The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings







Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
A CurtainUp Review
Tokio Confidential

I am already dead. I could have traveled to the highest realm but
instead I remain in this one. I would like to
think it is my choice, but the Japanese would
probably say it is my unmei, my fate. No
matter. I felt I could be of more help by
staying here and telling you the story.

— Isabella
As we haven’t exactly been overexposed to musicals set in Japan such as Pacific Overtures and Shogun: The Musical, there is room for a commendably original and audaciously adventurous addition to that rather small canon by composer Eric Schorr. Aided by research funded by a Japan-United States Arts Program Fellowship from the Asian Cultural Council, and with characters based on both real and imaginary people, Schorr has found a provocative subject within the age-old art of tattooing the human body upon which to create a hair-raising (no pun intended) dramatic theme as well as to compose some graceful arias.

Tokio Confidential takes place at a time when tattooing has been outlawed by the emperor in an attempt to do away with certain customs that might make the Japanese appear less civilized to the western visitors who have begun to flock there following the “opening” of Japan by Admiral Perry. Although the edict curtailed the work of the artists in this field who were acutely aware that the tattoo had the power to transform the personality as well as one’s life, it was largely ignored by the criminal element in the society and by those who found ways to profit from it.

Inspired by the highly revered but also controversial artistry that involves covering the naked body in colored designs, Schorr has composed a purposely unsettling but nevertheless intriguing musical about Isabella (Jill Paice) an American Civil War-widow, who in 1879, not only becomes enraptured by the beauty of the Japanese prints she has seen, but also intrigued with the idea to be a living work of art by having her body used as a canvas. Slides and projections of portions of famous Japanese prints on sliding panels are used for beautiful visual effect throughout the musical (the design work of Darrel Maloney.)

Intrigued by the stories and the culture of Japan told to her by her deceased husband Ralph (Benjamin McHugh, who remains within the musical as a ghostly presence,) Isabella voyages to Tokio (the former spelling of Tokyo.) It is there that fate plays a hand in her future when she is befriended by Ernest (Jeff Kready), an unscrupulous American art historian newly appointed Commissioner of Fine Arts and Akira (Austin Ku) his Japanese lover. Schemers with an insidious plan afoot, they arrange for Isabella to meet Horiyoshi (Mel Maghuyop) the foremost tattoo artist of the time.

Horiyoshi has been searching for the right model on which to paint what he hopes to be his masterpiece. Despite their cultural differences, the attraction between Horiyoshi and Isabella is immediate and fuels a love story that moves forward, under the purposefully mannered direction of Johanna McKeon, in a sedate, highly stylized homage to the pretensions of the traditional Noh Theater.

Unaware of the diabolical villainy being plotted by Ernest and Akira, in cahoots with Horiyoshi’s mistress and former courtesan Sachiko (Manna Nichols), Isabella and Horiyoshi deepen their emotional and spiritual connection. Schorr’s consistently pleasing if not especially exciting flute-dominating score efficiently fills in the gaps in the spoken and generally commendable libretto. It is played by four discreetly hidden on-stage musicians.

Paice, who played Scarlett O’Hara in the London production of Gone With the Wind, and appeared prominently in The 39 Steps, Curtains and Woman in White on Broadway, sings radiantly and is unquestionably a lovely and captivating work of art in her own right. Maghuyop gives an impressive performance as the by-beauty-smitten Horiyoshi. Kready and Ku are convincingly dastardly as the devious pair Ernest and Akira. However, it is the emotion-drenched aria of regret “Looking Back Willow,” as dramatically sung by Nichols that is the musical’s most memorable musical moment.

Mike O’Carroll is very fine in the small but surprisingly not incidental role of General Grant. There is nothing incidental about the attractive costumes by Jacob A. Climer and mood-enhancing lighting by Joel Silver. An opportunity is not lost to include a sampling of Noh Theater with appropriate choreography by Tricia Brouk.

Apparently committed to embracing the pervasive subtleties and restraints that define its presentation, Tokio Confidential might ultimately have been more compelling and impressive if Schorr had written a score to match the danger and the daring of its two ill-fated lovers.

Tokio Confidential
Words and Music by Eric Schorr
Directed by Johanna McKeon

Cast: Jeff Kready (Ernest), Autin Ku (Akira), Mel Maghuyop (Horiyoshi), Benjamin McHugh (Ralph), Manna Nichols (Sachiko), Mike O’Carroll (Grant), Jill Paice (Isabella)
Scenic Design: David M. Barber
Costume Design: Jacob A. Climer
Lighting Design: Joel Silver
Sound Design: Carl Casella
Video/Projection Design: Darrel Maloney
Orchestrations: Zak Sandler
Music Direction: Mark Hartman
Running Time: 2 hours including intermission
Atlantic Theater Stage 2, 330 West 16th Street
(212) 279 – 4200
Tickets: $45.00
Performances: Wednesday – Saturday at 8 Pm with matinees on Saturdays and Sundays at 3 PM.
From: 02/05/12 Opening: 02/11/12 Closing: 02/19/12
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performances 02/09/12
Musical Numbers
Act One
  • "Restless Spirits" (Isabella, Ralph)
  • "Journey With Me" (Ralph & Isabella)
  • 'The Power Of Suggestion" (Ernest & Isabella)
  • "Are You Prepared For That?" (Horiyoshi & Company)
  • 'Indelible" (Isabella, Ralph, Ernest)
  • "Tale Of The Yoshiwara" (Horiyoshi, Sachiko)
  • "Shirting Ground" (Horiyoshi, Sachiko, Isabella)
  • "A Reluctant Soldier" (Grant, Ralph, Isabella)
  • "Magic Needles" (Isabella and Company)
Act Two
  • "Hototogisu" (Company)
  • "Draw The Line" (Horiyoshi, Isabella)
  • "The Jurisdiction of Affection" (Akira)
  • "At Sea" (Akira, Ernest)
  • "Ukiyo" (Horiyoshi)
  • "The Spider" (Isabella, Ernest)
  • "Beautiful Brevity" (Isabella, Horiyoshi)
Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Tokio Confidential
  • I disagree with the review of Tokio Confidential
  • The review made me eager to see Tokio Confidential
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email. . .also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

Visit Curtainup's Blog Annex
For a feed to reviews and features as they are posted add to your reader
Curtainup at Facebook . . . Curtainup at Twitter
Subscribe to our FREE email updates: E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message. If you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Anything Goes Cast Recording Anything Goes Cast Recording
Our review of the show

Book Of Mormon MP4 Book of Mormon -CD
Our review of the show

Slings & Arrows  cover of  new Blu-Ray cover
Slings & Arrows-the complete set

You don't have to be a Shakespeare aficionado to love all 21 episodes of this hilarious and moving Canadian TV series about a fictional Shakespeare Company


©Copyright 2012, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from