Two of the most successful musicals of all time, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita,” take center stage in Tokyo and Kyoto this summer.
“Jesus Christ Superstar,” the famed rock opera that first opened on New York’s Broadway in 1971, was composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice’s first major joint production to storm the big stage. It portrays the tensions in the last weeks of Jesus’ life set to modern-day rock music and expressed through slang-strewn lyrics. The plot is based on the stories of the Gospels found in the Bible, beginning with the arrival of Jesus and his disciples in Jerusalem. It ends with an unflinchingly bold depiction of the Crucifixion.
Given a particularly vivid portrayal is Judas, who is shown as a conflicted and tortured follower dissatisfied with Jesus’ spontaneous actions and unconvinced by his claims to divinity. This Tokyo run includes a “Japonesque” staging, which fuses the biblical backdrop with a Japanese cast, kabuki-style makeup and Japanese musical instruments.
Lloyd Webber and Rice’s “Evita” was first staged in London in 1978 and went on to set the record for the highest box-office advance takings in West End history. It portrays the rise to fame of Argentine Eva Peron (1919-1952), who was born into a lower-class family yet became the First Lady and “spiritual leader” of her nation, as the wife of Juan Peron, the dictator who ended a decade of conservative rule by empowering the working class and expanding the number of unionized workers.
The Japanese cast is directed by Keita Asari, a successful businessman who single-handedly founded the Shiki Theatre in 1953 with student actors from Keio and Tokyo universities, and developed it into the largest theater company in Japan. His wide experience, having directed the operas “Madame Butterfly” and “Turandot” at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan in 1985, will ensure a colorful and well-crafted rendering of this familiar story.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” will be performed at Tokyo Shiki Theatre June 9-July 8 (tickets on sale now); July 11-21 (Japonesque version, tickets on sale from June 16) and July 28-Aug. 26 (on sale from June 24). Kyoto dates are likely to be announced soon. “Evita” will run July 15-Sept. 12 at Kyoto Theater.
For more information on both shows, visit www.shiki.gr.jp. For tickets, call Shiki Theatre Reservation Center at (0120) 489444.