by Chris MaGee
For all the love heaped upon Takeshi Kitano, Takashi Miike, Hirokazu Kor-eda, and Yoshihiro Nishimura here in North America when it comes to popularity in Japan none of these directors hold a candle to Koki Mitani. When ever I talk to Japanese friends or visitors to Canada and mention Kitano the response is "Oh, the TV comedian", or Miike "Who?", but when you mention Koki Mitani (above right), the man behind such films as "Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald", "The Wow-Choten Hotel" and "The Magic Hour" their eyes light up. Mitani makes films that are unapologetically popular, but never flat or pandering. His comedic vision repeatedly references the golden age of Hollywood screwball comedies and the laughs that he elicits from audiences are honestly won and raucous. So given his huge popularity at home in Japan and his obvious skill as a director, writer and also playwright it makes perfect sense that Mitani is heading to Broadway. Well, it's not Broadway proper, but Off Broadway, but six of one, half a dozen of another, right?
According to Japan Zone Koki Mitani's musical comedy "Talk Like Singing" will be premiering at the Skirball Center, New York University on November 12th for a 13-show run. Not many details on the plot, but the musical director for the production will be former Pizzicato Five member Konishi Yasuharu, and the supporting cast will include Jay Kabira and Keiko Horiuchi... but guess who's heading up the cast? SMAP's Shingo Katori (above left) will be appearing center stage, fresh from filming the final Zatoichi film.
I, and a lot of other people online, gave poor Katori a lot of grief about stepping into the shoes of the famed Blind Swordsman, but starring in a Koki Mitani musical makes perfect sense to me. He was a member of SMAP, so we know he can sing, and from various TV commercials and videos I've caught it looks like he's got decent comedic skills. It should probably be a fun show. Now I just have to figure out a way to get down to New York in November to check it out