Last Friday I skipped school (again!) to see a show. I took the bullet train all the way up to Tokyo to see the Japanese version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Tell Me On A Sunday. The production was directed by Yojiro Ichikawa, who also translated the book and lyrics. Mr. Ichikawa was born in Texas, grew up in Australia for a time, and studied theatre in England (aka the motherland for theatre-geeks). Megumi Hamada played the lead role of Emma.
A Brief Summary
Emma, a Brit, travels to New York in the hopes of becoming a successful designer. She plans on living with her NY boyfriend, but upon reaching his apartment she realizes he’s been sleeping around. She dumps him after a fast and angry song, but soon enough she’s found another man, this time a successful Californian producer. She falls for him fast and hard, and follows him to California. Sure enough, he grows bored with her and she realizes he’s not “the one.” She goes back to NY, where this time she meets a young photographer. Emma finally thinks she’s found happiness, but it turns out he’s just like the rest: he cheats on her. Through the title song, she begs him to let her down easy. He walks out the door without a word. In her despair she meets a married man and seems to “settle” for him. Everything goes wrong when she finds out the daughter doesn’t want a “new mom,” and Emma realizes exactly what she’s just done by having an affair with this man. At the end of the show, Emma writes a letter to her family, crying. She misses them; she’s lonely. She doesn’t know how to grasp her own happiness like her mom did. And in an epiphanic moment, Emma knows that she has to keep going. She can’t let her failures keep her down; she came to NY to do something great, and she’s gonna do it, dammit! She vows to keep her heart and mind open, and to work hard to make her dream come true; she vows to find her own happiness, no matter how many times she’ll keep failing. So the show ends on a happy note, despite all the hardships our heroine goes through.
I’ve never seen the show before, so I had no idea what to expect. The theater space was very intimate, with a thrust stage that the audience surrounded on 3 sides. The set was entirely white, with a set of stairs stage right leading up and back behind an enormous white wall that arched over towards the front of the stage. Stage left was a ramp that curved around the side of the stage and behind the giant white wall. Except for 6 luggage trunks, the stage was bare. The entire production was very minimalist, but it was executed beautifully and fit the show perfectly.
The lights dimmed, and a spotlight shone on Ms. Hamada as Emma in an all-white outfit sitting in the audience. It was silent. Ms. Hamada slowly and carefully walked over to one of the trunks, laid it down, and opened it. She took out a small notebook, and the second she opened it, 3 white scrolls dropped open from the ceiling. At the same time, projections lit up the stage, depicting a flurry of papers swirling around her. Music swelled, color started to fill the stage as the projected paper swirled down toward the open notebook. It was absolutely breathtaking.
The only person on stage for the entire show was Ms. Hamada. Projections appeared on the scrolls, depicting color sketches of each boyfriend, of the twinkling NY cityscape, and Emma’s best girl friend, Vivian. So for an hour and ten minutes, Ms. Hamada had to hold the stage all on her own. Not only was she able to hold the stage and capture the audience’s attention, she sang and acted simply wonderfully. She had a rich voice, with a powerful belt and the skill to hit the high notes without screeching. Her acting was so sincere, especially toward the end, that it brought tears to my eyes.
I walked away from the show feeling extremely happy to have seen it. I understood keenly Emma’s struggle, having just moved to a foreign country to pursue my dream. I understood her loneliness: I made the decision, so why am I so unhappy? I understood her confusion and her desire to find her path as quickly as possible: is this it- is this what I’m meant to do/be? However, seeing Emma fall so many times and keep getting back up every time was truly inspiring. The ending especially tugged at my heartstrings because I knew exactly how she felt: I just want my mom; I just want to see my dad; where did it all go wrong? Seeing Ms. Hamada’s Emma literally crying out for her mother left me shaking in my seat trying to keep my own tears in. And then, upon witnessing the moment where realization crossed Emma’s face and she decided to keep pushing forward, I decided: I would keep pushing forward, too. I won’t let my failures, or the fear of future failures, keep me from pursuing my dream. I feel truly changed by this show, and extremely lucky to have seen it.
I was able to meet the director, Mr. Ichikawa, after the show in the lobby and he gave me incredible advice on how to pursue a career in the arts in Japan. He was so warm and friendly, and even gave me a hug! Yeah, I’m definitely lucky, and just at recalling the memory feel like crying tears of joy. I’ve got high hopes for the future, and can’t wait to put my best foot forward. Get ready, cause I’m recharged and ready to go!