So: what happens to a musical in its post-Broadway existence? Often, it goes something like: cast-album, and if they’re lucky, a national tour, a UK production, maybe even a telecast. But what about foreign-language productions? Does Cats get lost in translation? Answer: hell no! Yes, theater freaks exist everywhere, and there’s a large concentration of them in Asia. And if you read the New York Times last Friday, you might’ve learned that (A) South Korea is a huge theater market, especially when it comes to musicals, and (B) the South Korean production of Dreamgirls is such a big deal, Kim Jong-Il is considering full-scale nuclear disarmament in exchange for a pair of house seats.
This is all well and great for musicals and the performing arts in general. Spread the love, we say! But: there’s something that feels a little, well, awkward watching Dreamgirls being performed by an all-Asian cast. Not wrong, per se – it’s definitely, if anything, right that musicals find lives beyond America — just…awkward. Like a green milkshake. Or wrong-sounding Muppets. Would you feel comfortable watching Dreamgirls if it were performed by an all-Caucasian cast? (Answer: no.). It’s not like watching the upcoming revival of West Side Story in Spanglish — if anything, that show was meant to be performed in Spanglish.
But then there’s the simply strange: Spring Awakening, opening in Japan. Nevermind the fact that the show — a rock romp detailing various sexual encounters and “maturing” — is a little racy, and that Japanese pop culture has a rampant pedophilia problem. Try watching this show being performed by an all-Japanese cast, in Japanese. Yes, it’s as strange as you’d think it would be. Video from the cast performing opening number “Mama Who Bore Me” at a press event for the production is below — make sure to watch around the 50-second mark, when the “dancing” kicks in.