Takeharu Kunimoto leads the cast of the Lincoln Center Festival production of Pacific Overtures, which plays Avery Fisher Hall July 9 through July 13. Kunimoto portrays several roles, those of Reciter, Shogun and Emperor.
Lincoln Center's annual three-week event features this acclaimed production of the 1976 Stephen Sondheim musical, which comes to New York after its world premiere at Tokyo's New National Theatre. Amon Miyamoto directs an all-Japanese company, who will also play the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theatre Sept. 3-Sept. 8.
In the program notes, director Miyamoto explains, "Pacific Overtures was a great experiment to be added to Broadway because the play explored the new possibility of musical theatre as a form of cultural exploration. In October 2000 the first production of Pacific Overtures was performed in Japan by New National Theatre, Tokyo. It was staged not in a decorative Kabuki style, but rather in Noh style. A simple setting encourages the imaginative ability of the audience. I believe this is one of the most privileged aspects of stage performances."
Sung in Japanese with English surtitles, Miyamoto's company comprises Norihide Ochi (Councillor, Monk, Priest, Old Man, Guard), Ben Hiura (Abe, Carpenter, Superior Warrior), Haruki Sayama (Shogun's Mother, Russian Admiral, Fireman, Officer, Assassin), Usaburo Oshima (Councillor, Grandmother), Shintaro Sonooka (Thief, Swordsman, Guard), Atsushi Haruta (Madam, French Admiral, Merchant, Officer, Palanquin Bearer), Yuji Hirota (Observer, Noble, Sailor, Peasant, Warrior, Officer), Akira Sakemoto (Fisherman, Physician, Officer, British Admiral, Palanquin Bearer), Masaki Kosuzu (Manjiro, Peasant, Officer), Kanjiro Murakami (Priest, Girl, Dutch Admiral, Samurai, Messenger, Officer, Assassin), Shuji Honda (Kayama, Fish Seller), Kirihito Saito (Samurai, Companion, Boy, Noble, Peasant), Makoto Okada (Observer, Merchant, Soothsayer, Lord, Sailor, Priest), Shinichiro Hara (American Admiral, Sailor, Commodore Perry [Act I: Scene 9-10], Warrior), Takanori Yamamoto (Warrior, Commodore Perry [Act I: Scene 4; Act II: Scene 6]), Kyoko Donowaki (Shogun's Wife, Middle-Aged Wife, Girl, Priest), Urara Awata (Girl, Samurai's Daughter), Shunpo (Tamate, Middle-Aged Wife), Mayu Yamada (Son, Companion of Shogun's Wife, Girl) and Takeshi Ishikawa (Warrior, Officer, Understudy).
Lincoln Center Festival director Nigel Redden also comments in the show's program, "Experiencing this [Pacific Overtures] revival in the reconfigured setting of Avery Fisher Hall allows audience members to see this musical with fresh eyes. The hall contains a 60-foot hanamichi (a walkway extending down the center of the hall) symbolizing the world outside of Japan and specifically Perry's encroaching fleet. This dramatic change of scenery enhances the audience's ability to see the play from a Japanese rather than an American perspective and therefore gives the musical a different life than it had on Broadway over 25 years ago." The artist responsible for the dramatic set is set designer Rumi Matsui. The creative team also includes Kosuke Yamashita (music director), Jun Nishino (conductor), Kunihiko Hashimoto (translator/book and lyrics), Yasutaka Nakayama (lighting designer), Emi Wada (costume designer), Kunio Watanabe (sound designer), Rino Masaki (choreographer), Takanori Yamamoto (chorus master), Akinori Tani (fight scene coordinator) and Kazumi Ito (assistant director).
The 72-year-old Sondheim is currently being celebrated in Washington, D.C., with productions of six of his classic musicals—Company, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park With George, Merrily We Roll Along, Passion and Sweeney Todd.
—By Andrew Gans