Stars Come Out for Alibaba’s 11.11 Warm-up Show

China loves a good TV variety show, and Alibaba Group is betting it can mix entertainment, e-commerce and the Internet by staging a star-studded gala on the eve of its upcoming 11.11 Global Shopping Festival.

Film director Feng Xiaogang, who is directing the show, certainly has high hopes that millions of viewers will watch the broadcast on TV, tablets and mobile phones as an appetizer for the sale, which starts at the stroke of midnight on Nov. 10. At an Alibaba press conference today, Feng said Alibaba’s big 24-hour online sale–the largest shopping binge in the world–“is likely to become a global festival” on par with the biggest holiday on the Chinese calendar, the Spring Festival, which incidentally is also marked with an elaborate TV variety show on Lunar New Year’s eve.

The Spring Festival “was handed down by our ancestors,” Feng said. “In 100 years, our descendants might say that 11.11 is handed down by their ancestors.”

That might depend on drawing power of the entertainers, most virtually unknown in the West, who are scheduled to appear during the gala. The hosts will be Hunan TV personalities Wang Han and He Jiong. Also scheduled to appear: Taiwanese singer Jolin Tsai, who has a large following in Asia; Jane Zhang, a singer from mainland China who catapulted to stardom after winning reality TV show Super Girls (China’s American Idol); Korean singer and actor Rain, a venerable favorite of female fans in China; Chinese boy band TFBOYS.

Well-known Chinese actress/singer Vicky Zhao will host a talk show during the four-hour extravaganza. Taiwan singer Amber Kuo will open the gala.

And what variety show would be complete without a magician? Taiwanese illusionist Liu Qian, a veteran of the Spring Festival gala, will perform, but with a digital-age twist. When Liu is on stage, consumers can buy magic-trick products by shaking their smartphones equipped with mobile apps from Taobao or Tmall, Alibaba’s giant online marketplaces. Viewers can also win coupons or qualify for discounts on items such as overseas travel packages and smart home appliances by shaking smartphones during the broadcast.

Staged at China’s National Aquatics Center, the Water Cube, the gala will be broadcast by China’s Hunan TV; it will be live-streamed on PCs and mobile devices via Hunan apps and video site Youku Tudou.