World’s A Stage: Spotlight on Japan

Here’s the start of a new series highlighting theatre trends from around the globe. This big old world is a fascinating place – let’s take a look beyond our own country’s border shall we?

First up, Japan:

Nothing better than ladies strutting their stuff on stage right? The gals of Takarazuka, Japan sure think so.

Promo Poster – Casablanca

The Takarazuka Revue (宝塚歌劇団) is a Japanese all-female musical theater troupe. Ladies play every role in larger-than-life, Broadway style productions. All of the women in the troupe work for the Hankyu Takarazuka rail line.

5 Reasons why the Troupe is Fascinating:

–       The Revue was founded in 1913 as a way to boost train ticket sales and draw additional business to the town. The company  now performs for 2.5 million people per year.

–       The troupe is highly competitive and only accepts 40 to 50 girls each year from the thousands across Japan that audition. Once accepted into the super strict program, the women are trained in music, dance, and acting, and are given seven-year contracts.

–       Within the first year, teachers decide who will be best suited for the male and female roles. Those playing a man’s role, otokoyaku, cut their hair short, take on a more masculine role in the classroom, and speak in the masculine form.

–       This stuff is popular with the ladies. The otokoyaku represents the woman’s idealized man without the roughness or need to dominate, the “perfect” man who can not be found in the real world. It is these male-roles that offer an escape from the strict, gender-bound real roles lauded in Japanese society.

–       They often adapt classic Western novels, films, and musicals. Just a few of their past productions include Tale of Two Cities, Wuthering Heights, Guys and Dolls, Kiss Me Kate, Phantom, Sound of Music, Oklahoma!, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Ernest in Love (an adaptation of The Importance of Being Ernest).

Clip of “The Muffin Song” from the aforementioned Ernest in Love.
At the end of this clip, you can catch a glimpse of the actors nearly breaking on stage.

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