Arts & Entertainment

Dance, puppets to immortalize Oscar-winning ‘Spirited Away’ on stage

By Maria Roldan and Yoko Kaneko

Tokyo, March 4 (EFE).- The Oscar-winning “Spirited Away” animation has had a renewed premiere in Tokyo with a theatrical adaptation that uses dance and puppets to immortalize the classic animated film by Studio Ghibli on stage.

Adapted and directed by British director John Caird, Tony Award winner for best director for the musical “Les Miserables” and honorary associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the play runs from this week until Mar. 29 at the Tokyo Imperial Theater before traveling to four other Japanese cities.

“I want the audience to enjoy and convey to them how much love I have for the play,” said a visibly nervous Caird before the lights went out Tuesday for the final dress rehearsal, before an auditorium nearly filled with journalists, film studio representatives Toho, Studio Ghibli and other guests.

With capacity for 1,897 people, all tickets for the 38 scheduled performances in Tokyo (and two general rehearsals of which only the last would take place) were sold the same day they went on sale in December.

Caird’s stage adaptation is an ode to Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki’s original work. The work transfers the entire film to the stage and turns the cast into part of the sets to provide dynamism to the complex task of bringing the animated image to the theater.

The plot is carried out by Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl who moves with her parents to a new home and ends up lost in a parallel world of spiritual beings dominated by the witch Yubaba. The little girl will have to face an existential crisis and several challenges to recover her parents and return to the human world.

The scenographic design is signed by Jon Bausor, who has conceived a revolving stage that adapts with versatility to both exterior and interior scenes of the bathhouse where most of the action takes place, and whose painting, added to the lighting, makes it look like a hand drawn frame.

Dance and puppetry are key elements.

“The role has forced me to push my body to the limit,” actress Mone Kamishiraishi, 24, told the camera about her incarnation of Chihiro.

“It’s been hard learning how to fall without getting hurt,” said Kannna Hashimoto, 23, the lead’s other performer in the play, which has a double cast.

The weight of body expression is especially noticeable in the character of Sin Cara (Kaonashi).

The dancers Koharu Sugawara and Tomohiko Tsujimoto endow this silent character with great personality, who, as in the film, is once again one of the most endearing and amazes viewers with a new and emotional solo dance.

Also noteworthy is the role of the numerous puppeteers who, under the baton of Toby Olie, make possible the flight of Haku turned into a dragon, as if it were a “koinobori” flag, or the angry appearance of the giant head of Yubaba.

The entire play is accompanied by the unforgettable soundtrack by Joe Hisaishi, which has been adapted, covered and supplemented by Brad Haak (“Mary Poppins”, “Il Divo – A Musical Affair”), and features an impeccable costume design by Sachiko Nakahara.

“They have worked on being faithful to the film and it shows in the result,” said original film producer Toshio Suzuki in a message sent to those responsible after seeing the dress rehearsal. EFE


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