What comes to mind when you think of a stage musical? Maybe a bunch of cats, singing about things they remember or some guy with half a mask and a way too possessive crush on a girl?
Well how about a bunch of muscle-bound martial artists punching each other until somebody’s head explodes?
Japan’s Horipro Stage theatrical production group has announced that it’s currently developing an adaptation of "Fist of the North Star," the 1980s anime/manga classic about martial artist Kenshiro wandering a post nuclear-war world and protecting the weak with his pressure point-targeting punches and kicks. Even by ‘80s anime standards, "Fist of the North Star" is shockingly violent, but Horipro is planning not only to turn it into a stage play, but a musical as well.
Playing the lead role as Kenshiro will be 32-year-old Yusuke Onuki, an experienced musical actor whose past roles include "Marry Poppins’" Bert and "Billy Elliot: The Musical’s" older Billy in their Japanese productions. Realizing that Kenshiro is of a beefier build than the typical musical male lead, Onuki has been working with a persona trainer since the start of the ear to build muscle and cut body fat. “Physically, this is going to be an extremely demanding production,” the Kanagawa Prefecture native says in regard to having to sing, dance, and fight on stage. At the same time, he’s looking forward to portraying one of Japan’s most recognized and popular pop culture characters. “'Fist of the North Star' is a series that has been loved by so many people for such a long time. I feel a lot of pressure, so I want to turn in a performance that people will be satisfied with.”
▼ Kenshiro (left) and Onuki (right)
Other cast members announced so far are Takuya Uehara and Kandai Ueda “double cast” as Kenshiro’s rival Shin, to use the Japanese stage term for two actors who play the same character in different performances.
Kanata Irei and Rio Uehara will alternate as Rei and Juza...
...and Kazuki Kato and Ryunosuke Onoda double cast as Toki, the only one of Kenshiro’s brothers without an unquenchable lust for power.
Pointedly, Raoh, Kenshiro’s greatest adversary, is listed in the cast of characters for the musical, but with no attached actor yet announced.
With 27 collected manga volumes and over 150 anime episodes, "Fist of the North Star" is a long series, and it’s unlikely the musical will adapt the entire saga. In describing the musical’s story, though, the play’s official website references the assassination of Kenshiro’s master Ryuken by Raoh and the kidnapping of his lover Yuria by Shin, so it’s a safe bet that the hero’s battles against those two antagonists will be covered to some extent.
On the production side, "Fist of the North Star-Hokuto no Ken" (the official title uses both the series’ English and Japanese names) is an international effort, with a Japanese director and playwright, Sachiko Ishimaru and Ako Takahashi, Chinese choreographer, Zhao Ming, and American composer, Frank Wildhorn. Wildhorn, who is coincidentally married to former Takarazuka actress Yoka Wao, also provided the music for "Death Note: The Musical," another Horipro Stage production.
Fist of the North Star-Hokuto no Ken will premiere at Tokyo’s Nissay Theatre this December, and the producers say it will also be performed in China sometime in 2022.
Images: Fist of the North Star-Hokuto no Ken musical official website
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