Takarazuka Revue

Top Star! Best Troupe! Best Revue! Best Musical!

These are just my own personal favorites, and most of them are shifting all the time.

Takarasiennes

My favorite takarasienne of all is Shibuki Jun. Unfortunately, she's retired from Takarazuka. (Recommended show: Guys and Dolls, Moon 2002)

Following close on Rika's tail, and perhaps even passing her lately is Ryuu Masaki (Moon). She was just so cute and bouncy as an underclassman that she caught my heart. And she's always incredibly sweet and cheerful to her fans, even afer a grueling day of performances and rehearsals. She's gotten really amazing on stage lately too. She had her first lead role in a Bow Hall for the Moon Troupe workshop Young Bloods!! in March '06, and has understudied Moon Troupe top star Sena Jun for three shows (Rome at Dawn '06 & Higher Than the Sky of Paris & A Magician's Misfortunes '07).

My favorite current Top Star is Mizu Natsuki (Snow). I'm so very glad to see her as a top star, but also a little sad, since this marks the beginning of the end. Her voice isn't the best, but her dancing (particularly her ballet) is beautiful, and she plays fiery, angsty lovers really well. (Recommended show: Romeo and Juliet '99, Flower Bow Hall 1999)

My current favorite Top Musumeyaku is Shirahane Yuri (Snow). I loved her with Kozuki Wataru, so how lucky for me that she was moved to Snow Troupe to be Mizu's partner! She is just adorable, and has a decent singing voice. It'll be interesting to see her Elisabeth this year. (Recommended show: Copacabana, Star 2006)

My other favorite otokoyaku is Ozora Yuuhi (Moon). She doesn't have this larger-than-life personality that so many 'sienne do, but there is something very appealing about the characters she portrays on stage. She tends to get the angsty roles, and plays them well. (Recommended show: Blood and Sand, Moon Bow Hall 2001)

My other favorite musumeyaku is Shirosaki Ai (Moon). This young woman is definitely going places! She has had the lead in many Bow Hall shows, particularly opposite Kiriya Hiromu, and played opposite Todoroki Yuu in Oklahoma! at the Nissay Theater in 2006. (Recommended Show: Oklahoma!, Moon 2006 & Namidabashi Egaobashi, Moon 2003)

My other current favorites include: Yoshizuki Eri, Ken Ruisu, Mihou Aya, Kouzuki Ruu, and Shirahana Remi (Moon), Matobu Sei, Misuzu Aki, and Hinata San (Flower), Mirai Yuuki, Amase Izuru, and Daigo Seshiru (Snow), Ema Naoki, Aran Kei, Tatsuki You, Yuzuki Reon, Kazu Ryouka, and Kurenai Yuzuru (Star), and Hokushou Kairi (Cosmos).

My other retired favorites include: Kouju Tatsuki, who I believe has the most beautiful voice of all of the takarasiennes I've ever heard. (Recommended show: Glassy Landscape, Star 2002-03). Also Kozuki Wataru, Asaji Saki, Migiwa Natsuko, Makoto Tsubasa, Hatsukaze Midori, Daichi Makoto, Kuze Seika, and many, many, many more.


Troupes

My favorite troupe is Moon Troupe (Tsukigumi). They are so very, very good at comedy, with their Top Stars like Makoto Tsubasa, Shibuki Jun, and Sena Jun.


Bow Hall Show

Bow Hall shows have become my very favorite. Often grittier and more realistic than Daigekijou shows, sometimes just as silly. My current favorites include:

Lovers' Suicide, performed by Snow Troupe in 1998. Shiokaze Kou had the lead role. It has mood, and some rather catchy music, not to mention one of the most dramatic, lovely, and well-recognized finales in Takarazuka.

Epiphany, performed by Star Troupe in 1999 with Ayaki Nao in the lead role. Based off of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, but reset in Meiji Japan, it has an almost haunted feel whenever Saeko is dancing across the stage, but some lovely moments of comedy as well.

Figaro!, performed by Cosmos Troupe in 2001 with Mizu Natsuki in the lead role. Based off of Beaumarchais's Figaro plays: "The Barber of Seville" and "The Marriage of Figaro." Trust me, you've never seen a Figaro like this.

Scout, performed by Flower Troupe in 2006. Ranju Tomu had the lead role. A rather sureal and funny show with a dark edge. The choreography is really fun, and the actresses were mining the material as much as they could for some truly memorable scenes.

Musicals

It's really, really hard to narrow this down to a few, because I tend to love everything I see. I do have a few things that I like more than others though, and I'll tell you those straight up so that you know my prejudices. I like Western-style shows better than Eastern, and I love suits. I think this is an outgrowth of my film noir love....

My favorite Zuka show so far is Guys and Dolls, the 2002 show done by Moon Troupe with Shibuki Jun and Emi Kurara staring as Sky and Sarah. Yamato Yuuga and Kiriya Hiromu played Nathan and Adelaide. Moon Troupe also did this one in the '80s with Daichi Mao, and I really wish that version was available on recording.

My next favorite is The Black Lizard, for shear brilliance in script, cast, and music. It was performed in 2007 by Flower Troupe, and the emotion and raw power in Haruno Sumire's voice brings tears to my eyes every time. The Takarazuka adaption is less bizarre than the original novel, and less campy than the 60s movie -- leaning more on the side of the love story and the thrill of the chase as the famous detective and the lady thief match wits. I think one of the reasons I adore this show is the unconventional role that the lead musumeyaku, Sakurano Ayane played. She was the equal of her partner in every sense, and it made for a very interesting dynamic.

My third favorite is Glassy Landscape, performed in 2002-3 by Star Troupe. It is a murder mystery, and I would recommend at least a basic understanding of Japanese. A lot of the plot of this play is moved forward in the dialogue. That said, there are still plenty of very visual elements, and the acting here is superb. Kouju Tatsuki made an instant convert out of me, playing Joey with a kind of winsome, lonely appeal and a very Silver-Age-of-Hollywood style. Aran Kei's police detective was another character I instantly fell in love with. And, finally, Kouju Tatsuki's singing is something I would crawl across a bed of coals for, and they gave her several lovely songs in this musical, as it was also her final performance with Takarazuka.


Revue Shows

See above for my personal fetishes prejudices.

Oddly enough, my favorite revue shows don't have a single pin-stripe suit in them. And at the moment my all-time favorite, Nova Bossa Nova is in serious jeopardy of losing its place to MAHOROBA, the recent Moon Troupe revue.

Nova Bossa Nova was performed by Snow Troupe in 1999 and staring Todoroki Yuu. At least three other foreign fans that I know didn't care for it very much, so I seem to be in the minority, but the Japanese fans must love it, because it's been performed four times. It was performed twice in the '70s, and twice in '99 (Moon Troupe did the other version). I absolutely, positively adore this show. I suppose you could look at it as Another Plot to Oppress the Musumeyaku, as several of the main female roles are played by otokoyaku in the Snow '99 version. If you buy the Snow Troupe DVD you get bonus scenes featuring character switches between Naruse Kouki, Aran Kei, and Asami Hikaru. Watching Kouju Tatsuki's slightly sleazy character seduce Aran Kei and Asami Hikaru was perhaps the most amusing thing I'd seen all year.

MAHOROBA is perhaps not the most accurate portrayal of the mythology from the Kojiki, but in my mind it's certainly the most entertaining. Gorgeous costumes, captivating choreography, and some of my favorite Takarasienne all on the same stage. Lots of larg-cast numbers with beats that make you want to dance along, but also some slower, ethereal numbers, and some hard, fiery battle scenes. Joy and longing, humor and sadness, despair and triumph.

My other revue show recommendations are Babylon and Viva!. Viva! (Flower Troupe 2001) came as a huge relief, because I really didn't care for Michelangelo, the musical show it was performed with. Even during the revue show the Top Otokoyaku, Aika Mire, didn't impress me much. However, the Hollywood scenes were to die for (particularly Haruno Sumire and Sena Jun's rendition of "Night and Day"), and the "Viva! La Musique" section with Takumi Hibiki dancing was really amazing.

Babylon (Star Troupe 2002) gives Kouju Tatsuki a chance to shine, and she does it wonderfully. Much of the dancing in this show continues from Glassy Landscape, with a soft ballet/modern dance feel. The themes of ruins and demon cities and dancing in the clouds all blend together in a dream-like way that impressed me. And of course The Shiny is not forgotten.