Dec. 14, 2007


Theater Writer

The show celebrates Chinese culture in its fullest flower -- and the Chinese government doesn't want you to see it.

"For Western people, it's very hard to understand. But we understand it," says Cuirong Ren, part of a group of North Carolinians with Asian roots promoting "Holiday Wonders" in defiance of the Communist Party of China.

The elaborate touring show, a "Riverdance"-style fusion of classical Eastern and Western dance, music, myth and spectacle, strikes most American viewers as nonpolitical. But the Communists have spent six decades trying to wipe out the arts of dynastic China, Cuirong explains. And the show's producer, New Tang Dynasty TV, has earned the ruling party's disfavor with its independent reports on everything from SARS to lead-tainted toys.

That's why staff at Ovens Auditorium in Charlotte, and other U.S. venues booking NTDTV productions, have received polite calls from the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C., requesting that the show not go on.

But it will.

Expect an explosion of color and sound on the Ovens stage, as centuries of Chinese creativity come to life against high-tech scenic backdrops. "Holiday Wonders" features more than 60 members of the Divine Performing Arts [...], professional dancers and musicians from around the world who train together in New York and whose name reflects the traditional Chinese belief that all culture comes from God.

The show draws about a third of its audience from the Asian American community, organizers say. Caucasian families with adopted children from China are another target demographic. But with everything from a Santa Claus cameo to martial arts combat to a soulful instrumental solo on the ancient, two-stringed erhu, "Holiday Wonders" strives for universal appeal.

"The audience will feel it's entered a time and a place where beauty and peace prevail," says Jingmei Xie, another "Holiday Wonders" booster. Xie grew up in the southwest of China, came to the United States as a student, and now works for a pharmaceutical company in Raleigh. She caught "Holiday Wonders" last year in Washington, D.C., and was transformed by the experience.

"It was just amazing," recalls Xie, who -- like most Chinese born after the Communist takeover -- knew almost nothing about her ancestors' exquisite arts. "After I watched the show, I wanted to know more."


Holiday Wonders

Ancient Chinese culture comes to life in this lavish touring production. About 2 1/2 hours. Appropriate for children.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.

WHERE: Ovens Auditorium, 2700 E. Independence Blvd.

IN GREENSBORO: The show also plays 7 p.m. Dec. 23 in War Memorial Auditorium, 1921 W. Lee St. ADMISSION: $38-$78.

DETAILS:; tickets at or 704-522-6500; Ovens box office, 704-372-3600.