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Cheaper by the Dozen 

Chinese instrumental group plays classics from Puccini to Sting.

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12 Girls Band member Zhou Jian Nan learned most of the English she knows from American movies and CNN. Her skills come in handy during the group’s U.S. tour, which plays Playhouse Square tonight. “I learn from funny stories and love stories,” says Zhou, a Beijing native. “My favorite may be horror movies.” When she’s not picking up language tips from A Nightmare on Elm Street, Zhou plays the zither in the instrumental ensemble, which is made up of a dozen twentysomething women from China. They perform everything from Chinese folk songs and Puccini arias to Sting and Céline Dion pop tunes. “The melodies are so beautiful,” she says. “We hope the U.S. people can enjoy our music.” The group’s Live From Shanghai DVD became an instant hit with PBS viewers earlier this year. It was recorded in China at the famed Oriental Pearl Tower, with a breathtaking Shanghai skyline serving as background. To capitalize on its success, 12 Girls Band put together a 16-city tour — which kicked off this month with sold-out shows in Oakland and Los Angeles. Zhou says she now considers herself a real California girl. “I have a few friends there, and they take me to Santa Monica or Long Beach or West Hollywood,” she says. “I love the U.S. If we get the chance, I’d also love a Grammy.”
Mon., Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m., 2007

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