Hai! Hai! (translation) Yes! Yes! The immensely likable “Talk Like Singing” written and directed by Koki Mitani with music by Yasuharu Konishi is a first rate entertainment imported from Japan that is original in story, concept and presentation. It is mostly performed in English (with some scenes and songs in Japanese) so that you will absolutely be able to follow this charming fable with a Burt Bacharach inspired score.
At times, the narrator Dr. Dyson (a boundlessly talented Jay Kabira) a psychiatrist and frustrated entertainer who longs to star in Las Vegas (He has a great number “Dr. Dyson, the Perfect Psychiatrist” where he taps with Japanese wooden sandals) explains. At times clever cue cards are used. Or digital on screen dialogue is translated by two computer screens that try to keep up with the heated argument. You are never at a loss as to what is happening. And a lot is happening with fantastic sets (Yukio Horio) and elaborate inventive costumes (Hanako Kurosu) assisting.
“Talk Like Singing” is the first-ever original Japanese musical to premiere in the U.S. and will be running through November 22nd at New York University’s Skirball Center. If you are interested in musical theatre and are wondering how a troupe of four Japanese performers can bring to life the story of Tarlow (an exuberant Japanese Idol Shingo Katori, giving a zestful and tender performance) – a boy born with the inability to speak but with an innate love for music, song and dance enabling him to communicate with others, this is a must see event.
It is inventive. It is funny. It is delightful to listen to. It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. It is a vaudeville show. And it is a bit too long. Running almost two hours without an intermission, with over twenty songs some cuts would make this show enormously enjoyable instead of waiting around for the next highlight to come along. Of which there are many.
Tarlow is a taunted misfit, attempting to wend his way through life, happily singing and dancing. Without his music he cannot live. Dr. Dyson along with Psycholinguist Dr. Nimoy (a graceful and multi-talented Keiko Horiuchi) search to find the source of Tarlow’s “defect” so that he will be normal. They discover the problem: Tarlow has six musicians in his head – which literally come to life with the terrific band TRI4TH. How they fix the problem is one of the more outlandish cartoon aspects of the production which leads to at least three false endings for the show.
Of course there is a love connection between Tarlow and Dr. Nimoy that complicates matters and a fourth character (a madcap Shinya Niiro) playing a multitude of people. The main one being Brother who is an afro-wigged, platform-heeled disco Daddy. All four are wonderful to watch. The inevitable cure leaves Tarlow defeated and deflated.
In the end we are left with the moral: It is better to leave someone alone who is different but happy. Let him sing his songs and share his music with one and all. “Talk Like Singing” does just that. Arigatou. (Thank you) www.skirballcenter.nyu.edu