Last weekend the live-action stage play version of "Spirited Away" held its final performance of 2023, closing out its run at the Misonoza theater in Nagoya. If you didn’t have a chance to catch it, though, don’t worry, because the adaptation of the Studio Ghibli anime movie will return in 2024. Actually, even if you did get to watch the play this year, it might well be worth seeing again, as two new actresses will be taking on the role of protagonist Chihiro.
Up until now, the role of Chihiro has been split between actresses Kanna Hashimoto and Mone Kamishiraishi, who portray the adventurous 10-year-old on different performance days. Hashimoto and Kamishiraishi will continue to do so, but it will now be a four-woman rotation, as Rina Kawaei and Momoko Fukuchi will also join the production and take on the Chihiro role.
▼ Rina Kawaei (left) and Momoko Fukuchi (right)
Kawaei’s show business debut came as a part of idol supergroup AKB48. She remained a member from 2012 to 2015, during which she was attacked by a man wielding a handsaw during a handshake meet-and-greet event in 2014. Following her departure from the group, Kawaei transitioned to TV drama and movie acting, including a role of murderous Sakura Aoi in the live-action "Death Note: Light Up the New World" and "Death Note: New Generation."
"Spirited Away" will be her first professional stage play role. “I never expected that I would be chosen to play Chihiro” says Kawaei, who attended the play as a theatergoer prior to auditioning for the role. “I’m already feeling nervous, but I’ll do my best to keep up with all the other talented members of the company and deliver the best viewing experience possible!”
This will also be the first professional stage play role for Fukuchi, an actress/media personality who’s been appearing in TV dramas, variety shows, and movies since 2014. Fukuchi, the daughter of actor Show Aikawa and actress Kumi Aochi, says “I remember my older brother and I, when we were four and three years old, pestering our mom to take us to see the 'Spirited Away' anime movie on opening day at a theater in Shibuya, and lining up to get in. Spirited Away felt to mysterious to me, but even as a child I remember feeling how strong of a movie it was.”
The cast expansion comes after this month’s earlier announcement that the "Spirited Away" stage play will be holding its first-ever outside-Japan performances starting next April in London, where its engagement is scheduled to last from April to July. While Chihiro’s first two actresses, Hashimoto and Kamishiraishi, are already confirmed to be making the trip to the UK, it’s currently unclear whether Kawaei and Fukuchi will as well. Performances of the play are scheduled to resume within Japan next March in Tokyo, with the production then moving to Nagoya, Fukuoka, Osaka, and Sapporo between April and June, so it could be that Kawaei and Fukuchi will be handling the domestic performance during the times that Hashimoto and Kamishiraishi are out of the country, but an official listing of which actresses will be playing the role on which days and at which venues is yet to be released.
Source: Spirited Away official website via IT Media
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