrapers anywhere on this planet, and it also retains much of the cosmopolitan character of its decadent “Paris of the East” period of the 1920s and 30s. I was able to explore a variety of colorful areas of the city, from the Bund and Nanjing Road to the back alleys around the Majestic Theatre. But not all, far from it, and I want to come back.

There is a very famous line by Marlene Dietrich in the 1932 Josef von Sternberg film Shanghai Express:

“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”

Alec Su, looking gorgeousIn contrast, it took only one man to make me the most famous person in the Majestic Theatre the evening of June 15th: that would be this man, Alec Su.

I arrived in Shanghai the evening of June 14th, got safely to my hotel in Old City district (once the driver finally managed to find it...), and settled in. Later in the evening, other fans staying at the Jin Jiang Inn began to stop by and introduce themselves. I think we had pretty much taken over the hotel, which was just as well considering the constant flurry of activity. I was introduced to so many people my head started to spin and did not stop for the next few days.

At the MajesticOn the morning of June 15th I phoned Jeong (a fan from Singapore) and took a taxi to her hotel. We spent the day doing the “Shanghai Aegean Sea Tour” — which Jeong has already described in her posts on the forum. Then a little time to relax, shower, change and get to the Majestic Theatre. After arriving there, we were immediately swamped by chattering fans, armed with the beautiful bouquet of flowers fangfang had ordered for me, and lots and lots of cameras. It’s hard to be inconspicuous when you are the only non-Asian in a 3,500-capacity venue with a full house; it felt as if I had my photo taken with everybody in the audience ....

I had great seats: second row dead center for the first night, and fifth row, still center section, for the closing night on June 16th. I’ve seen several of You Peng’s dramas (on TV and DVD, with and without subtitles), many of his films (but not in a theater, yet....), and various concert and other appearance clips from VCDs and downloads. I would dearly love to see him perform a live concert. But I have to say that this was the absolutely perfect opportunity to first see SYP live: to watch him act (and close enough to see facial expressions) and hear him sing, not to mention being able to actually go up on stage and say hello. I feel very, very lucky to have been able to do this.

Ju Hua Xiang: The Play

Play Program I will make no attempt to give a subjective review of the play itself. First of all, since I do not speak Chinese, I missed any nuances of the language. Of course, I knew the general plot and had gotten additional info on some scenes from fans who had seen earlier shows. But I really had to rely on catching the emotion of the actors’ performances and body language. With that caveat, I thoroughly enjoyed the play. I was impressed with the staging, which was simple but elegant and made good use of space; there were a few technical glitches but not bad enough to mar the flow of the action. The lead actress, in particular, is very good. I thought SYP was very fine — his role required quite a bit of stage movement that he performed quite smoothly, and was also quite emotionally demanding, from awkward humor in the beginning to utter grief at the end.

Of the two shows that I saw, I thought the closing night was best: there is always a heightened level for the cast on closing, a combination of sadness and satisfaction. Su You Peng was very “on”: when he sang (“The Rose” in English) at the beginning of the play, he flashed those amazing eyes at the audience and let loose a tiny bit of the charisma his stage character (still young and gawky at this stage of the story) did not yet possess. As all the play reports have noted, the highlight of the play was the final song — “Wo Di Ai” (a Chinese version of “You Are My World”) — which was done a cappella. You Peng sang those lyrics he wrote himself with every ounce of emotion in his being, eyes brimming with tears; and at the same time he had complete control over his voice, the stage, and the entire audience. Both nights, I forgot to breathe, listening to him. This was one of the most beautiful vocal performances I have ever heard.


There were about 30 people lining up backstage to present flowers after the curtain call that night. We were kinda being rushed through, stagehands were trying to tear down the sets and get everybody out of the theatre. As I walked across the stage, I caught the eyes of a couple of cast members who were still onstage after curtain call (poor dears, having to watch this royal procession every night) and said “Congratulations”; they looked a bit startled. Su You Peng was patient and gracious with everyone, listened to each person in line and responded. I kept my eyes on him because I wanted to see the expression on his face when he saw me. That was worth the plane ticket to China: his mouth opened a little, and his eyes got very big and wide. Anitay was behind me and made introductions. You Peng said, “Do you speak Chinese?” and I said, “Yi dian” and he laughed. Then I told him that I was presenting flowers from the International English-speaking fans from his web site [one of the two tasks my Voices compatriots assigned me]. He said “Thank you” and I gave him a hug [which was the second task, and it was a pleasure!] and he said “Thank you” again. And that’s about it ... basically, just two stunned people gazing at each other.

SYP is stunned ... but gracious

Su You Peng is stunned ... but remains charming
... and he certainly does know how to use those incredible eyes.

After I got most of myself back down from the stage — except my heart which I quite willingly left behind (it was pretty much already lost before I left home, anyway) — there were a lot of hugs and photos and questions and a whole mob of us went to a restaurant to get something to eat. Since I had spent the day with Jeong and Florence, and left my bag in their hotel room, I went back with them and slept on their couch.

16 June
After breakfast Jeong, Florence, Polaris and I taxied to my hotel to pick up my stuff for tonight. Soon my room has filled with Chinese fans, all chattering away, waving photos and other mementos (people kept giving me stuff!). Tany calls and the phone is passed around; she says it sounds like a market. Someone tells me the local fans want me to “say his name in Chinese” — so I oblige. Much cheering! Then “now they want you to say ‘wo ai su you peng’ ... ” — so I do. Even more cheers and clapping. It’s lucky we have taken over the hotel, or we’d be tossed out as the noise level has become alarming.

Then we left for lunch and some random suyoupenging, showers and freshening up, and back to the Majestic for the closing night performance. The usual jungle of flowers in the lobby, lots of photos. I was able to enjoy the play more without last night’s stress of knowing that I was supposed to be going up on stage afterwards (as well as not needing to concentrate as much on the play itself, as I knew more about what was going on, plotwise). After the theatre managed to clear us all out, yingying took me under her wing and we joined the fans waiting for You Peng’s car to leave, then wandered seemingly aimlessly through back alleys to Wujiang Lu to some hole-in-the-wall eatery — I think called “Yang’s Dumplings” but at this point who remembers? — where YP is supposed to have had dinner a few nights before, and order way too much food for a midnight dinner. I eat four of the soup bao, which seems to impress some people. Then Jijie negotiates with a couple of taxis to return us to the hotel, where we say goodnight, and some goodbyes (the rest of these are done at breakfast in the morning). We are all pretty much exhausted, physically and emotionally.

87% Hilly
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