Monday, December 31, 2007

ウィキッド - The Broadway Musical Wicked (The SOB Revisit)

ウィキッド - The Broadway Musical Wicked (The SOB Revisit) - Shiki Theatre, Tokyo, Japan 東京

*** (out of ****)

Some couples have their song. For the love of my life and me... well, let's just say we have our musical.

If you're a regular Steve On Broadway reader, you've probably already guessed that it happens to be Wicked. It was one of the very first tuners we saw as a couple -- our first time taking it in was just two days after the theatrical phenomenon opened on Broadway back in October 2003.

Whether it's our affinity for its ingenious inside-out twisting of "The Wizard Of Oz" fable we grew up on, or our hope from its message that different can be a virtue, or our love of its clever and often soaring tunes, Wicked has truly become "our musical."

So in that spirit, we traveled last week to our third international city this year -- London and Stuttgart came earlier -- to see the production in a third language.

On Christmas Eve, we saw ウィキッド - The Broadway Musical Wicked at Tokyo's Shiki Theatre. As in London and Stuttgart, I was amazed at how faithful to the original this incarnation is in staging, orchestrations, choreography and design. And while I don't speak a lick of Japanese (except to say "good afternoon," "good evening" and "thank you"), I was captivated by Miyuki Numao and Megumi Hamada, the duo originating the Japanese version's roles of Glinda and Elphaba, respectively.

Unlike in Germany, where I couldn't help but rethink the political allegories and how they were evocative of the Third Reich, I sat back and soaked in Tokyo's Wicked (although it wasn't lost on me that within one month's time, I was seeing this musical in the two primary nations that we fought in World War II).

As one of the most homogeneous societies on earth, the modern Japanese culture remains steeped in ancient tradition. With that in mind, I couldn't help but wonder whether the themes of ウィキッド - The Broadway Musical Wicked might well be viewed as a clarion call to be more accepting of other peoples and other cultures. Ironically, in this tightly knit society, an outlandish individual like Glinda with her platinum blonde coiffure would be nearly as unique in Japan as the green girl Elphaba would be everywhere.

Since Wicked is ultimately about looking at things -- especially other members of the human race -- another way, I was interested in measuring the extremely polite audience's response. With laughter and applause kept to a minimum level that would surely have had Stephanie Zimbalist seeing an oil painting, I was surprised to see more curtain calls for this staging of Wicked than any other I've ever seen before -- six curtain calls, plus an "encore" of "White Christmas" that finally brought the entire audience to its feet. Sharing this communal experience with a Japanese audience was certainly half the fun.

If you've never before seen one of your favorite Broadway shows in another language, you just might want to give it a try -- you'll likely come away thinking as I did about how they went about translating an entire show into another language and whether they were able to retain the same spirit, if not altogether the same trademark humor. Needless to say, in this Wicked, it appeared that many key laughlines were likely lost in translation, yet I couldn't help but be impressed at the arduous task this show's creators had before them to replicate as best they could a uniquely American show for a much wider audience.

In the end, that audience half a world away from home ultimately seemed equally impressed, further demonstrating the transcendent appeal of Wicked's tale.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for ウィキッド - The Broadway Musical Wicked Tokyo ticket information.
Related Stories:
Wicked - Die Hexen Von Oz (The SOB Revisit) (December 2, 2007)
Wicked To Finally Land In Oz During 2008 (May 16, 2007)
Wicked (The SOB Revisit) - London (April 17, 2007)
Wicked World (March 19, 2007)
Jaaku or Neikan? Wicked Set for Japanese Translation (July 24, 2007)

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At 31 December, 2007, Blogger Esther said...

As you know, I love "Wicked" as much as you and your beloved do, and for all the reasons you've mentioned. (Interesting point, too, about Glinda's appearance being just as unique to a Japanese audience. I hadn't thought of that).

Also, as you know, I have seen a Broadway show in another language - I saw "Fiddler on the Roof" in Hebrew in Tel Aviv. You're right, it is a very interesting experience.

I just wish I'd had the same level of familiarity that you have with "Wicked." I'd never seen "Fiddler" on stage before in any language. I'd never even seen the movie, although I had a general idea of what it was about.

My Hebrew wasn't nearly good enough to follow everything, but luckily I had friends sitting on either side of me who could whisper key points. (Probably shouldn't have mentioned that! I don't think we were too annoying about it!)

Even in another language, and even though I only had a vague knowledge of the plot, seeing it was still a pretty emotional experience. Obviously, part of it was seeing it in Israel. Part of it is that the music in any language is great. (There was at least one change I noticed. In Hebrew, it's "If I were a Rothschild" instead of "If I were a rich man.")

But I think, in the end, a lot of the story did come through, about being part of a family, about saying goodbye to people you love, about being forced to leave your home.

I'm thrilled you and the love of your life have had a chance to see your favorite musical in so many different places this year.

No matter what language, the most important thing is that the two of you were together. Here's wishing both of you many more "Wicked" evenings in the future.

At 31 December, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


I love that story about seeing Fiddler On The Roof - that you were able to comprehend so much of the story from the performances says much about the production. And I have you to thank, in part, for inspiring me to go and see a show in another language.

Thanks for the best wishes for 2008 - right backatcha!



At 31 December, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, SOB, we shall never see eye to eye on this one.

But the West End Whingers wish you a very Happy New Year in spite of your terrible taste in musicals (or this one anyway).

At 31 December, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Healthy cheers to you anyway, Andrew! New Year's for you comes in about 50 minutes! Happy New Year.

At 31 December, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Andrew, It also dawned on me that I wasn't particularly impressed by the only staging of Wicked you've seen: London. It lacked much of the energy and delivery that each of the other incarnations have.

At 18 February, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's so great that you went to see it in Japan! I am seriously considering seeing the German version and the Japanese (if I could find a way to get a ticket without learning Japanese!)

At 18 February, 2008, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


The German version is much easier to understand (as is the online ticketing Web site thanks to, and the cast is much stronger as well.

But I truly enjoyed seeing both of these shows in other languages and can't wait til I see it in Spanish, French or who knows what else.

And truth be told, while I purchased my Stuttgart tickets directly online, I ended up arranging my Tokyo tickets through my hotel's concierge in advance of my trip. It cost me a few extra dollars, but at least I knew it was done correctly!

At 19 June, 2009, Blogger Unknown said...

I've seen wicked about twenty times now, I usually buy my tickets from, so maybe I've spent about 10k doing this. I can't get enough of that performance. What a great show.

At 18 October, 2009, Blogger Unknown said...

I am wondering, if you see a broadway play in Tokyo, is it in
Japanese or English???

At 18 October, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


The shows are in Japanese. Quite an experience to see a Broadway show in another language other than English.


At 19 October, 2009, Anonymous TaylorSwift said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 19 October, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


Once again, you are in violation of the ground rules for Steve On Broadway. Your post is an advertisement guised in comments. Thus, they were removed.

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