Of all the things I did in Tokyo last week, perhaps most memorable was attending another Takarazuka show. But first, I absolutely *must* disclaimer this review. WARNING: If you love Takarazuka and take it very seriously, avoid this review like the plague. Thank you.
My beloved C.O., Ana Moreno invited me along on a fact-finding mission to Takarazuka. She and Nogami Takeshi-sensei were studying Takarazuka fans for an upcoming strip in their comic, Marine Corps Yumi. We were accompanied by Nogami-sensei’s friend Tachibana-san, who is a serious fan (but not too serious. In fact, Tachibana-san was absolutely adorable and very patient with us, as you will see) and Bruce. The 5 of us made an unconventional group as we took our seats.
The show we saw, Hakushaku no Reijou (伯爵令嬢), starred Snow Troupe top stars, Sagiri Seina, who is an up and coming young star and Saki Miyu, who was everything you could ever want in a top female lead. For a small taste (and the first problem we encountered) check out this commercial for the show.
One of the very first things I mentioned to Ana as we waited for Nogami-sensei and Tachibana-san, was the propensity for Takarazuka songs to overuse the word “love” in excessive ways. “Je t’aime!” I exclaimed, “Ai!” and “Love!” are whole songs that go on forever.”
The performance was held in the secondary theater, rather than the main Takarazuka Tokyo Theater. It was magnificently ugly .
The ceiling was a thing of wonder. I tried to get a shot of the walls, but that didn’t work.
So, we sit down and we learn that Hakushaku no Reijou is based on a twelve-volume manga from the 70s.
Almost immediately, Ana and I realized we should never, ever sit next to each other. Every time the show wallowed in a shoujo manga trope, we punched each other. The punching started immediately. ^_^
In the West of France (punch), at an orphanage (punch), blonde-haired, be-ribboned Corinne (punch) who is in love with a blind boy, Richard (say it Frenchly with a soft “ch”, i.e, Ree-shard) (punch) meets the selfish landowner who wants to close the orphanage (punch). Corinne slaps him and he falls in love (punch and so on throughout the perfomance).
This was the first 5 minutes of the show! Then the evil landlord breaks into a song. “Je t’aime!” Alan sings, over and over, and I and Ana try not to look at each other as we laugh.
Alan tells Corinne that he’ll save the orphanage if she comes to Paris to be with him. She agrees, but on the steamer ship ride (from Western France to Paris) she is pushed overboard by a grifter named Jeanne, who has learned that Corinne is the true daughter of a Duke. The Takarazuka fairies of the waves were memorable and while Ana and I mimicked their dancing at intermission, Tachibana-san jumped in to be the waving sheets of water. She really was game. ^_^ Corinne wakes up with no memory, so Alan tells her she’s his fiancee’ and takes her to his home. Jeanne pretends to be Corinne and is now passing as the Duke’s daughter, but when he uncovers her perfidy she kills him by pushing him down a staircase (which, when it came forward on the stage, every one of us thought, “yup, there goes the Duke.”
Corinne has learned to take photos and is working for Alan. She’s saved on the street by Francois who is a redhead, so you know we can’t trust him. He falls for her, as well. Richard is also in Paris, sent there by Alan in return for Corinne, where he has had surgery to give him his sight back.
In the meantime, Jeanne sees Corinne and is recognized. They meet at the Seine at night and Jeanne (again) pushes Corinne into the water. (We all agreed later, that it would be in Corinne’s best interest to stay away from water, but she doesn’t.) The shock of falling into the water revives Corinne’s memory and she runs back to tell Alan that while she did like him and he was kind to her, their relationship is a lie and she hates him. So she leaves, and ends up at Francois’s place. He drugs and tries to rape her, but can’t bring himself to do it.
While Corinne is gone, Alan’s father runs an inflammatory news item in his paper. Alan rejects his father’s tabloid newspaper ways and vows to start a paper on his own, with substantial journalism. On the street, he is recognized by a bunch of toughs as the son of the man who prints BS about terrorists and is beaten and left to lay in the snow.
On the street one day, the Duchess runs into Corinne and recognizes her as her long-lost daughter, then recalls her husband’s dying message telling her to keep looking for Corinne. She confronts Jeanne who, predictably, kills her. Jeanne (and her accomplice in crime, Maurice I think) is now free to live openly, so she throws a party. Corinne shows up to take photos and the staff think she is the Duchess returned to life. Jeanne goes after Corinne. Alan comes to her rescue. Richard realizes that his true love is this photographer. Francois, who holds a grudge against Alan for being the cause of his father’s death, goes after Alan.
The fight ends up on a zeppelin. It was pretty good staging, but the moment the dirigible scenery came up, I could see where we were headed. Over the ocean, as Jeanne and Corinne fight, Alan and Francois do, as well. Jeanne plummets into the ocean, Alan defeats Francois, the zeppelin goes up in flames and I absolutely lost it. I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. Ana and I were pounding on each other. Even Bruce laughed.
In the end, Francois, Alan and Corinne wash up on the beach, Francois returns to his honorable prostitute girlfriend, having forgiven Alan. Richard gives Alan the salute of a man who never was going to get the girl and the performance ends with everyone singing “Je t’aime!” over and over.
The revue portion was short and sweet and everyone sang “Je t’aime!” a bit more, and then my third live Takarazuka performance was finished.
We saw some of the Takarazuka costumes for Rose of Versailles in the lobby.
The next show they are doing is Lupin III:
Over dinner, we all laughed at the many, many, many, shoujo manga tropes. Tachibana-san suggested that the dance moves for the review were supposed to be retro to fit with the play, which we all thought explained that. And we also joked about the time period being sort of 18th, 19th or 20th century as needed. We agreed that the setting was “Paris of the mind.” Then we threw money at the Takarazuka shop, because one does.
On the street, we had an encounter with the first spot in Tokyo destroyed by Godzilla. Ana gave her a phone to use while she was in town.
P.S. – When I got back to the hotel, my wife showed me the present she had bought for me. ^_^ Squee.
In the end, it was a fabulous day. Many, many thanks to Ana, Nogami-sensei, Tachibana-san and Bruce for an amazing day.
My stomach actually ached that night from laughing so hard. Hakushaku no Reijou was brilliantly staged, well-acted and utterly hilarious in every way.