Spirited Away stage play Spirited Away stage play

After being announced on November 9 of last year, buzz around the stage adaptation hit a fever pitch when production stills were released in early March.

The Spirited Away stage play, which recently finished its theatrical run at Tokyo’s Imperial Theatre under the direction of John Caird, will be available to stream as a live pay-per-view event on Hulu Japan this summer. The Nippon Television Network Co.-operated streaming service has still not announced whether the event will also be made available to those outside of Japan.

Miyazaki’s timeless original was a classic from the day it first hit theaters in 2001, eventually winning the Academy Award for best animated feature at the 2003 Oscars, the first (and last) time an animated feature from Japan has accomplished that feat. For the stage adaptation, Caird, honorary associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, was recruited to adapt and direct. Maoko Imai joined Caird as co-adaptor.

The production is presented by Toho Co., the legendary Tokyo-based production, sales and distribution company which has handled Miyazaki’s work as well as countless other Japanese live-action and animated classics, including many Godzilla films as well as most of Akira Kurosawa’s work.

According to Hulu Japan, the performances will take place live on Hulu July 3 and 4 as the show finishes its domestic Japanese run at the Misonoza Theater in Nagoya, after stops in Fukuoka and Sapporo. The reason for the two performances is that the stage play uses the Japanese “double cast” system, meaning there are two actors for each role.

For shows on July 3 and 4 respectively, lead roles will be played by Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi (Chihiro), Kotaro Daigo and Hiroki Miura (Haku), Koharu Sugawara and Tomohiko Tsujimoto (No Face), Miyu Sakihi and Fu Hinami (Lin/Chihiro’s Mother), Tomorowo Taguchi and Satoshi Hashimoto (Kamaji), and Mari Natsuki – a voice actor in the original film – and Romi Park (Yubaba/Zenibaba).

When the stage production was announced last year, Studio Ghibli’s Toshio Suzuki, producer of the original film, was full of praise for Caird and his work. He also recalled that Miyazaki himself gave the go-ahead for the stage production almost immediately upon meeting Caird and hearing the pitch.

Caird was equally acclamatory when referring to the legendary filmmaker’s body of work, praising his stories’ emotional and intellectual integrity as well as Miyazaki’s knack for accessing the psyche of children that “makes him equal with some of the great storytellers like Charles Dickens, Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Caroll. I think he will go down in history as one of the greatest storytellers.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified The Walt Disney Company as operator of Hulu Japan. The streaming service is not operated by Disney; it is owned and operated by Nippon Television Network Corporation.

Photo at top courtesy Toby Olié and Toho Stage

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