"Zhi zi hua, bai lan hua," cries a little girl in the Shanghai dialect, as she peddles cape jasmine and magnolia from a basket on her arm. A man passes by in a rickshaw, a graceful young woman dressed in qipao by his side. They pull up in front of a nightclub, lit by a shining neon lamp.
So typical a scene of Shanghai in the 1930s and 1940s, at once the audience is transported back to the old days and into the life of one of the most popular singers and film stars of the time, Zhou Xuan.
Following on from its well-received premiere in Shanghai last week, the play "Zhou Xuan" opens tonight in Beijing for two shows at the Poly Theatre. Considered the first pop diva in modern China, Zhou rose to fame at the age of 14, and in a career which spanned little more than a dozen years, starred in some 40 films and recorded 200 songs, some have remained popular until today.
She died aged 37 and her brief life was a tale of fame coupled with personal tragedies.
Over the years, there have been novels, movies, television series and musicals that have sought to depict the rise and fall of this star.
The current production, directed by Wang Jiana and Bai Yongcheng, focuses on Zhou's career as well as her personal life behind the scenes and camera. The time frame covers her life from the age of 14 - when she won a singing contest which propelled her into entertainment circles - to 27 when her career peaked. In particular it tells of the two great romances in Zhou's life - that between Zhou and her husband Yan Hua and her adopted brother Zhou Lu'an.
Yi Nengjing, the popular singer and television actress from Taiwan plays the title role.
Yi herself is a versatile artist and her manner and temperament are quite close to Zhou, says Bai Yongcheng, who co-directs the play.
Yi sings about 20 of Zhou's trademark songs, including her most popular "Songs of the Four Seasons" (Siji Ge) and "Singing Girl" (Tianya Genu). In some scenes, old cine film of Zhou forms a backdrop on the stage, and Yi sings an evocative duet with her character.