spirited away play

Hayao Miyazaki‘s unparalleled 2001 anime classic Spirited Away is getting the stage play treatment. Studio Ghibli’s Oscar-winning film (titled Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi in Japan) is being adapted into stage production by Toho, which aims to premiere the play in 2022.

Toho Co., Ltd. announced that the first-ever theatrical production of Spirited Away will premiere in Tokyo in 2022. Tony and Olivier Award-winning director John Caird (Les Misérables, Nicholas Nickleby, Daddy Long Legs), will write and direct the stage adaptation.

Spirited Away follows 10-year-old Chihiro as she and her parents move to her new home, only to be waylaid by a wrong turn into an abandoned amusement park, which turns out to be an entrance into the spirit world. Chihiro is trapped there when her parents are turned to pigs by the evil sorceress Yubaba, and must figure out a way to return to the human world. It’s an Alice in Wonderland-style story that is fantastical and surreal to watch on the screen, and I can’t even imagine translating it to the stage. But the stage production will perhaps try to capture the ethereal quality of Spirited Away by double-casting the role of Chihiro, with actresses Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi both playing the lead character.

“I feel so excited and privileged to be working on the first ever stage adaptation of Sen to Chihiro. I have for many years now regarded Miyazaki Hayao as one of the pre-eminent geniuses of world cinema and the greatest ever proponent of the anime form,” Caird said in a statement accompanying the announcement, adding:

“I share a belief in all the most dominant themes of Miyazaki’s work, themes that are at the core of the Sen to Chihiro world – care for the environment, reverence for nature, a belief in the force of the good spirits within us and the empowerment of young women and men to change the world for the better.

I am looking forward with great pleasure to deepening my partnership with my dear friends at Toho through a new relationship with Studio Ghibli and Suzuki Toshi0, their most generous and inventive lead producer.

The double casting in the part of Chihiro will give me the chance to work again with the brilliant and charming Kamishiraishi Mone, with whom I had such an exciting collaboration on Knights’ Tale, and now affords me the same opportunity with the greatly talented, vivacious and moving young actress Hashimoto Kanna.

I must have spent a thousand hours working on Sen to Chihiro and look forward to spending many thousands more.”

This isn’t the first time that a Studio Ghibli film received a stage adaptation — the studio’s inaugural feature film Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind was turned into a mesmerizing kabuki play in 2019. But Spirited Away is a movie on such a big scale and with such surreal imagery that it’s difficult to imagine it being turned into a stage production. However, longtime Studio Ghibli producer Toshio Suzuki gave Caird their vote of confidence, saying in a statement, “We, Hayao and I, both liked John’s vision. He is a person we can trust. I am looking forward to seeing Chihiro grow on stage under his direction. I could tell how much he adores this story from his delighted face when I gave him a No-Face (Kaonashi) piggy-bank.”

Spirited Away will premiere at Toho’s Imperial Theatre in Tokyo from February-March 2022. The production will then tour to Osaka (April), Fukuoka (May), Sapporo (June), Nagoya (June and July).

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