If you think about theater in Japan, you probably think about the Kabuki Theater.
It's an all-male theater company that does strictly Japanese historical drama, complete with singers and accompaniment by drums, flute, koto and shamisen. My cousins asked if I wanted to go. I would, but I'm not sure I'd even understand what is going on. So I said no. Maybe that was dumb.
A less-known theater company outside of Japan is the Takarazuka. This is an all-female company.
Here I am, pretending I'm walking down the staircase that's on the stage. My sister Nancy thinks I'm a dork.
A little personal story about the Takarazuka: My mother was a dancer. She took ballet, tap, jazz and Japanese dancing from the time she was very young. When she was a girl, her sister, Keiko, used to take her to see the company. That became her dream. So in high school, she auditioned for the Takarazuka and got in. But her mother told her she was too young and that she could do it after she graduated. By the time she graduated from high school, World War II had begun and she had to put it on hold. After the war, she went to work in the family business in Akita. She joined the Ernie Pyle Dancers, a company that performed in the Ernie Pyle Theater. At least that's what it was called when the Takarazuka wasn't performing. I didn't know that until we went on Sept. 30.
I had always wanted to see the Takarazuka.
My cousin Hiromi is a big, big fan, and goes as often as she can. The problem is, corporations buy up all the tickets and very few are available to the public. So fans become friends with the performers and the performers, who are allotted a number of tickets for each show, give them to these fans. Hiromi has become friend with Ayu Manaka, a young performer who is in her fifth Season this year. She's in the chorus, but apparently earlier this month, got a featured role.
Anyway, Hiromi's friend got us the tickets to see the show.
The theater is gorgeous, and seats about 600 more than the Bill Heard Theatre in the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts. The lobby is absolutely stunning. There's this staircase and a beautiful chandelier.
The show is split into two part. The first part is a play. This one was stupendously stupid. It started with the Russian Revolution with the Czar Nicholas and his family being killed and then somehow Americans came into the play followed by Joseph Stalin who wanted to become a Hollywood star. It made no sense at all. Even Hiromi, a die-hard fan, said not to judge the Takarazuka by this.
And it was almost unbearably hot in there. That's something else. Every public building in Japan is overheated. In the winter, when it's freezing outside and you're bundled up, try going into a department store. You'll be sweating because you're wearing layer after layer of clothing.
Back to intermission. There's a concession stand and there's real food that you can bring inside the theater and eat when the second act started. Can you imagine that happening in the Heard Theatre?
My mother was amazed that on a Wednesday afternoon, the theater was full. My sister and I just watched people. A few of the women we saw had the same haircuts that the women who play the male roles have.
After intermission, I didn't have much hope for anything good happening. But, oh, my God! I was so wrong.
The song-and-dance revue, "Rio de Bravo," was fabulous. The costumes are fabulous. The sets and lighting were amazing. That lit-up staircase is something I'd love to walk down.
I'm so glad that Hiromi got us the tickets.
After the show, her sister, Kotoe, met us in the lobby. We walked across the street to a big building that held all sorts of stores and restaurants. We had dinner at the big buffet there. It was absolutely gorgeous with sleek furniture, modern lights and a beautiful buffet. My brother would not have approved. There wasn't any meat on the buffet! But it was very good.
So I finally got to see the Takarazuka. I'm sure my mother was thinking of her lost opportunity, but I know she had a good time.
Though I pretended I was an older, overweight Takarazuka dancer, I never pretend to be a photographer. I don't know what I was thinking, getting that column in this picture. But this is the buffet we went to after the show.
This is the majestic Kabuki Theater. Believe it or not, they're tearing it down later this year, saving the facade and rebuilding it.