Shogun: The Musical

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Shōgun: The Musical is a musical with a book and lyrics by John Driver and music by Paul Chihara.

Based on James Clavell's 1976 novel and the 1980 television mini-series of the same name based on it, the musical centers on shipwrecked English sea captain John Blackthorne, who finds himself drawn into a political power play while involved in an illicit affair with a married noblewoman in 17th-century Japan. Clavell's novel was itself originally inspired by the true story of English navigator William Adams.

Clavell himself initiated the project in 1982 and, when it remained in limbo for more than eight years, finally provided most of the financing required to get it mounted. Compressing his mammoth work, which had required twelve hours to tell fully on screen, into a reasonable length for the theatre proved to be a daunting task. When the production opened at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., it closely resembled Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera in size and scope, with a cast of thirty-eight characters, more than three hundred costumes, a libretto nearly entirely sung, and a running time of 3½ hours.

After eighteen previews, the Broadway production, directed and choreographed by Michael Smuin, opened on November 20, 1990 at the Marquis Theatre, where it ran for 72 performances. In addition to Casnoff, the cast included June Angela, Joseph Foronda, Eric Chan, JoAnn M. Hunter, Leslie Ishii, and Francis Ruivivar.

Despite a detailed plot synopsis in the Playbill, audiences were still confused by the action onstage. Critics found the special effects (including a shipwreck, an earthquake, and a battle fought on horseback in a snowstorm) and Patricia Zipprodt's costume designs to be impressive, but the score was weak and Smuin, whose background was ballet, had concentrated more on unnecessary dance sequences than he had on plot exposition. Japanese visitors kept the show running for two months, but when the Persian Gulf War broke out, tourism dropped dramatically and the production closed.

Songs

Act I

  • Karma
  • Night of Screams
  • This is Samurai
  • How Nice to See You
  • Impossible Eyes
  • He Let Me Live
  • Honto
  • Assassination
  • Shogun
  • Royal Blood
  • An Island
  • No Word for Love
  • Mad Rum Below/Escape
  • Karma (Reprise)
  • Born to Be Together

Act II

  • Fireflies
  • Sail Home
  • Rum Below
  • Pillowing
  • Born to Be Together (Reprise)
  • No Man
  • Cha-No-Yu
  • Absolution
  • Poetry Competition
  • Death Walk
  • One Candle
  • Ninja Raid
  • One Candle (Reprise)
  • Winter Battle
  • Resolutions
  • Trio
  • Finale