With the economy is disarray, the stock market in free fall and unemployment reaching record levels, is now the time for a musical based on Karl Marx's famously dull bible of communism, Das Kapital? To a Chinese director, the answer is emphatically "yes."
According to the BBC, "the plot will revolve around a group of office employees who find out they are being exploited by their boss." Sounds a bit like 9 to 5, which is set to open on Broadway April 7. Marx, though, probably would have condoned a group of secretaries exacting vengeance on their sexist boss.
To be fair, maybe communism should get its own musical because there are so many good capitalistic ones; take The Music Man, Enron: The Musical, and of course How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I am awaiting word on when Madoff: The Musical will begin production. On second thought, the saga of the world's biggest Ponzi scheme might make a better opera.
Bringing Marx's ideas to the stage will be difficult. I imagine it must be hard to rhyme "bourgeois," "proletariat" and "collectivization" in Chinese; or in any other language for that matter. The phrase "religion is the opiate of the masses" is not very hummable either. But if Mel Brooks can make Hitler funny, anything is possible, I guess.
At least one other economics book has gotten the musical treatment.
"Well, there's already been a parody musical; and there's a film in the works; but somehow I don't think a real musical is in the offing (much to the chagrin of my kids, who love West Side Story much more than Freakonomics)," said Stephen J. Dubner, one of the authors of Freakonomics, in an email.
Give director He Nian credit for trying to breathe new life into an old and discredited idea. He told China's state-run China Daily, "we will bring [Marx's] economic theories to life in a trendy, interesting and educational play, which will be fun to watch."
The production even has an economics professor as an adviser to make sure that the show does not "trivialize" Marx's ideas, the BBC said.
Sounds like a magical evening of theater.
The play opens next year in Shanghai, the center of Chinese capitalism.