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If people were asked to pick two things which defined East Asian culture, the chances are that martial arts and food would feature prominently on the list. Which is why it perhaps should be a surprise that a musical about Kung Fu-fighting dim sum has been a smash hit in Shanghai. Yet among young Chinese people, traditional martial arts and foods are increasingly taking a backseat as new technology and western pastimes take hold.

So, the fact that a musical theatre show about dim sum, a traditional Chinese style of food made up of bite-size portions of different food, especially dumplings, taking on the evils of modern processed food using martial arts has triumphed is a great testament to the creative team behind it.

Dim Sum Warriors the Musical

Dim Sum Warriors the Musical

The show is entitled Dim Sum Warriors and actually has its origins in Singapore. It is based on a series of comic books written by New York-based Singaporean husband-and-wife partnership Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen and tells the story of three young dumplings (dim sum) which have to fight a giant pot noddle.

The heroes of the piece are called Cha Shao Bao (roast pork bun), Xia Jiao (shrimp dumpling) and Shao Mai (pork and shrimp dumpling) after three of the more popular dumplings commonly served with dim sum. Meanwhile, their foe is Colonel Quickynoodle, an evil pot of instant noodles who is trying to take over the world.

Dim Sum Warriors the Musical
Dim Sum Warriors the Musical

After the success of the bilingual comic book series, its creators were seeking out someone to turn it into a TV show or a movie. But a meeting with director Teo Mei Ann saw the idea of a musical put forward and the idea intrigued them enough to give it a go.

The director who has created the musical is Lai Shengchuan also known as Stan Li, one of the most well-known theatre directors in China. He didn’t take long to buy into the idea when it was pitched to him. “It wasn’t a very hard decision,” he said. “It was fun, it was creative, and it sounded exactly like something we would want to do.”

Success of Dim Sum Warriors the Musical

Dim Sum Warriors the Musical
Dim Sum Warriors the Musical

With the music being composed by Pulitzer Prize-winning Du Yun, the show always had a good chance of success. But there are never any guarantees, so the fact that the show has sold out its first run, at the Theatre Above in Shanghai, has delighted all involved.

As well as songs, humour and much silliness, the show also includes a lot of martial arts as the heroes battle to save their market from being taken over by the villain. For the actors, these scenes are made particularly difficult by the fact that they are all wearing heavy dim sum shaped headwear throughout the show. Add in the singing and dancing that accompanies the scenes too and it made for a great physical challenge. A masseuse was actually hired during the run-in order to help them recover between shows.

Much of the hype around the show has focused on the positive eating messages it sends out to its audiences. But it is also doing a great deal for martial arts too. Martial arts doesn’t often make an appearance in theatre shows, much less musicals, precisely because of the extreme physical challenges it places on the actors. But the success of this show has exposed Kung Fu to a very different type of audience.

Dim Sum Warriors the Musical
Dim Sum Warriors the Musical
Dim Sum Warriors the Musical

The people watching the show are mostly young people and either fans of the comic book it is based on or musical theatre more generally. This is not a demographic that will usually cross over into the martial arts world very often, which means this show is exposing Kung-Fu to new audiences in a new and inventive way.

A great example of this is the martial arts training montage scene, which is one of the most popular scenes in the show. It sees the three heroes learning martial arts from a Grandmaster named Xiao Long Bao (soup dumpling). Whilst going through their moves, they are also all singing in an operatic style which builds as the montage reaches its big climax.

Dim Sum Warriors the Musical
Dim Sum Warriors the Musical
Dim Sum Warriors the Musical
Dim Sum Warriors the Musical

It is easy to think that martial arts can only be promoted to young people these days through things like MMA or viral YouTube videos. But these will only ever attract the interest of a certain type of people, many of whom are already sold on the positives of martial arts. It is ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking that really helps spread the message far and wide. And there is no doubt this show is doing precisely that.

With the show now scheduled to tour China in early 2018 as well as possible visit Singapore and other parts of East Asia, this gives it a great opportunity to promote martial arts even further away in a fantastically unique and wacky way. If you get the chance to see it, it comes highly recommended.

Check out their website here!

Dim Sum Warriors Official Website
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