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Friday, May 16, 2008

Long-running 'Muscle Musical' embarks on enigmatic voyage

Staff writer

Japan's top athletes and a renowned American director have teamed up to renew the nation's most energetic theater show.

News photo
Maximum exertion: A chorus line of actor-athletes in the long-running "Muscle Musical" perform an energetic dance choreographed by Ray Leeper. SHIBUYA MUSCLE THEATER PHOTO

"Muscle Musical," which has been staged in Japan since 2001, has been revised with a new theme — "Voyage" — for a run in Tokyo's Shibuya district until June 8.

Brian Burke, dance supervisor on a number of of concerts for Celine Dion, directed the musical, giving it a dramatic story of a boy traveler led by a mysterious "magic man" and who encounters a number of acrobats and dancers during his trip. The actors don't have lines, relying instead on mime and expressive movements.

The show consists of acrobatics performed by 50 actors, including three ex-Olympians, and energetic dances choreographed by Ray Leeper, winner of the 2006 New York Musical Theater Festival Award of Excellence. The costumes were designed by Junko Koshino.

Audiences are treated to a dazzling spectacle of unique acrobatic techniques and demonstrations of physical capability. Naoki Iketani, gymnast and world-record holder on the vaulting horse, executes a number of somersaults at high speed and vaults over a 3-meter- high horse.

Miho Takeda, a silver medalist at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics in synchronized swimming, performs a beautiful dance in a transparent pool built on the stage, moving like a tropical fish in water.

Keigo Arizono, an All-Japan champion on mountain bicycles, and Daisuke Morikami, a runnerup in the championships, perform breathtaking moves with their bicycles, jumping and spinning on a single wheel.

The finale features the full cast forming a tap line across the stage, slapping their bodies with open palms to create surprisingly loud cracks. The staccato builds into a complex rhythm as they direct their slaps to other parts of their bodies.

The musical runs every day at Shibuya Muscle Theater until June 8, except May 19, 20, 26, 27, June 2 and 3. Start times are 1 p.m., 3 p.m., 5 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., depending on the day.

Tickets for the shows cost ¥7,800. Shibuya Muscle Theater is located 10 minutes from Shibuya Station and eight minutes from JR Harajuku Station.

For more information, visit the troupe's Web site at m-m2002.com

For reservations, call the Muscle Musical ticket center at (0120) 917-999.

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