When Disney tuner "Beauty and the Beast" opened in Moscow in October, some legiters might have been inclined to think: Really? Russia?
After all, the expanding market of the moment is China, with plenty of talk along the Rialto about cross-cultural productions and growing the nation's performing arts infrastructure. (Broadway gets its first Chinese import, "The Soul of Shaolin," early next year.)
On the other hand, not much attention has been focused on Russki growth potential. But it's there -- or at least it could be.
"I wouldn't say it's a top priority, but in those emerging markets, it's up there right behind Asia," says Ron Kollen
, senior VP of international affairs at Disney Theatrical Prods.
For its first steps into the motherland, Disney followed the lead of Stage Entertainment, the Euro production company that licenses Disney shows abroad and is backing the Moscow incarnation.
"I would call the musical market in Russia a virgin market," says Dmitry Bogachev
, managing director of Stage Entertainment Russia.
According to Bogachev, Western-style tuners have been around in Russia really only since 2001. Some, like "42nd Street" have proved too American to catch on.
"But there are some universal products," Bogachev notes. Like, for instance, Abba: Stage's production of "Mamma Mia!" ran in Moscow for 19 months.
"Beauty" also is doing well, logging a record-breaking advance of 50,000 ticket sales, Bogachev says. He hopes the show will play until summer, then tour to two or three other cities in Russia before maybe swinging back for a second season in Moscow.
The musical is helped along by the fact that Russian auds, like American ones, are extremely familiar with the 1991 animated pic on which "Beauty" is based. (Possibly from pirated DVDs, but still...)