Well, I just got back from the Takarazuka Revue, and man, what an experience. I went into it not really knowing what to expect, and was still surprised by what met me. First of all, the Japanese Takarazuka fans take the concept of ‘fan’ to a whole new level. It was like a feeding frenzy inside the gift shop, and, I might mention, even that you had to show you’re ticket to get into. It was all very high profile and fancy, what with the piano just inside the doors, the red carpets going up the stairs, and the massive crystal chandelier hanging two stories that threatened to blind you if looked at too closely.
The shop was, as I mentioned, packed with people, and besides the things I had expected to find on sale within (DVDs, Cds, phonestraps, pictures and posters), there were also year calendars highlighting your favorite star, blotting paper with promo pictures of the currently running show, strange handkerchiefs like you make from a kit that had scenes of shows played out on it side-by-side with other handkerchiefs made (coincidentally?) by a company started by some of the actresses. There was even a Takarazuka Hello Kitty that, if it had been instantly recognizable as Takarazuka (say, with the frighteningly outrageous makeup), I would certainly have bought. Throughout the whole shopping bit of it, I only had to marvel at how Japan seems to be the land of expensive hobbies, and Takarazuka is just one more cash cow (1 DVD costing over $100!).
After carefully removing myself from the shop, show pamphlet in hand, my host parents and I went up to the 4th (which they said was the 2nd) floor and took our seats, and soon after, the show began. It was on a grander scale than I ever could have hoped to imagine. At home, we have a rather large, nice theater where big shows come through, but this one put that to shame. I can only imagine comparing it to a real Broadway show, as it had a rotating stage, out of which two one-storey tall rooms could be raised, endless floating panels, the whole nine yards. As the play was Casablanca, the rotating stage was a circular set of Rick’s Café Americain’s front, the inside, the hidden back room for gambling, and then a raised area in between, so that, when the stage started moving, an actress could run into the Café, through the dining room and into the back room, all without breaking a step. Even the backgrounds were astounding. For example, the scene when Ilsa gets on the plane at the end, they had a remarkably lifelike CGI video of a plane driving forward projected onto the white backdrop boards, and then it came to a stop so that the door on the CGI plane was actually a door in the wall. It was very creative and clever. And they had a real, old timey car they drove on stage.
Of course, being Takarazuka, it was a cast of all women, so that even Rick was portrayed by a girl with a deep voice, and such an invention is very truly only to be found in Japan. Even so, the plays that Takarazuka usually perform focus on Western stories (Hamlet, the Rose of Versailles, Elizabeth), and failing that, they at least are usually set somewhere outside of Japan, and at a different time, so that you’re hard put to find an actress with straight, black hair. The play was good, if a little long, and, full well knowing that they were all women, I still caught myself at times forgetting that completely; some of them acted so like men. And is the custom, after the play was over, the digital plane in the distance and Rick walking off, singing, on a stage shrouded in fog from the smoke machines, the Revue part started. Which to me is strange and hardly fits in with the rest of the experience. It reminds me of those odd bits in the old classic musicals, like Singin’ in the Rain, the one song and dance that just didn’t seem to fit, that seemed to be an attempt at avant guarde. But regardless, the Revue itself was like a mix of Cabaret and I don’t know what, with flashy, sparkly, puffy outfits, choreographed dances done by large groups, and songs that mostly consisted of Reprises of the songs during the play. And then, at the end, when everyone came out for the finale, the greatest sight of all appeared before my eyes. Almost impossible to believe, the lead Otoko-yaku actress came out, dressed in a suit because she’s always the male protagonist, but with, and I kid you not, 300 or more peacock feathers nestled into what must have been two ostriches worth of ostrich feathers. The effect was like that of a disgruntled ostrich, with all his heckles up, only times two. How she even walked in it, I can’t imagine.