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The Column: Will DreamCenter Shanghai Really Rival Broadway and the West End?

by James Inverne   Mar 25, 2014 04:53 AM EDT

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So, apparently Shanghai is going to be the next big theater center in the world. New York has Broadway, London has the West End, and now Dreamworks is piling $2.4 billion into the Chinese city to make it a third entertainment destination to rival those two great theater capitals.

I don't quite buy it. Well, I can't afford to, I haven't got a couple of billion to spare (I need my billions, thank you). Weak jokes aside, can one really in one grand sweep of a checkbook create the new West End, China-style?

Well, one might argue that Manchester City Football Club's rich new owner has spent and been rewarded with success. But building the world's most expensive football team is one thing. Players aren't bricks and mortar, and theater-making is about tradition, about heritage, about art and craft and style passed down from generation to generation. You need great schools alongside great buildings. You need great audiences, and you need to educate them to be great audiences that great actors can play off and to.

Wander around Broadway, or Theaterland. They are pretty big areas. And they exist in the context of their cities. Those theaters sprung up organically, and they sprung from indigenous art forms like vaudeville in many cases.

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