We will introduce here the theater review that you have written for us.
|『YOKOHAMA Short Stories』|
|Osamu Imamura (born 1955) |
Former journalist for the Asahi Shimbun.
He worked in various departments including the Tokyo Headquarters’ Arts and Culture Department and the Osaka Headquarters’ Lifestyle and Culture Department, where he mainly covered theater and wrote reviews from 1993 to 2010.
He authored “Shinkansen☆Monogatari,” which was an addition to a newspaper serialization of “Samurais’ Trajectory of Shinkansen☆30 Years” (AERAMOOK, 2010).
|Yesterday, I went to the matinee showing of UKIYO HOTEL PROJECT’s “YOKOHAMA Short Stories” at ‘Cliffside’, with a script by Shoko Kawada, directed by Hajime Kikuchi, and music by Ko Tanaka and Kazune Tanaka. The production consisted of five short musicals centered around Yokohama and performed in a dance hall that has been watching over Yokohama since the post-war era. The show began with the announcement of Japan’s surrender and ended with the same declaration, spanning approximately two hours. Though it was my first time experiencing this project, I thoroughly enjoyed the heartfelt and passionate performances that were deeply rooted in their love for Yokohama. |
The five stories presented in the show were as follows:
“Siumai Girl” is based on a novel by Bunroku Shishi and warmly portrays the tender and awkward romance between a campaign girl for the Chinese-style dumpling restaurant chain “Kiyoken” (Yui Kato) and a professional baseball player who hates baseball (Ouri Matsuzawa) working at Yokohama Station (set in 1952).
“At the MacArthur Suite” tells the story of two hotel employees (Noriyuki Konishgi and Yuki Okamoto) struggling to accommodate General MacArthur, who stayed at the New Grand Hotel in Yokohama for the signing of the instrument of surrender (set in 1945).
At “Cliffside,” Junpei Nakamura (Ryota Tamura), who designed the venerable dance hall, and the dancers who worked there (Moegi Iizuka and Kae Igarashi) sing and talk about their own feelings for Cliffside, along with a man (Yuki Okamoto) who fell in love with a dancer (set in 1946).
In “Junichiro Tanizaki: The Musical,” three women (Kae Igarashi, Ayaka Shimizu, and Moegi Iizuka) mercilessly scrutinize the peculiar love life and biography of the literary giant who lived in Yokohama, Junichiro Tanizaki (set in 1930).
In “Chew Piano,” a young man (Ryota Tamura) meets a girl (Azusa Fujikura) who tries desperately to protect a precious piano made in Chew’s workshop in Chinatown during an air raid (set in 1945).
The venue, Cliffsidé, was a long-standing dance hall that opened in 1946 as “Yamate Dance Hall” in the year following Japan’s defeat in World War II. At its peak, nearly 200 female dancers were employed there. The 100 square meter, high-ceilinged dance floor and the vintage band box give a sense of history. The live band performances breathe life into the drama.
Although each story is short, they are varied and enjoyable. “Siumai Girl” is imbued with a strong anti-war sentiment, while “At the MacArthur Suite” offers a surprising twist that provides a sense of relief. The music selection in “Cliffsidé” is outstanding, while the female perspective in “Tanizaki” is too harsh, leaving one feeling sorry for the literary giant. The trivia and pure emotions towards music in “Chew Piano” also leave a deep impression.
The young actors in the lead roles still have some borrowing of lines, but they are quite enjoyable to listen to in their singing. Especially the standard jazz number performed by the male duo in “MacArthur’s” was captivating. Overall, there are few developments where the drama rolls with the songs, and the composition features original or pre-existing music embedded in the play rather than a musical. It may be more of a musical play or a play with songs.
If there were one thing to ask for, it would be that it is somewhat wasteful that the five dramas are presented almost independently, despite the guidance from the manager (Soho Kikuchi). If each story were given some kind of relationship with each other through objects or characters (without unnecessary explanations), a more mysterious atmosphere could be created. I can’t help but play around with unnecessary ideas.
Born in Aomori, Japan. A theater journalist.
He worked at the editorial department of “Nikkan Gendai” from 1980 to 2015.
Currently, he writes a theater column called “Engeki Enma-Cho” in “Nikkan Gendai Digital”.
He is a member of the International Association of Theatre Critics.
His book “An Actress Loved by Shuji Terayama: The Story of Keiko Niitaka, a Star of the Experimental Theatre” is also available.
Located about a 10-minute walk up the hill from Chinatown and Motomachi is a building next to the entrance of a tunnel called “Cliffside”.
Two days ago, “YOKOHAMA Short Stories” (written by Shoko Kawada, music by Kazune Tanaka and Ko Tanaka, directed by Hajime Kikuchi) was performed at Cliffside in Motomachi, Yokohama.
As part of a project launched by playwright Shoko kawada to stage her original musical “Ukiyo Hotel,” following the “Ukiyo Hotel Bar” in 2020 and 2021, this year’s performance was titled “YOKOHAMA Short Stories” and consisted of five short stories set in Yokohama.
The venue for the play was the “Cliffside” building (built in 1946), which has been a witness to Yokohama’s history. Once a glamorous dance hall, the building is set to be demolished soon. It’s a shame that the Japanese people don’t cherish historical cultural facilities.
The stories were each 15-20 minutes long, with the manager (Hajime Kikuchi) and the lady (Ayaka Shimizu) serving as guides. First up was “Siumai Girl,” set in 1952.
It was a love story between Chiyoko (Yui Kato), a siumai bento campaign girl for the Kiyoken restaurant, and Tasuke (Ouri Matsumura), a high school baseball player on a trip. It was based on the work “Yassamossa” by Bunroku Shishiya. Tasuke dislikes baseball, which involves competition between teams because he dislikes conflicts with others. However, he goes on to succeed as a professional baseball player, despite his contradictory feelings.
As the two began dating, Chiyoko worried that he might be taken away for another war. It was seven years after the war, and two years after the outbreak of the Korean War. Japan was caught up in other countries’ war demand while reviving memories of war.
“I don’t want Taosuke to go to war.”
“But if it means our country will be destroyed, I will go to war.”
Love transcends national boundaries. “Even if the earth were split in two, our love would be more important,” the two lovers believed.
“Chiyoko is more important than a war between countries. After the war ends, important people will shake hands and make up. It’s impossible to remember the people who fought and died against strangers. Even if the country is destroyed, I won’t go to war.”
I wish this scene had been delivered like this. Yui Kato was charming in her singing and demeanor.
Next is “At the MacArthur Suite” (1945), a story about the employees who entertained General Douglas MacArthur during his stay at the Hotel New Grand for several days. It revolves around the episode where MacArthur got furious for not having eggs for breakfast, and the struggles of the staff in charge of the guest room (Noriyuki Konishi and Yuki Okamoto).
Following that is “Cliffside” (1946), which tells the story of Junpei Nakamura (Ryota Tamura), the architect who designed Cliffside, and the dancers who performed there, as well as a man who loved a dancer. I was surprised to learn that the ceiling of Cliffside was made of wood. Demolishing it would certainly be cultural destruction.
“The Musical of Junichiro Tanizaki” (1930) portrays the love and hate relationships between the renowned author Junichiro Tanizaki (played by Ryota Tamura) and the women he loved. Tired of his domesticated wife Chiyoko (played by Kana Miyata), he has an affair with his sister (played by Emi Kuriyama), whom he had originally wanted to marry, resulting in a tragic love triangle with sympathizer Haruo Sato (played by Ouri Matsumoto). The story satirizes Tanizaki’s libertine relationships with women.
The final production, “Chew Piano” (1945), depicts the meeting of a young man (played by Ryota Tamura) and a girl (played by Azusa Fujikura) who protects the elusive piano “Chew Piano,” made in Chinatown.
The stage performance featuring live jazz band music, singing, and dancing by musical actors is both stimulating and fresh, thanks in part to the excellent venue. The actors are also captivating. However, the seating arrangement is flat, making it difficult to see the stage from the rear seats.
The play features Kahimi Karie’s “Alcohol” and Asakawa Maki’s “Kamome,” which are subtly arranged and may go unnoticed.
Other performers include Moegi Iizuka, Kae Igarashi, Yuki Okamoto, and Ayaka Shimizu.
The play runs for 1 hour and 45 minutes and will end on the 30th.