Photo/Illutration「Q」:A Night At The Kabuki (Photo by Kishin Shinoya)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

Combining real life and fantasy, playwright Hideki Noda’s latest production features references to Japan’s feudal past, Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” and “A Night at the Opera,” the iconic album by legendary British band Queen.

Noda’s “Q: A Night at the Kabuki,” a play that displays what ultimate love looks like, opened on Oct. 8 at the Tokyo Metropolitan Theater Playhouse in the capital’s Ikebukuro district.

The production was made possible by the support of Sony Music Publishing (Japan) Inc., which holds the publishing rights for “A Night at the Opera.”

The company submitted a proposal with Queen about two years ago for the production of a new artistic work based on all the songs on the album. After Queen expressed interest in the idea, Sony Music Publishing (Japan) approached Noda with its proposal, and he agreed to have his theatrical planning and production company, Noda Map, handle the project. Queen members were delighted by Noda's presentation for what he intended to put on the stage.

The play is set during the Genpei War (1180-1185), a civil conflict between the rival Taira and Minamoto clans.

Elements have been added from “Romeo and Juliet” and its “sequel” based on an assumption of what would have occurred if the young lovers had lived.

The main characters are portrayed by two pairs of actors from different age groups.

Takaya Kamikawa, 54, and Jun Shison, 24, play Romeo, while Takako Matsu, 42, and Suzu Hirose, 21, portray Juliet.

The overall atomosphere of the first act is one of “diffusion,” and clever word play brings to life the vibrancy of the two characters played by Shison and Hirose.

“Concentration” is the atmosphere of the second act, and a unifying force reels in the two lovers who have survived but are fated to never see each other again.

The four actors playing the two characters created a two-layered description of the couple, from the “sudden love” of youth to the “mature love” between a man and woman who have been pulled apart because they belong to opposing camps that are always at war.

The dramatization of a representative Queen album could be considered ambitious, especially in light of the huge success of the movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” and renewed international interest in the group.

But nothing new is ever born without courage.

The song “Bohemian Rhapsody” from the album has lyrics that go, “Mama, just killed a man.”

To connect Queen with the world of “Romeo and Juliet,” Noda read the Romeo character into the protagonist of the song. In the play, Romeo stabs to death Juliet’s cousin.

Noda carefully listened to the lyrics and music of all 12 songs on the album and distilled the story that he felt was being played, allowing for a brilliant visualization on stage of “A Night at the Opera.”

The Taira and Minamoto clans are aligned in a form of symmetry in the play, as are the concepts of heroism and terrorism. Letters, names and memory are elements that push the play forward.

A large white cloth used as a stage prop allows the actors to substitute for the different ages of the Romeo and Juliet characters. An unparalleled fantasy of sorts is evident in that scene of a spiritual exchange of love. Some directions from Kabuki plays such as revolving doors were also adapted.

Matsu is able to express a posture of cherishing love by simply lingering on the stage. At the same time, it is heartbreaking to watch Kamikawa pour out his genuine feelings.

Hirose and Shison shine brightly like a babbling stream of early spring.

Naoto Takenaka, Satoshi Hashimoto and Aki Hano give outstanding performances in supporting roles, and Kayo Ise is convincing as a vengeful demon.

Although the young lovers do not die, they are forced to separate because of the continuing clan war.

And the letters sent by Romeo never reach Juliet’s hands. As he approaches death, Romeo puts his collective thoughts about ultimate love into a letter. It finally reaches Juliet, but many years have passed since it was written.

The missive resonates with the lyrics of “Love of My Life” that Freddie Mercury sings so mesmerizingly: "You will remember, when this is blown over/ And everything’s all by the way/ When I grow older, I will be there at your side/ To remind you how I still love you.”

Bringing together both joy and sadness, the song continues about nostalgia for love.