Super Vocal in tune with a thriving musical production sector

The singing competition reality show Super Vocal has hit the high notes with its ratings, has social media outlets singing its praises and, most importantly, it plays a key role in boosting the domestic musical theater industry.

The program’s format, under the mentorship of three established singers, sees 36 male participants who have received voice training in music academies or universities compete for six places on a national tour and to star on a new album.

Since its premiere in November, the program has received a rating of 9.3 out of 10 on TV and film review site Douban, evaluated by over 73,000 users, 69 percent of whom gave it a full mark of 10.

With their talents being showcased via the form of a reality show, the musical actors who participated saw a dramatic increase in their number of Sina Weibo followers.

According to a thread on the program’s Douban forum, musical actor Zheng Yunlong had 155,000 followers in December, but the figure has increased to 851,000. The number of followers of another musical actor Zhaili Shuotian also rose from 17,000 to more than 365,000.

The fame of the actors has undoubtedly exerted influence on the box-office takings of their musicals, which are now enjoying soldout performances across China.

When Zheng posted on Jan 4 about his performances in the Chinese versions of musicals, Murder Ballad and Letters, he was informed by thousands of followers that all tickets were sold out within one minute of their release.

He then commented on his post: "I just realized that this was posted a bit too late… I have waited 10 years for this one minute. Thank you."

When Murder Ballad, an off-Broadway musical, was staged in January in Shanghai, the top ticket price was 260 yuan ($37.6), but as its popularity kept rising, ticket prices rose to 880 yuan.

Tickets for all performances were still sold out in minutes.

Live musicals used to be a niche market. In Zheng’s post on Feb 25, that hinted at his displeasure at the rising cost of tickets, many fans posted pictures of the tickets they bought.

The third most-liked comment from a fan, with 16,000 likes, reads: "You don’t need to be angry. I bought 2,000 yuan worth of tickets to the musical Chicago the second day I knew you. Your wish of promoting musicals is being realized step by step."

Several Sina Weibo verified theater bloggers, including theater practitioner Zheng Chanyi and musical blogger MusicalBot, echoed a similar view that the show has presented a good opportunity to the Chinese musical theater industry, but meanwhile it revealed some existing problems such as an unstandardized market.

Zheng Chanyi says that Super Vocal is a key milestone in the development of the Chinese musical theater industry, as the reality show has raised its profile among many viewers.

"Never in any country has the musical theater industry been substantially boosted by a single reality show, not in the United States, the United Kingdom, nor South Korea or Japan – China has developed a new path," Zheng Chanyi says. "In general, it’s a good opportunity; the question is how to utilize it."

MusicalBot says: "The positive influence is that the show helped develop the musical theater industry. The negative influence is that everything is changing so fast, and the industry needs time to adjust and develop a workable system."

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