Japan’s Somber Scandal Meets Musical Melody
From October 14 to December 18, 2016, the political thriller musical BLOOD hit the stage of The Complex in Hollywood. The stage play was inspired by actual events that occurred in Japan in the 1980s and 1990s surrounding a tainted blood scandal in which 2,000 people died from AIDS after contaminated blood was knowingly sold by a company in the U.S. to Japan. The production received rave reviews during its spring 2016 premiere and the fall 2016 production did not disappoint.
The moment the spotlight hits a singing glam-rock storyteller, played by the talented and acclaimed bilingual actor Takaaki Hirakawa, the audience knows they are in for something different. Hirakawa appears as a cross between Brandon Lee in The Crow and a new member of KISS, and his stage presence is riveting. His striking appearance, facial expressions and singing and acting skills set the mood for the play as the audience becomes aware that they are not in for a simple dramatic stage play.
Written and directed by two-time Golden Globe and five-time Emmy Award nominee Robert Allan Ackerman, BLOOD starred Glenne Headly (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dick Tracy, Mr. Holland's Opus), James Kyson (NBC's Heroes, voted one of "Hollywood's 25 Hottest" by TV Guide), Rob Yang (The Americans, Twisted) and Michael Yama (Betty White's Off Their Rockers). The cast also featured Takaaki Hirakawa, Kazumi Aihara, Miho Ando, Takuma Anzai, Peter Chung, Andrew Dits, Anthony Gros, Tomoko Karina, Andrew Nakajima, Daryl L. Padilla and Shinichiro Shimizu. Glenne Headly starred as an American reporter who discovers a conspiracy to cover up the Japanese government-sanctioned sale of HIV-contaminated blood products, while Michael Yama played Dr. Kazama, a character based on the real-life Dr. Takeshi Abe who served as president of Japan's Aids Research Committee and the Hemophilia Society. James Kyson and Rob Yang alternated as a Korean-Japanese lawyer who heads up the investigation.
Ackerman, who has travelled quite a bit to Japan, has a no-holds-barred approach to his storytelling, confronting not only the political powers of Japan, but also racial discrimination faced by Koreans in Japan. BLOOD blends fact and fiction, alternating between dramatic storytelling with sometimes somber scenes and satirical song and dance numbers. The alternations between lampoon and drama succeeded in evoking both laughter and tears from the audience.