ekusudei: (Moon Troupe)
Aaaaahhhhh, Rachel, Hayami-chan mentioned us in her blog! Kinda. She was really happy that we talked to her, and she mentioned the fans who did their best to talk to her in Japanese at demachi, such as saying they had "watched her since Scarlet Pimpernel." :D

Her selfies are the cutest! Looks like she was busy doing her own fangirling. :D
ekusudei: (Default)
OG CHICAGO @ Lincoln Center
Koch Theater
July 20-24, 2016


Cast: Hatsukaze Jun, Mine Saori, Isono Chihiro, Mori Keaki, Asaji Saki, Shizuki Asato, Wao Youka, Kozuki Wataru, Hoshina Yuri, Asami Hikaru, Mizu Natsuki, Yamato Yuuga, Suzu Haruki, Makise Kai, Maishiro Nodoka, Manami Sora, Otohana Yuri, Kayou Kirari, Yuuzumi Shun, Tsukio Kazusa, Hanazuki Yuma, Kaon Yuuki, Mishou Kazuki, Koumi Maito, Kitori Mariya, Urara Moe, Maki Izumi, Hayami Sei

Let me just say straight out up front that I'm not a huge fan of the musical Chicago. However, there were members of this tour group who I thought I would never see live on stage, and others who I thought I would never see again live on stage, so this was very precious to me. When I got into the fandom about 10 years ago, Mariko (Asaji Saki) was eight years retired and living in Brazil with her husband and child. Then she started doing OG performances here and there, but I was never in the right place at the right time. This was AMAZING. And Wataru, who was the top star in the very first live show that I saw in 2005. And Mizu, who I had loved so much as a young star, and Marimo, my absolute favorite top musumeyaku ever, and the list goes on and on.... Even Hayami Sei and Maki Izumi ended up being in the NY cast after all!

I saw the Mariko-Mizu-Tani cast twice, once with Hatsukaze-san and once with Mori-san. I saw the Zunko-Wataru-Komu cast on closing night with Mori-san.

I agree with the NY Times review, the show itself was solid but not anything original or likely to steal your heart away. Of the casts that I saw, the Mariko-Mizu-Tani-Mori was my favorite. Mariko just has that charm and appeal, and while Zunko's singing was of course better she just didn't seem as into the performance. Mizu was hands-down the best performer in the cast. Her charisma just took over the entire stage any time she set foot on it, and her singing was strong and Broadway-esque, which is not true for most Takarazuka voices. Wataru had a lot of fun in the role, and I love her to pieces, but she certainly didn't take over the entire stage like Mizu did. I was not expecting Tani to be my favorite Roxie, but her comedy and comedic faces have always been strong (I still love her Nathan Detroit best), and she didn't pull any punches here. Komu's Roxie was woah sexy, but not as funny. Over-all, the Mizu-Tani interactions were more vicious, and you could really buy them as unrepentant killers, while Wataru and Komu seemed to be enjoying life more.

I wasn't certain about Isono-san's Amos Hart at first, but by the time "Mr Cellophane" rolled around I was sold. Very solid, and strongest in the second act. I was SUPER excited to see Hatsukaze-san live on stage. She was a star in the 60s and 70s, one of the first top musumeyaku when the top star system started to develop, and played Marie-Antoinette in the first Takarazuka production of The Rose of Versailles. She is also Hatsukaze Midori's aunt. She returned to the stage in 2000 with the Toho production of Elisabeth and has been steadily acting since. Her voice is certainly as strong and gorgeous as ever, but she seemed frail on stage and I think she was also having some trouble with her sight.

The two big surprises in this show to me were Mori Keaki and Manami Sora. Stay with me! I've seen Mori-san in TMP Specials, in smaller roles, and possibly in a few shows as top star, but nothing ever grabbed me. But with this production I fell in a big way. Her voice is enormous and rich and lovely and "Broadway-esque." Her encore number "That's Life" was my favorite. Manami Sora, wow was she on point as the Jury. She got the biggest laughs every show with her quick-changes and exaggerated comical performances. Really impressive!

Marimo (Aono Yuki) showed off her dancing chops. She had the intro bit, then she was front and center throughout most of the dance numbers, and then she was really awesome as Go-to-Hell Kitty. Man, the Chicago costumes brought back memories.... I miss her in Moon Troupe. Hoshina Yuri was also excellent as Hunyak. .... Actually, it's a little eerie how those two roles matched the personality of a lot of the roles they played while in the Revue.

There were a couple of places that got laughter that I think they weren't expecting at first, but by closing night they were kind of hamming it up. Like the lines at the very end, where Velma and Roxie talk about how they represent American values. Ironic in the original show, it was hilarious spoken in Japanese.

The rest of the company was also excellent. I was impressed by their dancing every time. And the youngest members, who were not listed in the cast lists for NY, actually were there! (Although only for the Encore.) I was so happy! Especially because I was always stage right and a couple of times Hayami-chan was RIGHT THERE. :3

OK, so let's talk Encore! The gentleman from Lincoln Center who arranged to have the performance is also apparently the one who requested a little mini-revue, so this was something added just for the NYC leg of the tour. And it was AMAZING. Basically a jumble of famous revue numbers from the past.

The first three numbers were in the 2015 "Guys and Dolls" line-dance costumes. Four of the ladies were out in the audience for part of it. It was Koumi Maito (I think?) and Hayami Sei stage right, not sure who was stage left.
"Hello Takarazuka!"
"Mambo! No. 5"
"Mira Cats"

"Solamente Una Vez" - Asaji Saki as otokoyaku, Mizu Natsuki and Yamato Yuuga as femme fatales, not sure who sang the shadow chorus
"El Tango de Roxanne" - Shizuki Asato sang as otokoyaku, Kozuki Wataru, Hoshina Yuri, and Aono Yuki as femme fatales. Zunko is not a dancer, so I am not sure why they had her dancing in this number instead of just singing. She managed to drop someone 2 out of the 3 times that I saw the show, poor thing.
"That's Life" - Mori Keaki as otokoyaku with company. Gorgeous. Takarazuka.
"Glory to Be Takarasiennes (Takarasienne ni Eikou Are)" - aka the "Fairy" song. Wao Youka and Asami Hikaru
"Takarazuka, Home in My Heart (Takarazuka, Wa ga Kokoro Furusato)" - Mine Saori and company (Eeeeeverbody in an otokoyaku gunbu dance. I reeeeaaaaally want to know what the musumeyaku felt to get to dance in it.)
"Sumire no Hana Sakugoro" - Hatsukaze Jun as etoile while the company took their bows with feather fans, and the three principals from the performance came out in feathers.

Each time I saw the show people became more and more confident about clapping when the former top stars made their appearances during their encore numbers. My three times I made certain there was clapping for Marimo and Yuri, who I think a lot of non-fans and younger fans don't really know. After the show and before the encore, the three principals of the cast gave a super-titled talk to introduce Takarazuka and the encore. On closing night Zunko, Wataru, and Komu kept forgetting their lines. XD

It was supremely awesome. So awesome. The best of Takarazuka revue show vibes with 12 former top stars. And my tickets were all row A & B, so this was really the closest I've ever been to the stage during a Takarazuka performance. Those 20 minutes made sitting through Chicago three times worth it. So worth it.


Have you seen a production of OG Chicago? What did you think?
ekusudei: (Default)
puck-poster PUCK / CRYSTAL TAKARAZUKA
Moon Troupe - Tokyo Theater
December 2014

Leads: Ryuu Masaki & Manaki Reika

[ TakaWiki ] [ Daily Sports photos ] [ Asahi photo gallary ]

So, eight years ago I watched and reviewed Suzukaze Mayo's version of PUCK. It was cute, but not the kind of show which I fell in love with. And, indeed, over the years I've become less and less enamored with Takarazuka comedies. I was... less than enthusiastic when I found out Masaki would be doing Puck, and that it would be the 100th anniversary show I would end up seeing because of the timing. But I reminded myself that this might be the last time I would get to see her on a Takarazuka stage, and then I reminded myself that I fell in love with cute, adorable, ken-3 Masaki -- How often does a top star get to play an adorable role like Puck? This was the enormous smile that I first fell for. And, lastly, I think we can all agree that there is a magic to live shows that makes them more special than anything we watch only on DVD.

All of which means that in the end the musical grew on me. Certainly, I felt the romance more than I remember feeling it in Suzukaze's version. And that romance made me happy♥

Anyway, summary can be read on the TakaWiki. It's one of Koike's earlier productions, but even twenty years ago the majority of his shows were serious, dramatic pieces. This one tends to stand out. In his notes in the program, he mentions that at the time (summer of 1991) he had written and directed Great Gatsby, which got some grumbles because people felt that as a summer show it didn't match with the Hankyu theme park Family Land, which used to be beside the Grand Theater. Puck, Koike notes, was his "revenge"--a show that families could see over summer vacation in 1992. Apparently it turned his wife (who had never seen a Takarazuka show before then) into an instant Suzukaze Mayo fan, but Koike's own two young daughters preferred the summer fireworks. ;)

Someone else became a fan of the show, although she never saw it live. Masaki bought the soundtrack (back then they recorded the entire shows and released them on cassette and CD, similar to how they do the 2-acts today) and fell in love with the show, listening to it over and over again and memorizing all of the lines. When she became top star, she went to the theater management and to Koike and begged to be able to revive Puck.

Well, with all of that backstory, I think I appreciated the show even more. *grin* I saw it five times: three times as planned, then once from tachimi, and an amazing Christmas gift from a wonderful friend of a ticket to see closing night.

So! On to the review: )

Overall, recommended for current Moon Troupe fans, for fans of ridiculous Takarazuka comedies, and for fans of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

IMAG1059 CRYSTAL TAKARAZUKA

So, Crystal Takarazuka is by Nakamura Satoru, who is that rare beast who still does an even mix of musical performances and revue shows. Actually, recently he's been doing more directing of special performances and revivals of other playwrights. But a lot of people know his Manon. I also really liked his The Labyrinth of Loving You and Somewhere in Time adaptation. His Dance Romanesque grew on me.

In fact, Crystal Takarazuka has a lot of parallels to Dance Romanesque, including the folk/fairy tale scene, the young otokoyaku pop scene, and the lovely modern dance group number. Check out the Wikipedia page for a run-down of the scenes.

Things which really made me happy about this revue include: the chuzume, the chuzume, the chuzume, and the otokoyaku staircase number.

The chuzume was a Latin bit, using songs by the Gypsy Kings. Shockingly, none of the music was cut for the DVD/blu-ray release. Why did this scene make me happy? Because it was classic Asako, including a resurgence of costumes from Apasionado. Because it meant Masaki trying to make Asako's patented sexy-Latin-face while wearing said ridiculous costumes. Because she pulled it off. Because one day I was dead-center, first row in the balcony and sexy-Latin-face-Masaki looked right at me that part of the balcony for a large portion of the scene and winked at me us. Because I think my heart may have exploded out of my chest about fifteen times. Yes. That.

I also enjoyed this revue because Chapi may be Dancing Queen, but we are not so far behind her. Masaki's dancing has improved enormously in the past 2.5 years. I am so proud of her! I almost didn't have my heart in my throat waiting for her to fall down the Grand Staircase. Except then she said that she's (still) terrified of going down the Grand Staircase and I got my heart in my throat again. Poor baby. We are still not Mariko, but we ARE a Top Star♥♥

And Hayami Sei had an amazing moment with Masaki in the modern dance number that made me literally squeal the first time I saw it. Thank you, Nakamura-S, or Hirasawa-S, or whoever decided to give her that for her last show. You rock a lot.

Umi made a lovely etoile. Now I just have to actually remember her face. (For some reason right now we have an over-abundance of long-faced, mature-ish looking musumeyaku. I think this is awesome, but I cannot tell any of them apart. *weeps*)

Overall, this revue is awesome. Okay, okay, if you're not a Moon Troupe fan you may find it pretty standard Takarazuka fare. But I loved it. Even the obnoxious young otokoyaku pop number was bearable because An-chan was in it.



I was so happy I could be there for Yuumin's last show, and for An-chan's last show with Moon Troupe. The Moon Troupe in Puck was almost unrecognizable to me at first, with all of the retirements and transfers in the past three years. But then I looked deeper, and I realized that Moon Troupe will always be Moon Troupe.

Hamlet!!

Feb. 16th, 2010 11:20 pm
ekusudei: (Masaki - Hamlet)
I am having a very hard time figuring out where to put the lj-cuts in this one....

So. You love and support someone for five years and of course they change, and of course it happens so gradually you're only partially aware of it. Last year was especially hectic, so a lot of the changes actually *could* be seen, as she grew and stretched and beat down the walls she ran into and just... flew. But no matter how impressed I was by her Lucheni and her Palamon, there was still a large part of the back of my brain remembering the little ken-5. This show has changed all that. I don't know how to put it. I wouldn't say it "opened my eyes" or anything like that, but.... I guess I've fallen in love all over again, only this time with this amazingly talented, super-assured, calm and competent star who loves her fans in return.

HAMLET!!
Bow Hall, 2010

Lead: Ryuu Masaki

[ TakaWiki ] [ Asahi.com stage photos ]

This will be an amalgamation of a few performances, not a specific date.

Over-View:

The Rock Opera "HAMLET!!" is exactly what its titles imply: a rock opera. There are very few spoken lines, and there are something like 60 songs (not 60 melodies, but 60 different numbers). The music is all in-house, no famous songs reused. The duel between Hamlet and Laertes was choreographed by Kurihara Naoki (who also did the fight choreography for Pimpernel) and uses real practice fencing foils, not cheap-looking stage swords.

The costumes are very rock- and glam-rock-esque. The players scene ("The Murder of Gonzago" and just before) reuses some costumes from the Purple Haze numbers in "Fancy Dance" (2007). To be honest, based on stage photos I had thought I wouldn't care for the costumes, but they turned out to have much more impact in person, and not look cheap and thrown together, which I'd feared.

The set itself is composed of stairs. This is from memory, so the number and shape of the stairs might be off, but I wanted to show the bits that move, and where the band is.

Read more... )

There are several entrances and exits along the two aisles through the audience, which means if you're lucky to be close enough, you get a great view of the makeup and costumes. This includes Hamlet, Horatio, the Ghost, Ophelia, Laertes, and all the players.

As for the story itself, because the show is only 2 1/2 hours it's very fast-paced. Most of the dialogue has been cut and replaced with sung lines or songs -- the most famous bits left intact -- and some scenes are bridged with short narration by the three grave-diggers.

The opening is a prologue sung by the dead, in a graveyard. Horatio's character mentions it all started with "that incident"... and back we go, to Claudius's crowning and Hamlet's discontent. We pick up the story with Hamlet meeting Horatio (and the new sister), and Horatio mentioning that he had seen the ghost of the former king.

No plot changes, really. Even the sister doesn't say much at all, just stands behind Horatio's shoulder and sings counterpoint from time to time. Rosencrantz being a woman meant an interesting added line or two which seem to imply that she and Hamlet once had a thing, but other than that, nope.

Being Takarazuka, there are a short couple of dance numbers at the end. They also added some dancing by the main characters at the beginning of the scene where the players perform "The Murder of Gonzago".

The Actresses:

They really managed to put together a cast of strong singers for this show -- not just the principles, but all of the chorus as well, which makes it a real pleasure to listen to, start to finish. This isn't often the case in Takarazuka, particularly with rock numbers, so I was pleasantly surprised!

Read more... )

Favorite Bits:

So hard to just pick a few, but...

Read more... )

Recommended for: EVERYONE. OH MY GOD, IF YOU'RE IN TOKYO THIS WEEK OR NEXT WEEK, GOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!!

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