Spirited Away Is Brought To Life In Delightful Images From New Stage Show

Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli's classic animated film "Spirited Away" has been reborn on the stage. Toho Stage has what looks to be a beautifully mounted theater adaptation of "Spirited Away" running in Tokyo, directed by two-time Tony Award winner John Caird ("Les Misérables," "Nicholas Nickleby.") The show runs until March 29, 2022, at the Imperial Theatre in Central Tokyo, after which it will expand to more cities in Japan, with an eye toward other international territories in the future.

In the meantime, designer and puppeteer Toby Olié has shared some images from the production on Twitter and his website. Below, you can see some of those images, with live-action versions of characters like No-Face and Haku in his white dragon form.

This show is being made with Ghibli's cooperation. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter last month, Miyazaki's producing partner, Toshio Suzuki, said that they trusted Caird and liked his vision for the show.

In Japanese, "Spirited Away" goes by the title of "Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi," which translates as "Sen and Chihiro's Spiriting Away." Chihiro is the name of the 10-year-old protagonist, a girl whose parents turn into pigs at an abandoned amusement park. She soon finds herself stuck in indentured servitude at a bathhouse for yōkai spirits, run by a witch, Yubaba, who takes to calling her "Sen" based on one of the kanji characters in her name.

Yubaba also has a twin named Zeniba, so "Spirited Away" already has a tradition of dual names and dual roles. In a sense it's all too appropriate, then, that "Spirited Away" on stage is double casting its main roles (via Polygon). Kanna Hashimoto, who has served as an ambassador for the Tokyo International Film Festival, and Mone Kamishiraishi, who voiced the co-lead in the global anime hit, "Your Name," are playing Chihiro/Sen. Mari Natsuki, who voiced Yubaba/Zenibaba in the Oscar-winning Miyazaki film, shares casting with Romi Park as the same characters on stage.

Toho hopes to take the show outside Japan

This stage production of "Spirited Away" looks exceptionally well-done, good enough that it could tour the world and/or be a permanent fixture at the upcoming Studio Ghibli theme park, set to open on November 1, 2022. At present, there are no plans for the latter scenario that we know of, but I'm thinking of what Disney has done with its Broadway-style "Beauty & the Beast Live on Stage" show at Hollywood Studios in Florida.

Here's the official description of the "Spirited Away" stage show from Toho:

With its fantastic, unique story and setting, SPIRITED AWAY has captured millions of fans around the world. Hayao Miyazaki's magnum opus will make history with its world premiere stage production at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo.

John Caird, Honorary Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, will write and direct the stage adaptation. Mr. Caird is internationally renowned for adapting and directing the world premiere of the monumental musical, Les Misérables, and for creating theatrical masterpieces such as Daddy Long Legs and Knights' Tale. The heroine, Chihiro, will be double cast with Kanna Hashimoto, an acclaimed actress who will be making her stage debut, and Mone Kamishiraishi, who is showing her versatile talents from acting to singing.

The story begins as Chihiro, a girl who is heading to her family's new home, goes into a tunnel to find herself lost in the world of gods and supernatural beings. She encounters many spirits, but courageously overcomes their challenges on her way back to the human world. The Imperial Theatre will turn into the Bathhouse, inviting the audience to the enchanted world of spirits.

Next month, the "Spirited Away" stage production will move to Osaka. From there, it will continue on to Fukuoka in May, Sapporo through part of June, and Nagoya in the rest of June and July. According to THR, Toho is also hoping to bring the show to other parts of Asia and Europe.