Takarazuka: Chicago at Lincoln Center

July 23rd, 2016

Chicago.We’re finishing up Takarazuka Week here on Okazu with the reason we started in the first place – the iconic all-female revue troupe is performing Kander and Ebb’s Chicago at Lincoln Center in New York City. There are still three shows, two today and one tomorrow and if you are near, in or can get to New York City, absolutely, definitely go see this show.

It was fantastic.

Not kitschy funny. Fantastic. The performers were stellar.

Because the group performing are all retired, (an OG group) they have a rotating cast. We saw Saki Asaji as Billy Flynn, Natsuki Mizu as Velma Kelly, Yuga Yamato as Roxie Hart, and Jun Hatsukaze as Mama Morton.

Natsuki Mizu, holy crap was she good.

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I have had a theory for years, that the dancers of Takarazuka are all exceptionally talented, but that their choreographers are just not very good. Its not that they are bad, per se, but watching them dance, using the same repertoire of moves over and over, I feel like I’m watching dancing routines created by a really talented high school student. My theory was wholly confirmed last night as the ladies of Takarazuka absolutely KILLED Bob Fosse’s choreography. And if you know anything about Fosse’s work, you know he demands a high level of physicality and sensuality from the dancers.

The New York Times article on the show had this to say:

Gary Chryst, a Broadway veteran who supervises dance for the licensed foreign shows of “Chicago,” spent a month drilling the cast before its run, which also includes several weeks of performances in Japan. Even for male roles, the “feminine” and “feline” choreography in Bob Fosse’s original staging works in Takarazuka’s favor, he said. Bringing out the musical’s cynical tone was harder. Takarazuka’s performers aren’t accustomed to playing women who blatantly “use sex to get what they want,” he said.

Takarazuka has been providing an idealized image of silver screen Hollywood in the 1920s for 100 years to audiences.  How, I wondered, would they do showing reprehensible people doing terrible things with no regret? This a story of greed and corruption and manipulation.

They did great. ^_^

After Chicago completed, to our delight, they did a retrospective revue portion, with songs and costumes that really gave you a sense of the Takarazuka’s history, with a 50s style mambo, to “Roxanne” sung by a singer in a stunning pimpin’ purple outfit, to “That’s Life” Las Vegas style and finishing up with a classic rendition of “Sumire no Hana no Sakukoro.”

But…we were going to get what we were all waiting for? YES! All three of the leads took their final bow in shiny tuxedo and feathers. The audience was obviously ready and waiting for this, because the roar was deafening.

The other thing I really wanted to pay attention to was the audience. Who was coming? What were they looking for?

What I found was a nice slice of New York life, with a lot of younger people in the audience (a lot of beautiful young people. Sheesh, New York, how do you do that?) The man sitting behind us had seen Takarazuka in the 1960s in Japan, and loved them. And for once, when I wanted desperately to jump to my feet and scream with applause, I could! That’s always so trying watching a show in Japan. They never scream wildly. But last night the audience roared with approval. It was great.

Before I wrap up here, I want to point you to a couple of amazing articles on the Lincoln Center website that you should totally read:

Portrait of a Superfan: Takarazuka Revue
Interview by Madeline Rogers

10 Things to Know about the Takarazuka Revue by Ryan Wenzel

Takarazuka: A History by Jennifer Robertson

I’ve never seen Lincoln Center put out the welcome mat in such a huge way, and New York has really jumped up with open arms and embraced Takarazuka. I hope we’ll be able to see many more shows here.

Ratings:

Everything – 10

Seriously, if you can get there today or tomorrow, get there! There are still tickets available and it is an experience of a lifetime.

I want to thank Bruce, Donna, Serge, (the original group that saw Elizabeth with me!) Rica, Sumika, James and my wife for joining me in this fantastic adventure.

I think I’ll change my motto here on Okazu, “Come for the low culture, stay for the high culture!”

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5 Responses

  1. Will says:

    It was really awesome how international the audience was. There was a very cool lady I talked to who said she’d come from Japan for this because one of her favorite retired stars was in it, and she’d never gotten to see her live before.

    And all the women in back of me fell in love with Natsuki.

  2. Stacy L says:

    Drool, splutter, gasp, faint… Your stunning review makes me salivate. With no possibility to see this live, I only hope there’s a video release soon. Takarazuka doing Fosse! HRGNHH!

    Totally agree that the dancers are fantastic but the choreography can let them down. It’s frustrating when you can tell someone is insanely talented but isn’t able to show just how amazing they really are.

  3. mudakun says:

    Excuse the late comment, but here is a hard to find deal for anyone travelling to Japan and in Tokyo Jan 13 or 15 2017
    click through this puff piece:
    http://blog.gaijinpot.com/10-facts-know-takarazuka-revue/
    for special outlander only $20+- B tickets. That’s insanely cheap. I had to yahoo.jp auction and shell out Y9K each for nosebleed section seats 2 yrs ago. Otherwise , there is also a secret SRO routine at the box-office, but you might need help from someone who knows Japanese and S means standing (about 4 rows up further from where we scored seats -wayyyy up in “the gods”).

    Still worth it. Amazing troupe!

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