Takarazuka: Scarlet Pimpernel

July 22nd, 2010

(I wasn’t going to do a review at all today, but what the heck, I’ll do this…)

I first encountered The Scarlet Pimpernel as a child, in Classic Illustrated form. Already familiar with closeted comic book heros, it fit right in with my usual reading habits. I liked it. I later ready the original novel by Baroness Orczy. Of course I watched the Leslie Howard version of the movie and, yes, I’ve seen the Anthony Andrews version (with Jane Seymour and Ian McKellen!). So when they made a Broadway musical of the story, I was sure I was the target audience. My wife, her sister and I went to see it on Broadway. As we walked out of the theater not a single one of us could remember a single note of a single song. It wasn’t bad or anything, just completely forgettable.

A decade later, I’m buying Takarazuka videos in Tokyo and there’s The Scarlet Pimpernel musical again – only this time it has Aran Kei, so there was no question whether I was going to buy it or not. :-)

I gotta tell you – the music is still utterly forgettable.

So much so that I’m rewatching the second half because I can’t think of a single thing to say about this DVD.

Now that I am rewatching it, I am reminded that Percy’s outfits are totally pimpin’. I mean, like white tiger stripes or baby pink with gold waistcoat.

The biggest downer is that I really don’t think Aran and her leading lady Toono Asuka have any energy together. In fact, I kind of think Toono really didn’t live up to her star billing. She just never seemed to be on the notes quite.

Even the Review portion was pretty much like every Review ever, in the same way that this musical was like ever musical ever.

The only character who really had any oomph was Chauvelin, but who wouldn’t like playing a sexy-in-black eye-rolling member of the “Committee of Public Safety, ambassador extraordinaire and plenipotentiary of the French Revolutionary government to the Court of St James?”  To top it off, Reon Yuzuki has a nice voice – she has that burry quality that I like so much.

Other than the clothes, this wasn’t really inspiring in any way. And the clothes weren’t so much inspiring as…amusing.

But have no fear – I have like 4 other DVD to watch (including Phoenix Wright, during which I will undoubtedly miss all the in-jokes, as I’ve never played the game. ^_^) I have no doubt at least one of them will be squee-worthy!

Overall – 6

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7 Responses

  1. Jenn2d2 says:

    Ah, that makes me so sad! I love the Scarlet Pimpernel (in pretty much every form absorbed), so ‘forgettable’ is possibly even more damning than just ‘bad.’ I can’t imagine that story without memorable, heart-swelling moments.

  2. Cryssoberyl says:

    The Anthony Andrews movie is an old favorite of mine, but I have ambiguous feelings about it because it’s vastly more dramatic and exciting than the actual book, and since I watched the movie before I read the book, the book was rather disappointing because of it.

  3. @Cryssoberyl – Agreed, but I was the other way around. I had read the book years ago and though they added/changed too much and dragged it out.

  4. Alex says:

    I have to disagree with you. The songs like “Madame Guillotine”, or “Where’s the Girl” are in no way forgettable. They were good in the original version, but Chie is also the most awesome Chauvelin I have ever seen.
    Percy’s character is a bit boring, but Graphin made me squee. Touko is a master of improvisations, after all… I hear that every single time she had done something differently.

    I’m not quite sure, though, which version of the musical I prefer. This one lacked some of the humor of the original, I didn’t care about how they translated and cut some of the songs, how they changed the plot line ever so slightly, and in The Riddle a greater voice range is so much better, but… meh, it was pretty. And they did have a sword dance in the end.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Bother. This is Michiru42 posting–for some reason LJ isn’t letting me post under my name, so I’m going Anon.

    I’m surprised you’re reviewing Takarazuka. I’m a fan and I love it, but from what I’ve read in your blog, everything you’ve said about Takarazuka is pretty much negative; you don’t seem to like it, the way it’s run, the way the ‘ziennes are split into male/female roles. If revue and musicals blend together for you (“like every musical ever” “like every revue ever”) why are you reviewing them at all?

    Please don’t mistake me, Erika, I’m a fan of your reviews, and I like the stuff you write, and I totally respect your right to not like something. But I don’t understand why you’d keep watching something you seem to be so persistently negative on.

    (And for the record, I do disagree on the music, too. I love “Madame Guillotine” and “I’ll Forget You” :) I love this musical in general, as well as Zuka as a whole.)

  6. Anonymous says:

    Michiru42 here again. It seems I made a mistake. I looked back through your older posts–including your more positive one of Aran Kei in Singin’ in the Rain and the 2005 Elisabeth, and I see now why you watch. I guess you just haven’t seen anything that’s impressed you since then.

    I’d read your review of the “Dream Girls” documentary (which was a terrible, skewed piece of propaganda), your negative review of “Gubijin” and various negative comparisons here and there in reviews where you talk with obvious distaste about the male/female roles given, and thought wrongly. Sorry for the misunderstanding. If you want more plays like “Elisabeth”, or more good Aran Kei roles, I’ll be happy to suggest some.

  7. @michiru42 – Well, I think you still kind of don’t understand why I watch Takarazuka. :) And I’m pretty sure I have never expressed displeasure about the gender roles except insofar as they reflect the institutionalized sexism of Japan. (And that was in the context of Dream Girls, in which they really focused on it, not in a larger context in which, frankly, I don’t much care.)

    If you’ve read that in my posts, you’re reading way too much into whatever I wrote.

    I watch things – all things – because I either feel it will entertain me…or for some other reason.

    I like Takarazuka because I find it amusing. I *don’t* feel I have to love every performance with a blinding love. Some will be better than others.

    I’ve seen about a dozen performances on DVD, two live and of them only three have been rewatchably good for me. I’m okay with that – and willing to watch more.

    I’m not a FAN, I’m like watching them from time to time. That frees me up from having to care much whether I think the DVD was good or bad.

    You are a FAN, I gather. I’m sorry – I don’t love anything with that kind of fervor, except my wife. Even those things I am passionate about, I can see that some other people might not feel that way – and it doesn’t really affect my like if they do. I’m sorry my dislike of the Scarlet Pimpernel affected you. I didn’t like much on Broadway. I didn’t expect much here. It was fun to watch, just not memorable.

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