“Pacific Overtures” isn’t one of Stephen Sondheim’s most famous musicals, but the story it tells — of the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry’s Black Ships in July 1853 and the opening of Japan to the West — has been updated and given a new twist by a Japanese director and cast.

Playing at the New National Theatre of Tokyo until Oct. 31, “Pacific Overtures” made its Broadway debut in 1976. Based on a book by John Weidman, the musical was given an exaggerated, kabuki-style staging by director Harold Prince. Many Japanese critics regarded it as a work of pure “orientalism,” presenting an exotic Japan as pictured by the American imagination.

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