Hayao Miyazaki’s animated masterpiece “Spirited Away” will be adapted for the stage for a production set to premiere in Japan next year.
Tony and Olivier Award winner John Caird, who wrote the English-language book and co-directed the hit musical “Les Misérables,” will write and direct the stage adaptation based on Miyazaki’s 2001 film.
The new version of “Spirited Away” is set to premiere at Toho’s Imperial Theater in Tokyo next February and March. The production will then tour throughout Japan, including to Osaka (April), Fukuoka (May), Sapporo (June) and Nagoya (June and July).
“Spirited Away,” which is known in Japan under its original title “Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi,” is approaching its 20th anniversary later this year, and the stage premiere will coincide with the 20th anniversary of the film winning the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2002.
Arguably the best film of animation master Hayao Miyazaki, “Spirited Away” has also been hailed as among the best films of any genre. The Sound on Sight Critics poll from 2012 ranked “Spirited Away” among the top 250 films of all time, another annual critics poll placed “Spirited Away” as one of the top 10 films of this new century, and the film currently sits at #28 on IMDb’s user-voted Top 250 list.
“Spirited Away” is the story of Chihiro, a snotty 10-year-old girl who fears moving with her parents to a new home. But when they get lost on the road, they find themselves in a mysterious world filled with fantastical spirits, with Chihiro’s parents transformed into pigs by a sorceress named Yubaba. Chihiro loses her identity and has to live among the spirits as “Sen” in order to survive, even outsmarting a fiendish spirit called No Face capable of gobbling up others whole. The film is a beautiful coming-of-age story of growth and discovery as Chihiro works to bring her and her parents back to the human world.
“I feel so excited and privileged to be working on the first ever stage adaptation of ‘Sen to Chihiro.’ I have for many years now regarded Miyazaki Hayao as one of the pre-eminent geniuses of world cinema and the greatest ever proponent of the anime form,” Caird said in a statement.
In addition to his work on “Les Miz,” Caird co-directed the early 1980s stage hit “The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby.” He also wrote the book and lyrics for the 2000 Broadway musical “Jane Eyre.”
He continued: “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 am looking forward with great pleasure to deepening my partnership with my dear friends at Toho through a new relationship with Studio Ghibli and Suzuki Toshi0, their most generous and inventive lead producer.”
Caird’s stage adaptation of will have two actresses playing the lead role of Chihiro, Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi. Hashimoto will be making her stage debut in the production and is known for a number of Japanese films. Kamishiraishi is known internationally for voicing in the anime film “Your Name.” Caird previously worked with Kamishiraishi on “Knight’s Tale.”
“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,” Studio Ghibli’s Toshio Suzuki, the film producer on “Spirited Away,” said in a statement. “I could tell how much he adores this story from his delighted face when I gave him a No-Face (Kaonashi) piggy-bank.”
Miyazaki’s films and Studio Ghibli at large are having a resurgence in the last few years, even as Miyazaki himself has retired from directing following 2013’s “The Wind Rises.” All the Studio Ghibli films now have a digital streaming home on HBO Max after being absent from streamers for years, and the Academy Museum will host as one of its inaugural exhibits a retrospective on the art behind Miyazaki’s films.
Check out a poster for the stage adaptation below.