The Shiki Theatre group presents hit Broadway musicals to audiences across Japan and because the productions are in Japanese, the theatre is able to showcase an amazingly-talented local cast.
I have had the pleasure of watching Lion King, Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, and Mamma Mia in Japan and since I have seen all of the above musicals while living in California I was delighted to experience the cultural similarities and differences with the Shiki Theatre shows!
In the Japanese productions, the sets, props, music, and stories all remain the same as their Broadway counterparts. However, the character names are given a Katakana makeover. As for lyrics, watching these musicals provides a great Japanese listening practice. If you are a theater geek like me, it’s also interesting to notice what can and cannot get fully translated from English to Japanese.
Another enjoyment is seeing Japanese people, the cast and audience, out of their shells. The audience is drawn to the energy on stage; they sit on the edge of their seats, anticipating the next scenes, laughing at jokes, and tearing up during touching moments. The vitality that the cast presents is quite contrary from the reserved actions of Japanese people in daily life, so these musicals are a breath of fresh air to watch.
One more fun fact is at the end of the performances, the cast isn’t given woots, hollers, or standing ovations – they are given time. The audience will clap steadily for a long period to keep the actors out on stage and bowing continuously with gratitude. A fun cultural difference to witness!
How does one see a Broadway show in Japan?
You can purchase directly at the theatre box office, but a more convenient way would be online through the Shiki Theatre website (tickets payable by credit card or at a convenience store). Keep in mind, though, that most of the website is in Japanese. As you purchase your tickets, just make sure that you verify the city and theater location (not all shows are in Tokyo, and Tokyo itself has four different venues).
The Shiki Theater musicals are well worth experiencing, especially because the seat prices start at only 3,000 yen. In comparison, ticket prices at the Pantages Theater in California start at $90 (9150 yen). Because the theaters in Tokyo are half the size of those in the US, visibility isn’t a problem in the “cheap seats”. Plus, I carry my handy 100 yen binoculars when I want a close up.
If you are willing to pay up, sitting closer is, of course, even better. However, don’t try to move up to an empty seat; the theater attendants are extremely strict. Yes, I have gotten politely scolded for attempting this!