Keita Asari, who founded Shiki Theater and produced a number of its long-running musicals including “Cats” and “The Lion King,” died Friday at a Tokyo hospital due to malignant lymphoma, the theater troupe said Wednesday. He was 85.
A native of Tokyo, Asari formed in 1953 what later became one of Japan’s best-known theater troupes while he was a student at Keio University and began to put on Japanese adaptations of Broadway musicals.
“Jesus Christ Superstar,” a 1973 revival of a hit rock opera in which he incorporated Japanese Kabuki styles, received critical acclaim.
“The Lion King,” the Japanese version of the Disney film adaptation which Asari produced and directed, has been performed more than 10,000 times since opening in 1998, setting a record as the most-performed theatrical production in Japan.
He also produced “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats,” as well as his original musical piece “Musical Ri Koran” (“Li Xianglan” in Chinese).
Aside from his theater works, Asari was also known for serving as the executive producer of the opening ceremony of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics in Japan.