Show History



Bookwriter John Weidman got the idea for the show while in college, where he studied Asian history. It was originally a play, but when director Harold Prince read it, he suggested turning it into a musical with Stephen Sondheim. Prince and the authors flew to Japan on several occasions to study Japanese culture and theatre -- of which Sondheim and Prince knew little -- and returned with the basis for a uniquely-conceived work of art commenting on "progress" and its effects on the individual and society.


Pacific Overtures previewed in Boston and then ran at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. for a month before opening on Broadway at the Winter Garden Theatre on January 11, 1976. It closed after 193 performances on June 27, 1976. Directed by Harold Prince, the choreography was by Patricia Birch, scenic design by Boris Aronson, costume design by Florence Klotz, and lighting design by Tharon Musser. The original cast included Mako as the Reciter, Sab Shimono as Manjiro, Isao Sato as Kayama and Gedde Watanabe as the Priest/Boy in "Someone in a Tree."

Pacific Overtures was revived off-Broadway in 1984 with a partially European cast, and underwent a few revisions by the authors. The English National Opera also presented a European-cast version, which was very successful.

A critically acclaimed 2001 Chicago Shakespeare Theater production, directed by Gary Griffin, transferred to the West End s Donmar Warehouse, where it ran from June 30, 2003 until September 6, 2003.

A Broadway revival ran at Studio 54 from December 2, 2004 to January 30, 2005, directed by Amon Miyamoto and starring several members of the original cast and B.D. Wong as the Narrator.

Cultural Influence

  • The original cast recording was first released by RCA Records in 1976.
  • The original Broadway production was filmed and broadcast on Japanese television in 1976.
  • The English National Opera production was recorded in full -- scenes and all -- by John Yap of That's Entertainment Records. A highlights version is also available of that recording. The score has since entered the repertoire of several prominent opera companies.
  • A new Broadway recording of Pacific Overtures, with new (reduced) orchestrations by orchestrator Jonathan Tunick, was released by PS Classics on May 10, 2005. This recording featured additional material not included on the original cast album.


  • Pacific Overtures was the fourth outing for composer/lyricist Stephen Sondheim and director Harold Prince, and by far their most daring.
  • Sondheim has been quoted as saying "Someone in a Tree" is one of the best things he has ever written. Furthermore, Prince and others believe that "A Bowler Hat" is one of the most perfect moments in musical theatre ever written.
  • The original Broadway production was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, and won Best Scenic Design (Boris Aronson) and Best Costume Design (Florence Klotz).
  • The London production in 2004 was nominated for 7 Olivier Awards, winning Best Theatre Choreographer and best Lighting Design in addition to Outstanding Musical Production.
  • The Broadway revival was nominated for 5 Tony Awards in 2005. 
  • Harold Prince has won more Tony Awards than anyone else (20): eight for directing, eight for producing, two as producer of the year's Best Musical, and two special Tony Awards.
  • Pacific Overtures played in New York City four times: the original 1976 production, and three revivals: 1984 (The York Theatre, which transferred to the Promenade), 2002 (Lincoln Center - in Japanese!) and 2004 (Roundabout Theatre at Studio 54).