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Archive for the ‘Theatre’ Category

For fans of Sherlock Holmes, I wrote a guest post on Have You Nerd? about Vicious and Vulgar, a play about fandom, fanworks, and “Femlock”:

Photo credit: Shawn Baker. Used with permission.

Photo credit: Shawn Baker. Used with permission.

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Image from Toho Stage

どんなに強く拒んでみせてもいつか俺を求める
No matter how fiercely you reject me, one day you’ll seek me out

I’ve written before about Elisabeth, my favorite musical when I saw it at the Imperial Theatre in Sept. 2010. That review was primarily a review of that run of the show and its actors since Elisabeth is an incredibly dense work with 20 years’ and multiple countries’ worth of shows; I’m convinced one could write several dissertations on any of the facets of the show, which is why I love it: it provides both the pleasure of consuming and the pleasure of producing analyses.

This year, I decided again to travel to Tokyo to see the 2012 Toho run show because, in addition to the excellent Sena Jun reprising her role as Elisabeth in a double cast with Haruno Sumire (my first Takarazuka love!), Toho brought on Hungarian actor Máté Kamarás for the role of der Tod, whom he had played in the Vienna revival run. Given my unenthusiastic feelings on Yamaguchi Yuichiro’s interpretation of the role, I was thrilled to be able to see an actor I actually knew I liked as der Tod on stage.1

Warning: this review has spoilers for Elisabeth the Musical as well as discussions of the musical’s themes of depression and suicide.

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While in Tokyo, I decided to have a look inside the bookstore by the Takarazuka-An in Yurakucho and I stumbled upon vol. 2 of Haruna Lemon’s Zucca x Zuca on the “new manga” shelf with a staff recommendation. I can’t tell you how surprised I was to see a manga created by an self-professed “Zuka-Ota” (ヅカヲタ, Takarazuka otaku) about the fandom. Of course manga-ka have written otokoyaku-like characters into their manga before: Oscar de Jarjeyes in Berubara, Haruka/Sailor Uranus in Sailor Moon, the Zuka Club in Ouran High School Host Club (jokingly)–but a manga about fan-life was something I’d never seen, so I bought volume 1 and was not disappointed!

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Inspired by my tour of Matsumoto Castle in Nagano, I decided to go to Himeji Castle at the end of my spring vacation. While touring the castle, which is under renovation till 2015, was quite interesting, I actually had more fun going to the Takarazuka exhibit at the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History nearby. I wouldn’t have even known about the exhibit if I hadn’t seen fliers for it in the train station, so it must have been fate!

Photography was allowed at the exhibit, so I’ve included some of the highlights here.

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Photo from the Asahi Shimbun.

I’ve been a Hanagumi and Tsukigumi fan from the start of my experiences with Takarazuka, but this year it seems like I keep ending up at Soragumi shows. I started this year with Soragumi (Casablanca, 『カサブランカ』) and I ended it with Soragumi (For Whom the Bell Tolls,『誰がために鐘は鳴る』). Even though I didn’t have feelings one way or the other about the group when I rang in the new year, I did remember how much I had liked the top star, Oozora Yuuhi (大空祐飛), in Tsukigumi’s Rome at Dawn (『暁のローマ』). Rome at Dawn is a rock opera based on Julius Caesar, and, despite being a strange (but loveable) show, it was a showcase of rising stars. I don’t know why, but most of the named roles ended up doing well for themselves in the theatre. Hiromu Kiriya (霧矢大夢), who played Antonius, became the top star of Tsukigumi after Sena Jun left, and I came to really like her. The other person who had really impressed me in that show was Yuuhi in the role of Cassius.

Photo from Sumire Style. Antonius (Hiromu Kiriya), left, vs. Cassius (Oozora Yuuhi) and Brutus (Sena Jun), right.

Yuuhi’s charm point, as I learned, is that her stage personality is the definition of 渋い. There’s not really a single good word for this in English—it can mean cold, astringent, or aloof—but, in the case of acting, one could sum it up as “Humphrey Bogart.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but Yuuhi is almost always cast in these kind of roles, probably because she’s so good at it. She was the perfect choice for Rick in Casablanca; she played a perfectly stoic Horatio Nelson in Trafalgar (『トラファルガー』); and, in the last play I went to see, she played Robert Jordan in For Whom the Bell Tolls with the same kind of 渋さ I’ve come to expect. (more…)

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Elisabeth the Musical
帝国劇団 (Imperial Theatre, Tokyo)
Sept. 23, 5:30 pm

Starring Sena Jun (瀬奈じゅん) as Elisabeth, Yamaguchi Yuichiro (山口祐一郎) as der Tod, Ishikawa Zen (石川 禅) as Franz Joseph, Irei Kanata (伊礼彼方) as Rudolph, Takashima Mashiro (髙嶋政宏) as Luigi Lucheni, and Kotobuki Hizuru (寿 ひずる) as Sophie.*

The Story
The musical begins in the land of the dead, in which Luigi Lucheni, an Italian anarchist, has been resurrected to explain why he murdered the Empress Elisabeth of Austro-Hungary. He replies that he’s explained over and over—un grand amore! She was in love with Death, he claims. She wanted to die! And so, to give his testimony, Lucheni resurrects the Hapsburgs to illustrate his story: Elisabeth, her husband Franz-Joseph, her son Rudolph, her mother-in-law Sophie—and the key witness: der Tod, the king of the dead. The musical follows Elisabeth’s life from the fall that sent her to the land of the dead, where der Tod falls in love with her, to her troubled marriage with Franz, to Rudolph’s revolutionary activities, and eventually, to the fall of the Hapsburg empire and Elisabeth’s assassination.

Although Elisabeth has been performed for over 20 years, those not wanting spoilers about the details of the show should stop reading here.

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