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  Shanghai & Delta
  Shanghai - Star
Lips are sealed about wax museum opening

Mark South and Jiang Qiongji
page01  2006-3-24

News that Madame Tussauds' latest wax museum is to open in Shanghai on May 1 has prompted the company to batten down the hatches.

Following the reporting of some details of the forthcoming attraction earlier this week, the UK-based company has imposed a news embargo on details of the project until next month, workers readying the museum said yesterday.

In Tussauds' first venture onto the Chinese mainland, a first batch of 21 wax stars will be put on display in just under six weeks when Shanghai joins the ranks of London, New York, Las Vegas, Hong Kong and Amsterdam and opens its own Madame Tussauds museum, Xinhua reported on Tuesday.

According to the story, foreign celebrities such as Princess Diana, Bill Gates, David Beckham, Tom Cruise and Albert Einstein, as well as Chinese figures including China's first man in space, Yang Liwei, Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang, NBA star Yao Ming and movie stars Andy Lau and Jackie Chan, will have their likenesses on display.

But when China Daily Shanghai and Delta edition tried to contact the company yesterday, staff at the New World Department Store in Nanjing Road, the 10th floor of which will house the exhibition, said orders from Tussauds' British HQ forbade them from giving any further details.

"I cannot let you in here and I cannot talk about the museum. There will be no more announcements about the museum until next month,"said one man working at the site who did not give his name. "You will need to talk to one of the bosses, but I can't give you their phone numbers."

In the office upstairs, another member of the staff said the relevant manager was away, they did not know when he would be back and they did not have his phone number.

Further attempts to contact Tussauds' Shanghai PR agents were met with unreturned calls.

The "top secret"approach is nothing new for the company, which has kept the identities of four of nine new exhibits in its newly refurbished Hong Kong museum hidden in an attempt to stir up a buzz.

In Shanghai, at least, the tactic appears to be working; staff throughout the rest of the shopping centre were only too keen to speculate about who would make it into the hall of fame and how much it would cost to get in.

Zhu Xiufen, who sells traditional Chinese medicine on the ground floor of the mall, wanted to see the tickets affordably priced, but did not hold out much hope.

"I think the ticket price will be between 80 and 100 yuan (US$10-12), but for me even 50 yuan (US$6) is too much. I hope our boss can take us on a free tour,"she said. Before closing for refurbishment, a ticket to Madame Tussauds in Hong Kong costs HK$95 (US$12).

Zhu said she believed it was wrong to make wax works of people who are still alive and the museum should focus on dead celebrities it was impossible to see any more.

"I'd like to see Princess Diana, and it would be good if they had characters like Doraemon to attract children,"she added.

Chen Xiaohua, a 49-year-old security guard, was enthusiastic about the new attraction taking shape 10 storeys above his head.

"I'd like to see it,"he said. "I think the ticket price will be around 100 yuan (US$12) but maybe that's still too low.

"I love the Brazilian football team. It would be wonderful if there were some players like Zico or Michel Platini from France. Chinese sports stars like Liu Xiang and Yao Ming should also be included."

Having seen the Hong Kong Tussauds on television, 24-year-old student Geng Xiaoqian was also keen to visit the Shanghai museum.

"I will go there for sure. I hope the ticket price will be below 100 yuan. But if it's higher, I still want to visit because it's something new,"she said.

"I'd like to see famous movie stars like Jackie Chan and Audrey Hepburn. The Supergirls popstars are too young -- even though they are very popular, I think the figures on show should have made a lasting contribution to their particular field."

Holidaying in Shanghai, Marlene Turgis, 29, who works for the Normandy tourist office in her native France, was not so sure Shanghai's Tussauds would catch on with foreign visitors.

"I'd go and visit Tussauds in London but not in Shanghai. I have come such a long way and I only have two weeks here. I don't want to waste time seeing things I could see so much closer to home,"she said.

"There is already a lot to see, like the city museum, Yuyuan Garden and the botanical gardens as well as Suzhou and Hangzhou. Tussauds is like McDonalds, it's almost the same all over the world. While I'm in China I'd rather spend my time seeing real Chinese culture."
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