Masque – the Manga/Anime Connection

Wendy Pini’s lifelong love of Japanese culture – especially manga and anime – began when she was very young. The work of Osamu Tezuka became the inspiration for her drawing and storytelling style. Pini’s long-running comic book series “Elfquest,” is widely regarded as the first Japanese anime/manga influenced comic series in America.

Japan has always led the way in edgy, daring storytelling. But America is catching up. One passion Eastern and Western fans share equally is their love for the works of America’s most famous horror author and poet, Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe’s macabre short story “The Masque of the Red Death” is Wendy Pini’s favorite. She adapted and illustrated a 400-page graphic novel, a wildly imaginative expansion on Poe’s “Masque.” Pini realized that her futuristic version of the story, done in the romantic “Boys Love” (yaoi) style, would be perfect as a dramatic musical in the vein of “Sweeny Todd” or “Phantom of the Opera.”

Aimed at a teen to adult audience, “Masque of the Red Death – A Musical Thriller” is quite faithful in spirit to Poe. It is the tale of two beautiful young men – brilliant scientists – who invent a secret formula for immortality, only to have it fall into the wrong hands. The result is the spread of a hideous, bio-technical plague. Equal parts tragic love story, techno-thriller and cautionary tale, “Masque” is dedicated to all fans of gothic horror and romance.

Utilizing her theater background, her studies at SUNY New Paltz and The Actors Institute of NY, Wendy Pini wrote the book and lyrics for her musical adaptation of “Masque of the Red Death.” Her mentors were Steve Cuden, who wrote the original book and lyrics for the cult hit musical “Jekyll & Hyde,” and actor/singer/director Calvin Remsberg, known worldwide for his performances in “Sweeny Todd,” “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

Remsberg introduced Pini to the young star-in-the-making composer Gregory Nabours who performed a one-man show of his own compositions at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in November 2014. Nabours, winner of multiple awards including the 2013 Ovation Award for his own musical “The Trouble With Words,” immediately embraced the idea of composing a musical thriller based on Wendy Pini’s graphic novel.

The entire team behind the Masque musical are fans of Japanese theater based on famous manga/anime series such as “Black Butler” (Kuroshitsuji) and the spectaculars of the all-female Takarazuka Revue.

The new musical’s first industry reading, directed by Calvin Remsberg and featuring a Broadway-level cast, took place at The NoHo Arts Center in Hollywood on October 27th, 2014.

Wendy Pini feels in her soul that her love of all things Japanese – and all the invaluable artistic influences that have come to her from this great and ancient culture – will come full circle if, someday, there is a performance of “Masque of the Red Death – A Musical Thriller” on the Japanese stage.