Japanese Production Hopes To Make Waves On Broadway
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The out-of-town try-out has long served as a way to get a show in shape for Broadway out of the harsh glare of the New York spotlight. However, nowadays, the use of the Internet makes it harder and harder to keep a work in progress off the radar of New York theater followers.
NY1's Frank DiLella traveled to Osaka, Japan and filed the following report on one Broadway-bound production that is looking to that city -- a city hoping to boost its own status in the arts world -- for its very far out-of-town try-out.
With drums crashing and waves splashing, the pre-Broadway musical revue, "Trip of Love" has made a mark in Japan, with the help of performers from New York.
The show is a new musical adventure told through dance and set to the sounds of the 1960s. James Walski serves as both director and choreographer.
"We wanted to do a little pop music, Motown, a little of the acid rock," he explained. "I did a lot of research on the style of dance from 1960-1969. I also studied about all the chain of events that took place, so every song has a meaning and a purpose from the women's rights, the civil rights movement, the drugs, and so forth."
"Trip of Love" is a partnership between the city of Osaka and the New York theatre community. It's produced by Makoto Deguchi -- a native of Japan who's also the award winning producer of the international hit "Blue Man Group."
"We thought maybe having an out-of-town tryout production overseas might be a good possibility for anyone who really wants to try the traditional out-of-town tryout," said Deguchi, "because, these days, Internet really kills the growth of the production. We can maybe hide from any negative critics and people who don't have a good attitude towards the developing process."
After 10 years of development, countrywide auditions and a workshop were held in Japan to find the best local dancers to pair up with the New York performers. Kei Tsuruharatani was one of the lucky few to make the final cut for the Osaka premiere.
"We did eight hours a day, six days a week, and so basically we did Pilates, ballet, jazz classes in the morning and we did production choreography in the afternoon," he said. "That was four weeks and very intense. And out of 30, only seven people made it."
In addition to the Japanese company, the show features a number of Broadway dancers, including David Elder, who recently appeared in "Curtains", Anika Ellis, last seen in "The Color Purple", and Rachelle Rak, last on Broadway in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels."
"It's been amazing to combine the two cultures," said Elder. "The Japanese artists are very committed to doing great work as we are."
"It's been humbling because there are a lot of Japanese artists that are just starting out, and you remember and reflect back on the time you were starting out and it really humbles you," said Ellis. "This is such a wonderful place to be in with all the experience I have and I get to share it and I get to be reminded on how special it is to have gone through all of the things I've gone through up to this point."
As for the next step for this new musical revue, the producers behind "Trip of Love" are looking to bring the show to Broadway in the spring of 2009.
But while "Trip of Love" is looking to head to New York from Osaka, this Japanese city with some 2.6 million residents is currently looking to further its own arts scene.
"Right now the city does not have enough power and energy to create new entertainment, mostly because of the financial crisis," said Koji Maruoka, director general of the Osaka, through a translator. "But this is, we believe, just the beginning and we think this is a starting line to promote and to produce new entertainment to support everyone. This is one of the key elements of city policy. The entertainment brings more to the city and new tactics of our new industry to develop. And we hope this entertainment will become more popular and we can support more."
Currently Osaka is home to various Kabuki theatres and an open-ended production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" performed in Japanese.
- Produced by Frank DiLella