Pokémon Live! was a musical stage show that toured the United States on September 22, 2000 to January 19, 2001. Plans for some 2002 performances in the United Kingdom were also made, but later canceled. Despite that, Pokémon Live! was invited to perform in Dubai, U.A.E. at Al Mamzar Park in the duration of March 2001, coinciding with the annual Dubai Shopping Festival. The musical was based on the Pokémon anime series, using similar characters, clothing, and story elements. Approximately 90 minutes in length, it told the story of Ash Ketchum, Misty and Brock as they travel to a contest to win the much sought-after Diamond Badge. The event turns out to be part of a plan by the evil organization Team Rocket and its diabolic leader Giovanni to take over the world. The music of the show consisted of songs previously released on the Pokémon anime soundtracks Pokémon 2BA Master and Totally Pokémon, as well as new songs.
The show was successful, but it was largely ignored by critics. It has never received a video release, even though Pokémon's official site contained a statement for quite some time implying that such a release would appear. A cast recording CD of the show, however, had a limited release.
A Portuguese version of the show, produced by television company SIC, was performed from March 21 to March 27, 2002 at the Pavilhão Atlântico in Lisbon. Amateur video clips of one of these performances, made by someone who attended the show, were released on YouTube in June 2008. Since 2013, they have all been deleted. A Dutch adaptation of the musical was performed on April 6 and 7, 2002, at the Sportpaleis in Belgium.
A video of the original tour was uploaded to YouTube in January 2012 by Chris Mitchell, the Production Stage Manager for the tour. It is broken into seven parts: Pokémon Live! Part 01 of 07, Pokémon Live! 02 of 07, etc.
The following synopsis is based on videos of the show as provided by the production manager, Chris Mitchell, and the script he provided to pocketmonsters.net.
The story begins with a shadowed Giovanni challenging all Pokémon Trainers to win the one-of-a-kind Diamond Badge by defeating him and his Pokémon in a battle. Ash declines to joining his mother Delia, and Professor Oak to a lecture on sleep disorders among Snorlax, because he has decided to accept the mysterious Gym Leader's challenge. As he prepares for the journey, Misty chastises him for not taking her to the movies for her birthday as promised three weeks ago. Ash promises to make it up to her somehow, but adds that Pokémon are his friends too ("You and Me and Pokémon"). Together with Brock, Ash and Misty head off for the Gym using a map downloaded from the Diamond Badge website.
Meanwhile, Jessie, James, and Meowth get a call from Giovanni ordering them to arrive at his headquarters. When they arrive, he gloats about his ultimate creation, MechaMew2. The mechanical monster—based on the powerful Mewtwo he had late in the anime's first season and Pokémon: The First Movie—will soon be unstoppable ("It Will All Be Mine"). He orders Team Rocket to capture Ash's Pikachu, because it has Thundershock and Thunder, two techniques that MechaMew2 doesn't have. They promise to do as he says. Soon, several trainers face off against MechaMew2, which copies the attack of its challengers and uses it against them to defeat them. Among the moves it learns is Self Destruct, which it is not ordered to return as doing so would destroy it. Giovanni praises his mechanical Pokémon and gloats that as soon as it learns every Pokémon's attack, nothing will stand in his way ("It Will All Be Mine (Reprise)").
The Rockets rushes to the forest and dig a pitfall trap for the "twerps" to fall into, but the heroes walk right over it without incident because the Rockets forgot to remove the supports. To their misfortune, Jessie and James only realize the cause when they pull out the supports and fall into their own trap, leaving a frustrated Meowth to run off for rope to pull them out. While Brock chases cute girls and Misty laments that Ash is ignoring her in favor of his Pokémon, Ash tells his friends that he wants them to travel together forever ("My Best Friends").
In the meantime, Delia and Professor Oak approach the old, run-down building where the Snorlax lecture is supposed to be held. After Delia confesses that she feels that she is losing touch with her son, the Professor reassures her by saying that things never stay the same for long ("Everything Changes"). Suddenly, several Rocket Grunts rush out of the shadows and surround them, and Giovanni says that the lecture was a trap to lure Professor Oak to them. When the Boss also recognizes Delia, she insists that anything between them was in the past, to which he says that some things don't have to change. Giovanni orders the Rocket Grunts to take Delia and Oak to an (offstage) helicopter and to his headquarters, where they'll witness something that will change the world forever ("Everything Changes (Reprise 1)").
In the forest, the heroes are lost and alone after Brock earlier threw the map in the river while asking a female trainer for directions. They try getting help from a deaf trainer, who agrees to share his map on the condition that he and the "guy with the funny smile" have a battle first. Ash agrees to this, but the deaf trainer sends out Jigglypuff, who instantly starts singing and puts everyone but its trainer to sleep. In spite of this, the deaf trainer leaves his map with the heroes as Jigglypuff draws on their faces. Afterwards, Misty wakes up and starts wiping Jigglypuff's marks off of Ash's face while singing about her secret feelings for him and her fear of rejection ("Misty's Song"). Ash and Brock soon wake up as well, with the former wondering aloud who was singing just now. Misty claims the song to have been an effect of Jigglypuff's song, and the heroes continue on to the next part of the path.
Meanwhile, Meowth gets Jessie and James—who have also fallen asleep from Jigglypuff's song—out of the pit while complaining about their incompetence. Realizing that Meowth is right, Jessie and James lament their status as failures. Meowth cheers them up by telling them that being failures is something at which they're successful ("The Best at Being the Worst"). With that, the Rockets set out to find Pikachu again. Using their Magikarp submarine, they manage to catch up with the trainers at Cerulean Blue Lagoon, where Ash declares that he's going to use Pikachu against the gym leader ("Pikachu (I Choose You)"). While the kids get caught up in the song, Team Rocket captures Pikachu when he dances near them. By the time Ash realizes Pikachu is missing, Team Rocket is long gone.
After an intermission segment in which Ash's Pokédex Dexter explains his important contribution to Ash's continuing success and gathers data from the audience ("What Kind of Pokémon Are You?"), the heroes return to the forest. Ash is positive that his favorite Pokémon has once again been kidnapped by Team Rocket. Misty, apparently still upset about being ignored on her birthday, suggests that maybe Pikachu has just left Ash of his own will because of the trainer's new habit of ignoring his friends. She runs after Brock, leaving Ash to ponder her words and worry that Pikachu did leave on his own. Ash bids an emotional farewell to Pikachu ("The Time Has Come").
At the Gym, Delia and Professor Oak are in the battle arena and locked inside giant cages. Oak asks Delia why the Boss recognized her. She explains that Giovanni is an old boyfriend from when she was a teenager and used to hang out with a bad crowd, which she put behind her when she met Ash's father. She never told this to Ash, fearing that he would not understand. Delia came to hate Giovanni, which he arrives just in time to hear. Realizing Delia has changed, Giovanni tells them that they're here to witness the final battle, as the only attacks left to be learned are Pikachu's electric moves ("You and Me and Pokémon (Reprise)"). Immediately after, the Rockets arrive with the captured Pikachu ("Double Trouble"). Giovanni orders them to battle MechaMew2 using Pikachu. They attempt to command Pikachu, but Pikachu shocks the Rockets instead, knocking them into the cages and allowing Oak and Delia to escape. Giovanni is unconcerned with his prisoners' escape. He realizes that Pikachu's trainer is necessary to make it battle, so he orders Jessie, James, and Meowth to bring Ash to him. They agree and set off to capture Ash ("Double Trouble (Reprise)").
Meanwhile, as she and Brock search fruitlessly for Pikachu, Misty admits that she just wanted Ash to realize that he's alienating his friends—specifically, her. Brock realizes Misty really likes Ash, and Misty denies it by saying Brock wouldn't know anything about liking someone—after all, he's always chasing Nurse Joy and Officer Jenny ("Two Perfect Girls").
Not far away, Delia and Professor Oak continue their discussion about her past and conflict over whether or not to tell it to Ash. Meanwhile, Misty continues to lament over her feelings for Ash. Elsewhere, Ash tells himself that he may have to go on without Pikachu, even if it hurts ("I've Got a Secret"). Soon, all five of them converge in the forest. Delia tells Ash that Giovanni has Pikachu in his hideout and that Team Rocket kidnapped him. Ash is furious, determined to get his Pokémon back and win the Diamond Badge. Before he can leave, Delia tells Ash of her past with Giovanni. Ash is shocked by the news and is in a hurry to leave. Suddenly, Jessie and James appear on scooters, ordering Ash to come with them. The team is utterly shocked when Ash agrees to join them without a fight. The others try to follow, but Meowth says Giovanni only wanted Ash. As Ash and Team Rocket leave, Delia laments that she gave Ash even more of a reason to confront Giovanni. ("Everything Changes (Reprise 2)").
At his headquarters, Giovanni tells MechaMew2 that soon, their conquest of the world will begin. Ash runs in and demands that his Pikachu be returned. When Giovanni hears his surname and realizes he's Delia's son, Ash is angered and tells him to leave his mother out of this. Jessie and James enter announcing their capture of Ash, missing that he had already entered the arena, and celebrate having done two things correctly in one day. The Boss grows annoyed with them and orders them to leave, and they crash their scooters upon exiting. Joyfully reunited with Pikachu, Ash prepares to battle Giovanni and is shocked when he reveals himself to be the Gym Leader from the commercial. Giovanni mockingly gives Ash the Diamond Badge, saying he'll retrieve it after Ash loses.
Ash orders Pikachu to Thundershock, then Thunder MechaMew2, but the attacks do not affect it. MechaMew2 then returns the attacks, rendering Pikachu unable to battle. With that, Giovanni proclaims his victory because his Pokémon has now learned every single attack. Undaunted, Ash engages the Boss in a fistfight ("You Just Can't Win"). Tiring of the scuffle, Giovanni orders MechaMew2 to attack Ash with Hyper Beam, but Mewtwo appears to save Ash with a forcefield. He then attacks MechaMew2 with a collection of Ash's happy memories, love for Pokémon, and Misty. MechaMew2 speaks for the first time and rebels against Giovanni, revealing that it learned about love and goodness from Ash. Recognizing that Giovanni is evil, MechaMew2 feels it must stop his plans no matter the cost. MechaMew2 puts Giovanni in a headlock and prepares to Selfdestruct, telling Mewtwo to take an unconscious Ash somewhere safe. Mewtwo exits with Ash and Pikachu, but not before explaining to Giovanni that Ash was the one who defeated MechaMew2. Giovanni breaks free of MechaMew2's grip and runs just before it blows up.
In the forest, Ash's friends ask for an explanation of the recent events, but Ash can't remember Mewtwo's sudden appearance or how the battle ended. He does, however, understand that his mom is still his mom, and he loves her regardless of her past. Reaching into his pocket, Ash pulls out the Diamond Badge, saying that he must have won it after all. He gives the badge to Misty as her birthday present while everybody else celebrates his triumph ("Finale"). Just before curtain call, the entire human and Pokémon cast appear and dance, including Giovanni.
Most of the musical numbers are remakes of songs previously released on the soundtracks Pokémon 2BA Master and Totally Pokémon. Four songs, “It Will All Be Mine”, “The Best at Being the Worst”, “I've Got a Secret”, and “You Just Can't Win”, are original songs. “Finale” is a fusion of “You & Me & Pokémon” and “My Best Friends”.
Of the cast, several members have reached stardom in their own right on the Broadway stage. Rannells played Link Larkin in the Broadway production of Hairspray, while Kling had a brief reunion with Rannells. Dennis Kenney performed the Role of the Grinch in the Musical How the Grinch Stole Christmas at Madison Square Garden. Nolfi and Rannells have been part of the cast of Jersey Boys on Broadway, while Roscoli has also performed on the Broadway stage (as well as floated above it) as Elphaba in Wicked not only in New York, but in Chicago and on tour as well. In 2011, Rannells was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical for his role in The Book of Mormon. In 2013, Patrick Frankfort married Wicked's Elphaba understudy, as well as Chicago's original Elphaba actress Kristy Cates.
The play received negative reception from critics. Little Review said "Maybe it's different in Japan, but it's hard to imagine a Japanese version of Pokémon Live!. This show may be based on televised anime, but its antecedents lie in American musicals from The King and I to Annie to The Lion King, with the Solid Gold Dancers and the Backstreet Boys mixed in. If you have a rudimentary knowledge of Pokémon and an enthusiastic underage companion, you'll find that you're having a good time even as your eyes roll towards the projection of Haunter on the ceiling."