The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
The Orchestra Pit
Parco ProducedThe Orchestra Pit 2005
Photo by Masahiko Yako
First Performance: 2000
Performance time: Approx. 3hr. 30min.
Acts / Scenes:
Cast: 13 (9 men, 4 women)
Japanese Drama Database
Play of the Month Play of the Month
The Orchestra Pit  Koki Mitani  
This piece is what you might call a “backstage musical” that depicts the slapstick going on between the musicians in the orchestra pit during the performance of a musical in a situation comedy style.

When the curtain opens, the stage is in the form of an orchestra pit. An additional twist of interest is involved through the fact that the music performance for the musical supposedly being performed on that upper stage also becomes numbers for the play that is occurring in the orchestra pit in front of us.

The first to appear on stage is the conductor, who will also serve the role of narrator connecting the audience to the stage. The conductor introduces the musicians (actors) as they gather in twos and threes on the stage, and as he does so he explains to us that here below the glamorous world of and evening’s theater being acted out on the stage above unseen musicians of the band give there all in each night’s performance and live their lives to the full. All the events of life happen down here in the orchestra pit, too, he explains.

The conductor’s wife is the violinist Hachiko. She has left home to live with her lover, the trumpet player Todo. While trying to think of some way to get his wife back, the conductor also harbors a wish to become involved with the harpist, Shinonome.

However, the guitarist Tange announces that he and Shinonome have become engaged. Seeing the perplexed expression on Shiononome’s face, the conductor asks her if it is true, only to hear her confess that Tange has been pushing things ahead even though she has no intention of getting married.

When the conductor decides that the time has come to tell Tange the truth and convince him to abandon his dream, he learns that in fact it is Shinonome’s indecisive character and her habit of leading any man on that causes her to give them the impression that she likes them even though she doesn’t. Not only had she recently gone with Tange to the same restaurant that she had been to with the conductor, but she had also met his parents and gone on a trip to a hot spring spa. Still, she explains that she only went along because it was a spa that she had always wanted to visit.

Apart from these tangled love relationships, the musical is proceeding up on the stage and the conductor must busy himself with the preparations and performance of each number even though there are more troubles he has to deal with at the same time. There is the pianist who is always getting her part wrong, the trumpet player with a hangover, the drummer who is trying to sell detergent from a disreputable pyramid type sales scheme, the violist who is always nodding off and the high-strung oboist with a difficult personality. It is all the conductor can do just to keep the show going.

Along the way, it is revealed that Hachiko has left Todo because he was cheating on her and the object of his infidelity is none other than Shinonome.

Shinonome lets her feelings come out in a song, saying her loneliness makes her want to be loved by someone even though her fear of being hurt keeps her from loving anyone back.

The conductor tries to convince Hachiko that they should try to make a new start together, but she tells him that when two people are together for a long time they begin to see only each others’ bad sides. She tells him that she left him because she didn’t want to come to dislike him any more. She says she respects him because “Only you could hold this band of musicians together and make it function.”

Up on the stage above the musical is coming to a climax and the curtain closes as the orchestra is playing the ending piece.

Profile: Born: 1961
Koki Mitani was born in Tokyo in 1961. After graduating from the Theater Dept. of the Nihon University College of Art, he joined with Kazuyuki Aijima, Zen Kajihara and Masahiko Nishimura to form the Tokyo Sunshine Boys. The company’s name was taken from the title of the Neil Simon play, and as you would expect from this choice of names, the characters that appear in their plays are depicted with a straight, clear-cut situation comedy type touch. As exemplified by the work Juninin no Yasashii Nihonjin (The Gentle Twelve) which anticipates Japan’s adoption of the jury system, most of the works are multiple-cast plays that depict the confusion of people running back and forth trying to deal with problems that occur one after another, while handling the development in a light, fast-moving and thrilling style that employs everyday language. Besides plays, Mitani has also expanded his activities to include things like writing the script for a successful TV series Furuhata Ninzaburo and directed the acclaimed movie Radio no Jikan (Radio Time). With the 2004 performance of Tokyo Sunshine Boys no Wana (The Tokyo Sunshine Boys’ Trap) the Tokyo Sunshine Boys announced the suspension of their activities as a company until 2024, when they say they will regroup for a production of Lear Dama (“Ball Lear” like “King Lear”)...??