The Spirited Away stage play is coming to American cinemas

This spring, audiences unable to attend the Japanese production will behold the live-action magnificence of the radish spirit.


Charles Bramesco


Fans of Hayao Miyazaki have had a lot to appreciate as of late, between the opening of the Studio Ghibli theme park last November and the news of the upcoming feature How Do You Live? due later this year. On top of this, audiences in Japan were treated to the very first stage adaptation of a Ghibli film with the Imperial Theatre’s 2022 production of Spirited Away — and it’s soon to meet with a wider audience.

Animation distributor GKIDS announced today that they’ve secured North American rights to screen a filmed recording of the Spirited Away show in cinemas, completing the movie-to-play-to-movie life cycle. The live-action reworking of young Chihiro’s adventure through the spirit-world to save her parents after they’re turned into pigs will start making the rounds this spring, though it’s not yet clear whether that run will be in cooperation with GKIDS’ polarizing past partner Fathom Events.

Directed by John Caird (a Tony-winning stage veteran most notable for originating the London production of Les Miserables), the production’s cast includes the film’s original voice actor Mari Natsuki reprising her roles as witch sisters Yubaba and Zeniba. Though the real star of the show may be the numerous practical effects replicating the wild creatures populating the afterlife spa where Chihiro works, puppetry and animatronics employed to bring the portly radish spirit, the haunting No-Face, and the tempestuous river spirit to life.

English-language reviews of the run in Tokyo are sparse, but the adulations from the Japanese press and the booming ticket sales both tell the story of a blockbusting success likely to tour the globe even as the filmed version expands its reach. In London over the past few months, a like-minded treatment of My Neighbor Totoro was a smash at the Barbican Centre, and could very well be up for the same stage-to-screen treatment if the Spirited Away showtimes have healthy returns.

As the Ghibli brand continues to diversify, it might not be long before Princess Mononoke or Howl’s Moving Castle make the jump to the stage, Miyazaki’s imagination just as vivid without the hand-drawn artwork articulating it. He’s been instrumental in teaching generations of children to appreciate the craft of animation; maybe he can do the same for the theatre.

Published 8 Feb 2023

Tags: Hayao Miyazaki Studio Ghibli

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