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‘Spirited Away’: Hayao Miyazaki’s Classic Animated Oscar Winner To Be Adapted For The Stage

Nancy Tartaglione
·3-min read

Hayao Miyazaki’s 2001 Oscar winning animated film, Spirited Away (Sen To Chihiro No Kamikakushi), has been set for a stage production which will have its world premiere in Tokyo in 2022. This is the first-ever stage adaptation of the beloved movie and will be written and directed by Tony and Olivier Award-winner and Honorary Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, John Caird (Les Misérables, Nicholas Nickleby, Daddy Long Legs). Japanese giant Toho is behind the project.

The original film, from Studio Ghibli, went on to become the highest-grossing movie ever in Japan, holding the spot for 19 years and only recently being overtaken by Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train. It had a re-release in fall 2020 and has grossed over $355M worldwide.

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The story follows Chihiro, a 10-year-old girl moving with her parents to their new home. They lose themselves in a mysterious world of fantastic spirits, ruled over by the sorceress Yubaba, who turns Chihiro’s parents into pigs. After a series of bizarre and dangerous challenges, including the loss of her identity, Chihiro must use all her wits to survive in this strange place and return to the human world.

Says Caird, “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 must have spent a thousand hours working on Sen To Chihiro and look forward to spending many thousands more.”

Chihiro will be doubly played by Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi. Hashimoto (Beginning Today It Is My Turn) will make her stage debut with Spirited Away. Kamishiraishi is known internationally for her voice work in Your Name and Weathering With You.

Studio Ghibli’s Toshio Suzuki who produced Spirited Away, says, “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.”

Spirited Away will be presented at Toho’s Imperial Theatre from February through March, 2022. The production will then tour throughout Japan across the spring and summer. There is no word on a transfer to other markets, but it could be a natural evolution.

Toho is known globally for the Godzilla franchise as well as Akira Kurosawa’s works. The company’s theatrical department has presented numerous original and licensed musicals and plays in Japan. They include Broadway and West End imports such as Les Misérables, Miss Saigon, My Fair Lady, Man Of La Mancha, Fiddler On The Roof, La Cage Aux Folles, RENT, Jekyll & Hyde, Jersey Boys, Beautiful The Carole King Musical and The Producers. Toho also recently co-produced the Broadway musical Tootsie. Spirited Away is part of the programs celebrating the 90th anniversary of Toho.

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