New leads keep tradition alive for Johnny’s idol show ‘Dream Boys’

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Johnny & Associates, Inc., in Akasaka, Minato Ward, Tokyo, 2021.

“Dream Boys,” a musical showcase for members of idol groups managed by major entertainment agency Johnny & Associates, Inc., is set to return this year for a run at the Imperial Theatre in Tokyo’s Yurakucho district from Sept. 6-29, this time starring 26-year-old Fuma Kikuchi from the boy band Sexy Zone.

The story about aspiring young boxers — as well as its message on the bonds of friendship and the impassioned pursuit of one’s dreams — has become a perennial fan favorite for its powerful dance and acrobatic performances combined with boxing moves.

Kikuchi will play the role of a young man who gave up on a boxing career for a certain reason. The role of his rival, Champ, will be performed by Juri Tanaka, a 26-year-old member of SixTONES, another popular Johnny’s boy group.

Kikuchi and Tanaka joined the talent agency almost at the same time. In real life, a friendly rivalry has propelled the duo to their current stardom, as they have been inspired by each other’s achievements. The upcoming musical is poised to give audiences a peek into their bond, both onstage and off.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Kikuchi and Tanaka.


Q: How did you feel when you were cast for your roles in the musical?

Kikuchi: Frankly, I was surprised. The two of us hadn’t performed together much since we made our debut. [Tanaka] has appeared in my concerts after I asked him to, but otherwise, we’ve rarely performed together. So it means a lot to me and I felt really happy about the pairing.

Tanaka: I had dreamed of playing the role of Champ ever since I first saw the show as part of the audience, so I was super stoked. I believe something special will happen when Fuma and I work together. But yeah, I feel sort of shy [performing in front of him] sometimes, though.

Q: This is a longstanding production that’s come to be regarded as a Johnny’s tradition, right?

Kikuchi: Mr. [Hideaki] Takizawa, Mr. [Kazuya] Kamenashi and other high-profile Johnny’s members have all played the leading role, so I thought, “Finally, I’m on the high road!” But seriously, I’m happy about it, but there’s also pressure. It’s been another chance to feel the tradition and culture at Johnny’s.

Q: What unique qualities do you think you will bring to the role?

Kikuchi: The two of us were called “naughty boys” by [the late president] Mr. Johnny [Kitagawa]. I think there’s a certain atmosphere and vibe that only these “naughty boys” can create. I think the character of Champ was flashier in past shows, while I’m going for a quieter character with a hidden fire burning inside his heart. I want to add our own colors to the characters, creating new images. That’s a challenge I want to take on.

Tanaka: I saw the previous production starring [King & Prince members Yuta] Kishi and [Yuta] Jinguji on video and started thinking about how we might play the roles. I thought maybe the characters would become something more manly, like with a visceral, sweaty smell. I want to tackle the challenge in a way that lets people feel what makes us distinct. I want to play the characters in a way that only we can, as there must be a reason why we were specifically chosen for the roles. Fuma is a passionate guy. There must be something new that only he [can bring to the role]. As for me, I think my appearance, nature and other aspects tie into the character I play. I think it might be easy for people to see me as Champ.

Q: The two of you joined the company almost at the same time. How do you view each other?

Tanaka: Fuma is an open book; that’s just the way he is. He’s not showy or trying to project a certain image. Well, maybe you could say he’s not good at playing the stereotypical idol. [Laughs]

Kikuchi: Juri is the same. He’s crazy, in a good way. I hope he’ll be able to fully showcase those other sides of him that can’t always be seen in his group activities.

Tanaka: I think Fuma used to be passive in some ways, but that has changed. It seems he’s become able to express himself about his concert performances and other matters, saying things like, “If I do it this way, the performance will become better.” We grew up together at Johnny’s. We went to rehearsals together after school, and it was a lot of fun. It feels like we were also schoolmates.

Kikuchi: When we were still underlings at Johnny’s, we were surrounded by many older members. We were often the youngest people in the room. Under the circumstances, [Juri] had something of a free-spirited image. But he has come to be a leader. I’m impressed to see a person like my friend become a little more mature. I hope we will achieve something together as a gesture of our gratitude [for fans and those around us]. I want to create a show that will turn out to be five or ten times better than I imagined and eventually become legendary.